The Difference in DWG and DXF

By Virginia Perkins

A construction drawing can be saved in .dwg or .dxf  format.
i blueprint image by Igor Zhorov from

AutoCAD drafting software provides a choice of file formats when saving a drawing, including .dxf and .dwg. While .dwg is the default and most popular file format, certain situations require saving a file in .dxf format.

What is the Difference?

The name .dwg stands for "drawing." Other applications can open files saved as .dwg.

The name .dxf stands for "drawing interchange/exchange format." The format was developed to allow applications without the ability to open .dwg files to use the information contained within a drawing file.

While a .dwg file retains all applicable layers, colors, line weights and x-references, a .dxf file retains only information such as line work, dimensions and text.

When Should .DWG be Used?

The .dwg format is used when a drawing will be accessed only by AutoCAD or another program capable of opening the file with all of its components, such as certain versions of Google Sketchup.

When Should .DXF be Used?

The .dxf option should be used when a drawing's basic elements, such as line work and text, need to be accessed, viewed and/or referenced by an application that is not capable of opening a .dwg file. Many applications can open a .dxf file in order to reference the included information but do not have the capability to open a fully functioning .dwg file.