PLT to PDF Conversion

By James Highland

AutoCAD PLT files are at the heart of many construction projects.
i Image by, courtesy of leezie5

The Portable Document Format (PDF) is a popular method for sharing information electronically. Virtually any kind of computer content can be converted to PDF for distribution. This prevents the need for all parties to have the originating software, and also allows noneditable versions to be easily viewed by a large audience, much like regular hard-copy printouts. PLT files by AutoCAD are a good example of the benefits of PDF conversion.


AutoCAD is professional architecture software used in home construction, surveying, interior design and other professions. Oftentimes, it is necessary to share the work created in AutoCAD with partners unfamiliar with the software itself. Additionally, AutoCAD is expensive and complicated and not a viable tool for many collaborators. PLT files are one of the main document types created by AutoCAD, and are used to visually display a design. Because of the graphic nature of these files, PDF conversion is an obvious choice for distributing PLT plots.

Native Conversion

AutoCAD software is designed to convert PLT files into the PDF format internally. This is a quick way of ensuring the easy distribution of AutoCAD plotter files without additional software. However, the built-in functionality for PDF conversion in AutoCAD is basic and does not offer many of the additional features that AutoCAD users eventually require. Further, the PDF files created by AutoCAD are significantly larger than third-party alternatives, and may prove challenging to send electronically.


Due to the ubiquity of the PDF standard, many people require PDF conversion for a wide range of computer documents. Thus an extensive variety of software is available to create PDF files from virtually any other program, including AutoCAD. Many of these programs are free. Due to programming differences between the myriad of software options for PDF conversion, some software will provide unique features missing in others. Depending on the needs of the AutoCAD user, some trial and error among the varying programs is necessary to find a tool that satisfies all requirements.

Licensed Alternatives

For PDF conversion utilities that rise above the limited offerings of freeware, a software license is necessary. Prices range considerably. There are many benefits to programs like these. Often, the conversion process is more automated or features a more intuitive interface. Many of these licensed PDF converters work with a much larger or more specialized range of software, compared to the cookie-cutter functionality of freeware.

Professional Conversion

Some premium software rises above freeware and other modest third-party PLT-to-PDF conversion programs. Architectural firms often need to watermark or copy-protect the PDF versions of their plots destined for wide distribution. Additionally, prolific firms may have large quantities of PLT files for PDF conversion. The abilities to batch process these files and add content unique to the PDF copy are special features of professional PDF conversion software for many AutoCAD document types.