Building Design

Architects See Red Again

2 May, 2007 By: Scott MacKenzie

More review/redlining tools and PDF-to-CAD conversions

To continue my discussion of review/redline software, I will share what I have learned from recent research into some of the programs and what I gleaned from feedback to my previous article on the topic.

As soon as you get comfortable with the concept of using DWF and PDF editing software in your daily workflow, you will see it is very easy to use. There isn't much to learn. If you can type and draw clouds, you are ready to start. Don't worry about the amount of energy it will take to learn new software. Relax, it's the process of your workflow that you need to worry about. You need to decide if this kind of tool can improve your design and coordination process. Get your project team, a projector and a laptop, and you will be ready to roll.

I have been using Bluebeam Revu and Adobe Acrobat Professional 7 to redline PDF files. Both programs are great. Acrobat Professional 8 has just been released, and I plan on checking it out soon.

Since my last article I received great responses from readers on non-CAD review and redline applications. I’ve tested some new products and learned a few things, so I'll share what I discovered.

Free PDF with Big Sheets

A free PDF writer application called CutePDF will export large-format sheet sizes of 24"X36" and 30"X42". The CutePDF Professional version (not free) can do markups.

DWG to PDF.pc3

AutoCAD 2007's DWG-to-PDF out-of-the-box printer works, but it is not as good as the third-party PDF applications. So I tested this claim against the programs AcroPlot and Bluebeam. The line work was identical between all three, but the font clarity of the native AutoCAD PDF was not as good as that of the third-party programs.


You have probably been asked this question: "Is it possible to turn a PDF into a CAD file?” And if you are like me, you would have said, "um… no." Until now. Thanks to the response of a reader to last month's article, I can now answer that question with a yes. Yes, you can convert PDF into CAD. That sounds wonderful, doesn't it?

To be more specific, my answer would actually be as follows: "Yes, but everything ends up in an exploded state. All line work and text gets converted into a million lines, polylines, arcs and circles. So don't expect a smooth, seamless translation.” After you make the conversion, you will have some cleanup work to do. The text will translate into polylines, so if you need to change it, you should replace it with real text. You can copy or clip the text from the PDF file and paste it into the CAD file.

I tested the four following PDF-to-CAD applications to see how they look, work and perform:

Here is what I thought of each.

AutoDWG PDF to DWG Converter has a simple GUI (graphical user interface) that produced good results. Output options include scale, DWG or DXF and option to convert solid entities. This is the lightest of the four applications.

Aide PDF to DWG Converter has a nice GUI with just enough output control options. The exported files are good and the font handling is good. This one is my favorite because it does what I want and it looks slick and professional.

CAD-KAS PDF 2 DXF v2 has a built-in PDF viewer with graphical drawing and editing tools; the others do not. You can draw, delete and move areas in the PDF file. The GUI is not very good, in my opinion. The toolbars behave funny when you move them and the layout is a little static. The line work converts into DXF well, but the font handling can produce strange results if you don't know what you are doing.

FormulaCAD Print2cad is the most robust of the four when it comes to the export options. You can export to any version you could possibly need of DWG and DXF and export to DGN v8 using a seed file. There are text options and color options. It handles fonts better that the other four, but I could not get it to actually convert text into text. As far as the GUI is concerned, it's not very professional. The dialog language uses poor English and it could have a smaller layout with pull-down menus or tabs.

Is It Legal?

But wait a minute, is it OK to take another company's PDF file and use it in our drawing set? A very good question, and one that I cannot answer. Part of the popularity of exchanging PDF files is because of their Read Only property. This might cause a bit of a stir.

I would say that you should get permission from the right people on a per-project basis. (There, that should keep me out of trouble.) Do what you can to get the job done and stay out of trouble too.


Editor's note: We regret that we must say good-bye for a while to Scott Mackenzie, whose other professional pursuits are pulling him away from AEC Tech News. Thanks, Scott, for your many contributions to Cadalyst, and we hope to have you back writing for us in the near future.

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