DWF, The Other Side, Part 3 (Learning Curve AutoCAD Tutorial)

30 Jun, 2007 By: Bill Fane

Using DWF files to disseminate design information and handle mark ups.

It was early on a beautiful, crisp, cold, sunny morning (see, it doesn't always rain in Vancouver). Captain LearnCurve and his son stood at the top of the new Symphony Express chairlift on Whistler Mountain. They had a tough decision to make; which route should they take to mark up the 1,000 acres of fresh powder that lay ahead of them? That's right; this one chair lift gives access to 1,000 acres, bringing Whistler's total to 8,100 acres. By comparison, Aspen has 675 acres in total.

Anyway, back to the problem at hand. How to mark up . . .

That's it! This month's topic! DWF markups!

My two previous "Learning Curve" installments ("DWF Secrets Revealed!," May 2007, and "DWF: The Saga Continues, Part 2," June 2007) introduced AutoCAD's DWF file format. It's basically a plot-to-file format that can be used to distribute smaller, read-only versions of your drawings. The recipients can view, zoom, plot and maybe (depending on how you created the DWF file) freeze and thaw layers, but they cannot edit the content of the drawings.

DWF files have two main uses. They can be posted to a Web page, which was their original intended use, or they can be marked up and returned to the originator. This month's column is going to focus mainly on the latter feature.

Previously, DWF files could be viewed, manipulated and plotted using the free DWF Viewer software available at, but recipients had to purchase the low-cost DWF Composer software if they wanted to mark up and redline a DWF file.

Recently, however, Autodesk issued the newest release of DWF Composer, renamed it Autodesk Design Review and began giving it away at the aforementioned Web page. If you've been following the first two columns in this series, then you should have already downloaded and installed it.

Let's open the DWF file we created from DB_SAMP.DWG in our previous session.

A DWF file created from the DB_SAMP.DWG drawing file.

Now, zoom in on the Janice Ford office. It's located just above and a little to the left of the center of the drawing.

Oops, we have a small problem. It seems that Janice has recently married and wants her named changed on the office layout. No problem, because this is a perfect example of our need for marking up.

Let's start with the fun ones. Pretty much all of the mark-up tools are located in the upper-right section of the Design Review screen. As usual, you can click on the small black inverted triangle beside several of them to produce a dropdown list of choices. Click the one beside the Callout Tool button to display the various leader and cloud options.

Markup tools, with the leader and cloud options.

Select the one at the left end of the second row. Unfortunately, the software has no prompts, which is a little strange for software intended for casual users, but a bit of experimentation will reveal that it wants you to click-drag-release a rectangular cloud, then click a location for the note and enter text for the note. When you have finished, click outside the text box to complete the operation.

Design Review includes a number of markup and annotation tools.

A significant point to note here is that Design Review honors the original scale factors in the source drawing. The original drawing was working to a 1:400 scale, but the callout cloud and text and the Rejected stamp automatically selected a suitable scale for themselves.

Let's take a closer look at the various mark-up tools available, starting with the second one from the left.

The A button lets you place annotation text.

The Callout drop menu has ten options, but nine of them are really just cross-combinations of three variants. From the top down, the cloud shapes available start with no cloud, then a rectangular cloud and then a multipoint polygon cloud. From left to right, the choices start with a rectangular text window, a circle in which you would normally just put a single character such as a number or letter reference and finally the same thing again but enclosed in a triangle.

The tenth callout variant is used only if the drawing contains a bill of material grid. It takes and places a snapshot of it and then lets you mark it up.

Moving Right Along . . .
The next markup button to the right of the callouts lets you draw lines, polylines, rectangles, ellipses or freehand sketches.

Next in line, the rubber-stamp section has a series of predefined rubber stamps such as Accepted, Rejected, Preliminary and so on. You also can import DWF files to create your own custom symbols.

Finally, there are the three dimension tools. Just to clarify, these are not 3D tools -- they are three separate dimension tools. They let you measure and place single linear dimensions or a multipoint polyline with a single cumulative total dimension value, or you can measure the area enclosed by polygon defined by a series of pick points. Note that the dimension values are approximate and are prefaced by a tilde (~) to so indicate, because a DWF file does not work to as many decimal places as does a DWG file. They also use the Units format of the source drawing.

Say "Cheese"
Technically, the first button in the mark-up toolbar isn't a mark-up tool, but it's still very interesting. The camera icon lets us take a snapshot of the screen, which then becomes a new sheet within the DWF file.

There are two very interesting aspects to this function. First, it isn't limited to capturing within the current Design Review window; in fact, it can capture a screen shot of anything currently showing anywhere on your monitor. It can be dragged and resized to pick up the desired view. Second, it captures the screen shot in a standard TIFF format, so you can copy it from Design Review and paste it into almost any other Windows application.

A generic copy function (Ctrl-Shift-C) also captures the current Design Review graphic window into the Windows clipboard. From there, it can be pasted into other applications.

Time for a Change
Not surprisingly, any of the mark ups you apply can be moved, stretched and rotated using normal grip-editing techniques. Simply click within a mark up to have it display the editing grips.

Even less surprisingly, you can double-click on a text annotation to revise its contents. Somewhat surprisingly, however, this ability even includes insertions of the predefined rubber stamps, so that REJECTED could be turned into LAUGHED AT.

Speaking of changes, the icons in the lower-left corner of the toolbar let you change the mark-up specifications. These changes include the line weight and color and the text size, bolding, color and background color, but not the font.

Go Back! Go Back!
Now that we've created a DWF file and marked it up, let's send it back to the originator so the drawing file can be updated. Save the file.

Pretend you are the originator of the original DWG file. Open the original drawing in AutoCAD and then start the OpenDWFMarkup command (File | Load Markup Set . . .)

A normal file dialog box opens, wherein you can browse to a DWF file that contains mark ups. Note that it will complain if you try to open a DWF that does not contain mark ups.

Having opened a suitable DWF file, the Markup Set Manager appears.

The Markup Set Manager gives access to the mark ups in a DWF file.

Click on the + sign beside the sheet name and it expands to show all the mark-up items within the DWF file. If you single-click on an item, as I have done in the figure, then the Details window will show you the history of the markup (and therefore who to blame).

Now comes the cunning bit. If you double-click on a mark-up item, AutoCAD will zoom to the appropriate region of the drawing and will display the mark up. You then can take appropriate action.

Having finished whatever needs to be done on a mark up, return to the Markup Manager dialog box and right-click on the item. When the context menu appears, click on Markup Status. This displays yet another context menu with four choices:

  • <none> -- cancels the action,
  • Question -- changes the red revision cloud icon into a question mark,
  • For Review -- changes it to a return arrow and
  • Done -- turns it into a green check mark.
In addition, you always can add an explanatory note at the bottom of the window.

When you're ready, you can right-click on the DWF name in the Markup Set Manager window and then select Save Markup History Changes. As this name implies, it only saves changes that were made to the markup history -- it doesn't update the DWF to show any changes made to the drawing itself. To update the DWF to include the latest drawing revisions along with the mark ups, you need to click on the Republish Markup DWF icon at the top of the Markup Set Manager.

The Good News Is . . .
If a DWF file contains multiple sheets, then the Markup Set Manager displays only those sheets that have mark ups. Double-clicking a markup entry will take you to that drawing sheet, even if it needs to open the drawing to do so.

Similarly, the Markup Set Manager can handle more than one mark up DWF at a time. The dropdown list in the upper-left corner of the dialog box will switch you to the selected DWF.

The Crunchy Bits
Obviously, there's a very close connection between the original DWG file and its associated marked up DWF. Using Windows Explorer to rename either file will result in losing the connection. Similarly, renaming a layout tab in a drawing will confuse things.

All in all, DWF files can be a powerful tool when disseminating design information and for handling mark ups.

Now for Something Completely Different . . .
When you're skiing Symphony Bowl on Whistler, the steeper runs and better powder are over to the right.

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