An Architect Works With 2D CAD Plans


An Architect Works With 2D CAD Blueprints

Modern CAD software simplifies and speeds up the process of working with architectural CAD drawings. Thankfully, it not only automatically duplicates repeating elements and has convenient templates for drafting sheets. Unlike old-fashioned drawing by hand that often led to errors due to the human factor, 2D CAD services provide accurate drawings and precise calculations.

There are many CAD programs and each draftsman and architect can easily find and utilize software that is convenient for them. Moreover, there are various programs and add-ons tailored specifically for the particular construction industry, for example, separate soft for civil, plumbing and electricity engineers.

However, how should everyone cooperate and work on the same project if each CAD program has its own file format? We made a compilation of 5 most popular and universal file formats for architectural CAD drawings that could be easily opened and imported to various CAD software. Take a look.

#1. DWG 

A Blueprint of Interior Project

What Is It

A .dwg format is AutoCAD drawing database file. Most architectural and construction companies work in AutoCAD so .dwg is one of the most common files used for both 2D and 3D. A .dwg format has been updated several times, the last time in 2010, therefore there are new and old versions of .dwg. It is important to note, all new versions of AutoCAD software open old versions of the file, but older versions of the AutoCAD program can’t open a new .dwg file. 

Where To Open

Windows: AutoCAD, Creo Parametric, Autodesk Inventor, Solid Edge, SolidWorks, FME DESKTOP, TurboCAD, AutoDWG Attribute Extractor, CARTOMAP CAD for Windows, AutoCAD Update Tool, PRO Landscape, Adobe Illustrator, Autodesk Design Review, Autodesk DWG TrueView, IMSI TurboCAD Deluxe 18, IMSI DoubleCAD XT Pro v3, ACD Systems Canvas 12, CorelCAD, progeCAD, GRAPHISOFT ArchiCAD, CADSoftTools ABViewer, Dassault Systemes SolidWorks eDrawings Viewer, AnyDWG Any DWG to PDF Converter, Serif DrawPlus X5, Bricsys Bricscad, Dassault Systemes DraftSight, AutoVue, eDrawings Viewer, VariCAD Viewer, Free DWG Viewer

Mac OS: AutoCAD for Mac, IMSI TurboCAD Deluxe v6, CorelCAD, GRAPHISOFT ArchiCAD, Microspot DWG Viewer, Dassault Systemes SolidWorks eDrawings Viewer, Adobe Illustrator CS5, Dassault Systemes DraftSight, eDrawings Viewer for Mac

#2. DXF 

An Architectural Drafting for a Civil Project

What Is It

.dxf — drawing exchange format — was also developed by Autodesk for a more convenient exchange of drawings. A .dxf file is universal for almost any software and can be converted to another format with the help of many programs for Windows, MacOS and Linux. Moreover, architectural CAD drawings of such format can be opened even in graphic vector soft, without installing special architectural drafting programs.

Where To Open

Windows: Autodesk AutoCAD, DXwin, Autodesk DWG TrueView, Autodesk Design Review, CIRCAD, IMSI TurboCAD Deluxe, Blender, IMSI DoubleCAD XT Pro, AutoDWG DWGSee, CorelCAD, Creo Parametric, ACD Systems Canvas, CARTOMAP CAD for Windows, Adobe Illustrator CC, Serif DrawPlus, PRO Landscape, SolidWorks, Dassault Systemes SolidWorks eDrawings Viewer, CADSoftTools ABViewer, Wout Ware DWG DXF Sharp Viewer, Pro/Engineer, Corel Presentations, Autodesk Inventor, NX, Solid Edge, ViewMate Pro, Any DWF to DWG Converter

Mac OS: Autodesk AutoCAD, AutoCAD WS for Mac, IMSI TurboCAD Deluxe, CorelCAD, progeCAD iCADMac, Microspot DWG Viewer, Dassault Systemes SolidWorks eDrawings Viewer, Engineered Software PowerCADD, Adobe Illustrator CC, Cheetah3D

Want to know more about CAD services our studio provides? Check out this archive with projects examples and learn more.


#3. DGN

Printed Plans for Architectural Drafting Project

What Is It

A .dgn file is an abbreviation for the word “design” and is a MicroStation drawing file created by Open Design Alliance and Bentley Systems. A .dgn file is usually used for creating and saving designs for building constructions and civil projects such as highways and bridges. It’s quite similar to Autodesk’s .dwg format and is its competitor. 

Where To Open

Windows: Bentley Systems Bentley View, Bentley Systems MicroStation, Autodesk AutoCAD, AutoDWG DGN to DWG Converter, IMSI TurboCAD Deluxe, Oracle AutoVue, ESRI ArcGIS for Desktop, Corel PaintShop Pro, Intergraph Process, Power & Marine, Solid Edge, PolyTrans-for-CINEMA-4D, TunnelCAD

Mac OS: IMSI TurboCAD Deluxe

#4. RFA

3D Model of CAD Revit Family With Various Architectural Elements

What Is It

.rfa is an Autodesk Revit Family file. A Family is a group of design elements combined into one object, so basically, .rfa is an archive for a particular Revit Family. 

A .rfa file stores both the geometry of the object and all its BIM data, including dimensions and materials. .rfa can contain Revit’s system Families and loadable ones – Families that were downloaded from the Internet or special libraries.

Where To Open

Windows: Autodesk AutoCAD Architecture, Autodesk Revit Structure, Autodesk MEP, Autodesk Revit Family Editor.

Mac OS: Autodesk AutoCAD

#5. PLN

An Interior 2D CAD Drafting

What Is It

A .pln extension comes from the word “Plan” and it’s the file type for Graphisoft ArchiCAD. There’s a long battle going on between architects on which soft is more convenient to use and some architects prefer using ArchiCAD for architectural CAD drawings. A.pln file is equivalent to Autodesk Revit .rvt and AutoCAD .dwg files and contains the data of the model and views generated for the project.

However, . pln contains only the insertion point of these objects and overall dimensions and doesn’t store the whole object but only links to it. The 3D rendering of this object is stored by* .gsm file. This way, objects in ArchiCAD .pln project act as external links in AutoCAD.  

Where To Open

Windows: Graphisoft ArchiCAD, CTP, Home Plan Pro, InDesign, Primavera Pertmaster, WordPerfect Office

Mac OS:  Graphisoft ArchiCAD, Home Plan Pro, InDesign, 

The majority of main file formats are universal and open in most popular architectural CAD drawings programs. They could be also easily exported to another soft and work in different operating systems. Moreover, some types of formats can be opened without special CAD programs, in any graphic vector software. These features of basic file formats make the workflow and communication between different specialists easy and convenient.

Wonder how much high-quality drafting services cost? Check out the examples of our real projects with pricing.


Need competent architectural CAD drawings? With our drafting services, you will get accurate quality blueprints in any format needed.

Valerie Adams
Blog Writer

Valerie is an editor and content writer. She used to work on news and entertainment TV channels and in a fashion & design magazine. In her spare time, she enjoys visiting foreign countries, art events, film and street dancing festivals.

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