General Software

Options abound for creating PDF files from CAD drawings

30 Sep, 2003 By: Cadalyst Staff

In the past year or so, Cadalyst Newsline covered an assortment of options for PDF output from CAD software. You can find this capability in other Adobe products, in plotting software, and in a variety of add-ons, some designed for any Windows application, others geared specifically to CAD.

Other Adobe programs may provide PDF writing tools that will work with AutoCAD. Adobe Photo Deluxe, for example, includes a PDF writer. Unfortunately, Adobe just discontinued this program. Adobe PressReady lets you plot directly to a PDF file. This software comes bundled with the HP DeskJet 1220C/PS. Adobe also offers an online PDF conversion service ($9.99/month for U.S. and Canada only). Uploaded files are limited to 100MB and a processing time of 10 minutes. You can sign up for five free conversions at:

Dennis DeCamillo uses the following method for converting drawings with a great deal of text that becomes unreadable when he used raster-based conversion methods. He reports that though it's a bit more complicated, the output is of higher quality.

Open an AutoCAD DWG file in Adobe Illustrator. Change printer options based on the drawing (he generally uses Adobe PDFWriter for the printer and Landscape for orientation). Scale the drawing to the margins by selecting all objects, then dragging the corners while holding down the Shift key. Finally, save the file as PDF. Pick the option that best suits your purpose.

Plotting software may also include a PDF output option. An example is M-Color plotting software for AutoCAD. From the M-Color menu, select Settings/Format/PDF. You can define outline and fill styles such as solid color, gradient, translucent, and bit-map texture for AutoCAD layers. M-Color automatically uses the best possible compression method when creating PDFs. You can download an evaluation copy at:

Likewise, CADPlotServer can produce PDF files:

Brian Mickel took us to task for neglecting CorelDraw, the "illustration program of preference for long-time CAD users." CorelDraw imports and publishes PDF files, in addition to handling a variety of other illustration and presentation tasks.

OttoPDF is a free application available at:
Download is free, but you need to enter an MSN .Net passport user id. With OttoPDF, you create the plot file from the DWG file, with no need for AutoCAD. For best results, copy your drawing to another file and change all line colors to black. Otherwise, you may end up with a grayscaled PDF.

View Companion (US$49) from Software Companions produces a PDF file from an HPGL file. You plot using a Hewlett-Packard printer driver, then load the file in View Companion. The only drawback is that bit-mapped objects, such as client logos, cause View Companion to crash.

PDF995.exe installs as a system printer and produces PDF files up to A3 size. You can use the software for free if you're willing to put up with ads. The cost is US$9.95 for the ad-free version.

The company also offers Signature995, which encrypts PDF documents and lets you attach digital signatures.

The Jaws PDF Creator (US$100) installs as a printer driver in any Windows or Macintosh application. It supports Windows 95/98/NT4/ME/2000/XP and Macintosh 8.5 through 9.x. The Jaws product is the successor to 5D PDF Creator.

PDF-XChange V2 (US$39.50) installs as a printer so you can print from any program. An evaluation version is available at:

Win2PDF from Dane Prairie comes in Standard (US$35) and Pro (US$69) versions. The Pro version lets you encrypt PDF files to limit printing and copying. Stan Fuhrhop reports using the software for 8.5 X 11 design concepts, addenda, field correction sketches, and more. His firm (consulting engineers for construction) also uses it to publish specifications, reports, and spreadsheets for electronic delivery. He says the PDFs are a big improvement over the old "print-and-fax" method.

602Pro Print Pack (US$19.95) installs as a printer in any Windows application. You can set custom page sizes and orientation, page color, and different file resolutions. Download a trial version at:

pdfFactory Pro from FinePrint (US$99.95) lets you encrypt documents, create bookmarks, add live URLs, and resize windows. pdfFactory is available for US$49.95. You can download a trial version at:

First, install a PostScript printer on your system. Windows comes with some, and you can also download them from the Internet. Set this printer to print to file.
Next, install the latest version of Ghostscript. You can download a free copy at:

Also download and install GSView:

To create a PDF, open your AutoCAD drawing and print it using your PostScript printer. One reader suggests setting pen widths to 0.001. The file will have the extension PRN. Open the PRN file in GSView. From the pull-down menu select File / Convert. Select the option PDFwrite. In the file name and location box that appears, be sure to add the extension PDF to the filename you enter. Click the Save button.

The resulting PDF is viewable in Acrobat Reader 4.0 and 5.0. Any hyperlinks in the original drawing don't carry over into the PDF.

In place of the GSView application, you can also use FreePDF, which you can download at:

As with GSView, open the PRN file from inside FreePDF and select Configure. Direct the PDF Converter to wherever you installed GhostScript. From the FreePDF main window, select Pick Input PS. Change Files of type to All Files and find your PRN file. Select Save PDF As.
One more reader suggestion: as you download the free software, provide support to the sponsors by selecting their links.


About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

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