General Software

First Look Review: Visual Integrity PDF2CAD v6.1

17 Jul, 2006 By: Ron LaFon

PDF-to-CAD conversion software lets users translate PDF files into DXF files.

Visual Integrity PDF2CAD v6.1
Pros: Inexpensive; easy to use; fast.
Cons: None significant within design criteria.
Price: $195

Visual Integrity

Visual Integrity's PDF2CAD is a Windows application for converting PDF files that were electronically output from a vector-based application such as AutoCAD. PDF2CAD creates a DXF file in which both text and objects can be edited in any application that supports DXF input. That includes Visio, Adobe Illustrator and most CAD applications. Users can generate editable CAD files quickly from vector-based PDF files.

Installing PDF2CAD is simple and straightforward, as is operating the software. PDF2CAD runs on Windows XP/2003/2000/NT/98. I tested the application under Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2 installed. Once installed, PDF2CAD presents a dialog box on startup for you to select the PDF file that you want to convert (figure 1).

Figure 1. The Intelligent Filter Options dialog box for PDF2CAD v6.x displays some of the available options for converting PDF files to CAD file formats.

The program is designed to convert one file at a time -- upgrades are available that support multiple file and directory conversions as well as automated batch conversions. After a file is selected, a conversion summary is displayed, along with the option of where to save the file and what to name it.

Users can establish a wide array of parameters for how the file is converted, such as converting characters to curves, rotating output by x degrees, font mapping, using minimum line widths and so forth. Conversion is fast and pain free. PDF files to convert can also be selected using Windows Explorer or by dragging them into the PDF2CAD interface or onto the PDF2CAD icon. The good online Help system covers the application's various options.

PDF2CAD supports v1.5 of the Adobe PDF specification and creates DXF output that is compatible with AutoCAD 2000 and higher. PDF2CAD will convert multipage PDF files to multiple single-page DXF files.

Because PDF2CAD relies on the vector information in the PDF file, and PDF does not acknowledge circles or ellipses, the application can represent only circles and ellipses using curves or polyline segments. Text also can be problematic -- it likely will be represented as vector paths as in the PDF file. If text in the PDF file is actually live text -- such as in a searchable PDF -- in most cases PDF2CAD can reproduce it as mtext in the DXF file. Embedded raster images are extracted to separate TIFF files for black-and-white or JPEG files for color and referenced in the created DXF file. If the image files are kept with their DXF parent, you see them when the DXF file is opened, if your target application supports raster images.

PDF2CAD doesn't transform scanned images or drawings into vector content -- for that you'll need a raster-to-vector conversion application. Visual Integrity also notes that when CAD drawings are converted to PDF, scale is retained, but the exact CAD measurements and the meanings of the objects are not. For example, circles become polylines or curves. When PDF2CAD is used to convert a PDF file to DXF, the resultant file may need to be scaled to attain the original dimensions after it's inside the target CAD or drawing application.

Visual Integrity's PDF2CAD is a Windows tool that is licensed to one user on one computer from $195 for a single-user license. Multiuser packs and volume licensing are available. An Advantage Support subscription option provides software support and a maintenance program that covers free upgrades that may be released during the course of your subscription. PDF2CAD is not a network or server tool, so there are no floating licenses for concurrent use. Visual Integrity does, however, offer PDF-to-DXF conversion technology in both server and developer versions that run on Linux, Sun, Solaris, HP-UX, IBM AIX and Windows. A evaluation version of PDF2CAD is available for download at You also can upload a PDF file for conversion, with the results e-mailed back to you.

About the Author: Ron LaFon

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