How to Share DWG Files

Updated Apr 16, 2017
Share DWG Files

One of the most common ways of sharing DWG files (or really any file type) is via email. However, sharing DWG files is not as simple as sharing a word document, as you also need to attach any referenced files into the same email, including xrefs, fonts, and plot style tables. Also, some email providers limit the file size you can share. Online file sharing is also a popular solution, with FTP, Dropbox, Box, WeTransfer and others proving useful for handling larger files. Finally, there’s the old-school method of sharing the file on a USB stick.

Before you resort to the standard email sharing, read our guide to sharing DWG files the smart way.

Does the recipient need to edit the DWG drawing?

Before you hit “Send”, it’s worth taking a moment to answer this question: what is the intent of sharing the file? If it’s not important to convey the actual CAD geometry, it is easier to save and share the drawing as a PDF or TIFF file.

PDF and TIFF convey a picture of what the CAD data looks like, with PDF saving the drawing using vectors, and TIFF doing so in pixels. This is usually sufficient if you’re just sharing the drawing for review and markup. On the other hand, DWG drawings are the better option if the recipient needs to take certain elements (or blocks) and apply them to other drawings.

Sharing DWG files using a shared drive

If you work in a larger company, it’s usually best to share DWG files to a shared folder in your company network, or using cloud storage services like Drive and Dropbox. This way you can collaborate and work simultaneously by using file references. Of course, there are several best practices to this sort of file management, such as limiting users who can modify the files, keeping backups, and maintaining file-naming conventions. This method of sharing files can get a little messy, especially when multiple collaborators are working on one same project and sharing many versions of the file back and forth.

AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT also come with a cloud service called Autodesk 360, so you can share the file within the program itself. It works like Office 360 or Google Docs – you can invite collaborators or clients via email; whoever is invited can view or edit the DWG file from their web browser or mobile device.

AutoCAD 360 - Share DWG files from within the file manager

The AutoCAD 360 File Manager shares a similar interface with Google Drive

Sharing DWG files using data management applications

If you’re looking for more robust solutions for collaboration, tailored to your needs, you should consider CAD data management applications. These are complete software solutions that you can use to share files, organize design data, manage documentation, and track revisions. To name a few, there’s Vault by Autodesk, Project Wise by Bentley, Teamcenter by Siemens, and Enovia by Dassault Systèmes.

DWG File Manegement Software on a Mac Screen

Here’s a screenshot of Project Wise on a Mac. There’s a DWG file management system for every major industry

To round things up, here are three top tips for sharing DWG files.

1. Be careful when sharing referenced drawings

AutoCAD allows you to attach one drawing file to another using external references or xref. This allows you to coordinate your work with others – you can reference another designer’s drawing to yours and keep up with any changes he makes). At the same time, you can keep the names of your layers, text styles and named elements in your drawing separate from the referenced drawings.

The only thing to note when sharing files with xref is that you need to bind the files first, or use the e-transmit command.

2. Manage your DWG file size

There are few commands you can use to get rid of references that bloat your file size. Here are the AutoCAD commands for making DWG files smaller: AUDIT, PURGE, -PURGE AND OVERKILL. Just be careful you aren’t removing things you actually need!

A relatively simple drawing should be about 10MB in file size.

3. Save reusable content as blocks in separate DWG files

It is common to save reusable content as blocks, so that you and your colleagues can use them repeatedly and maintain your drawing standards. For example, architects can save doors and windows as blocks. Here’s a tip: share these blocks with your colleagues.

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