Imagine the scenario: a colleague sends you a drawing, and all you need to do is view it, print it, and mark it up. Nothing too out of the ordinary – reviewing and collaborating is part of any team’s work flow. But there’s a snag – the file is a .dwg, and you don’t have AutoCAD. You could buy an AutoCAD license, but when all you need to do is view the file, that seems a bit excessive – and expensive.
Could there be another way? The answer is yes! In this guide, we’ll show you a few different ways you can view DWG files without AutoCAD. Read on!
The first on our list and – in our humble opinion – possibly the best is our very own Scan2CAD. Scan2CAD is market-leading software for conversion, vectorization and image editing. Scan2CAD’s main feature is to convert image files into DWG (and DXF) – but it has a whole lot more. Not only can you use Scan2CAD to view DWGs and DXFs, its complete image editing suite allows you to edit them as well. What’s more, you can try out Scan2CAD’s full range of features completely free for 14 days.
2. A360 Viewer, DWG True View and AutoCAD 360 by AutoDesk
AutoDesk offers three solutions which allow you to view DWG files without using AutoCAD software, all of which are free to use. There’s A360 Viewer, which is a browser-based viewer that only allows file viewing and some light markup functionality. DWG True View is a desktop software which allows you to also convert DWG file versions and markup. Finally, AutoCAD 360 is a mobile or web app, which also allows simple editing with limited AutoCAD functionalities. You’ll have to set up a free account with to use these apps, but with CAD software increasingly moving towards the cloud, it could be worth it in the long run.
3. Convert the DWG file to PDF format first
A decent “roundabout” solution to viewing DWG files is by converting it to PDF first. A quick Google search will reveal a bunch of free options you can use to convert your DWG file, but please be wary of the common pitfalls of using these free online file converters. Besides the possibility of compromising the safety and privacy of your files, you’ll often find that these converters offer very limited functionality. Some of your file’s data may also get lost in translation, and the files cannot be edited once converted. If the converter converts your vector images to raster pixel-based files, you may lose quality as well — the more you zoom in, the more pixelated the image will be.
If you already use Adobe Acrobat DC, however, you could make use of its ability to convert DWG files to PDF. Adobe Acrobat DC is a PDF solution that allows you to convert, sign, send and manage documents. It’s really easy to use too – from Windows Explorer, simply locate the DWG file, right-click, and select “Convert to Adobe PDF”. With one click, you now have a PDF file that can be viewed by anyone with Adobe Reader. Acrobat DC ensures that all layers, scaling options, and links are preserved. The content is tagged too, so your file remains searchable. Another great benefit to converting from DWG to PDF is reduced file size. I converted a 1MB DWG file into a 330kB PDF – slicing two-thirds off the file size. However, this is only a viable option if you already have a pro subscription for Adobe Acrobat DC; prices start from $14.99 or £13.33 per month.
Need to convert back? Learn everything you need to know about converting your PDF file to DWG.
4. Other major CAD software
If you already use CAD software, there’s no harm in checking whether the CAD software that you’re familiar with handles DWG files. Most of the major CAD software applications offer the ability to open, view and share DWG files. A few examples include DraftSight, IntelliCAD, CorelCAD, Google Sketchup and Microsoft Visio. Due to the proprietary nature of the DWG format, you may struggle to find software that will let you edit the files themselves, however.