ActCAD File Formats

File formats in ActCAD:

Computer-aided design (CAD) applications are used by professionals like architects, engineers, drafters, artists and others to create precision drawings or technical illustrations. CAD software can be used to create two-dimensional (2-D) drawings or three-dimensional (3-D) models. These models are represented by a number of CAD file formats for storage and display on computer systems.

File format:

Every file in a computer is created as a particular type ort format. Typically file extensions are used to determine the file format or file type.

What Is A CAD File?

CAD is an image file format used by CAD, which is generated by CAD software programs and also creates 2D and 3D designs for models or architecture plans. CAD files hold information for these images; 2D CAD files are often referred to as drawings, whereas 3D files are called models, parts, or assemblies. CAD stands for Computer Aided Design.

CAD file formats are important because not all formats are interchangeable. Some formats can only be viewed in specific CAD applications. This blog includes file formats that can be processed by popular CAD software applications. Let us have a look at some of these file formats.


Files with DWG extension represent binary files used for containing 2D and 3D design data. It contains vector image and metadata for representation of contents of CAD files. DWG files contain user created information and includes:

This format is widely used by architects, engineers, and designers for various designing purposes.


DXF, whicch stands for Drawing eXchange Format, is the neutral format from AutoCAD that can cross platforms (unlike the DWG format). DXF is a vector file that stores 2D drawings, meaning that you can edit individual elements that make up an image.

COLLADA (.dae)

Collada is a 3D file format supports geometry, appearance-related properties, materials, textures, and animations.


STEP is one of the most widely used CAD file format. This format is created in conjunction with ISO 10303. ISO 10303 is the standard for computer representations of product manufacturing information. Most modern CAD software supports this file format. STEP can support both single file and assembly formats.


IGES, which stands for Initial Graphics Exchange Specification, was the first neutral CAD file format invented towards the late 1970s, early 1980s. This format is mainly used for surface geometry and design work. This file format is used to display wireframes and circuit diagrams.


Stereo Lithography, is a universal format. It is a format for pure 3D information that has been specifically created by 3D programs. STL is concerned with surface geometry and shapes. It cannot be used to represent color or textures. This file format is fine for use in basic situations where complicated CAD data is not required.


The Portable Document Format is proprietary to Adobe but has a wide array of uses. PDF files can be converted into CAD files. CAD files can also be exported into PDFs for easy viewing. If you want to simply showcase a 2D design to a customer or someone without CAD knowledge, a PDF file is suitable. Many CAD programs allow you to export your work to a PDF.

Why is CAD File Format Important?

While creating any kind of document using a computer, you must save the same as a file. This file contains all the necessary information related to the document as well as the way it should be processed and visualized. CAD file formats are also extremely important when considering CAD design. Each CAD system has its own method of describing geometry, both mathematically and structurally. CAD files hold information for these processes, as well as drafting information.

As mentioned above, there are 2 dimensional (2D) and 3 dimensional (3D) file formats. As the name suggests, in a 2 dimensional system you are operating under 2 axes only. The resulting file is a layout/draft of the object being designed.

In a 3 dimensional (3D) environment the object is more visual as we have added another axis into the system. The objects seem real and curvatures, texture and all complex surface features are easily visible.

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