Today’s computing and software needs often demands conversion of one file format into other file formats for multiple uses and accessibility. For designers of any cadre, converting raster images into vector or vice versa has always been important as it saves time and produces better results.  For CAD designers, converting PDF files into DWG, DXF or HPGL has always been challenging until 2017, but more on that later!

What exactly is a .PDF file made of?

PDF stands for Portable Document Format. A PDF file can come into existence from different sources, i.e. word processing software, page layout programs, document scanners, print drivers or other software. An advantage of PDF files is that Adobe Acrobat PDF reader comes installed on most computers, so users can view PDF files with no problems. PDF files can also be viewed in most web browsers.

Each page of the .PDF file can contain a combination of 2D graphics or raster images. The vector graphic objects are limited to simply types such as lines, polygons, etc. thus making the PDF vector images fairly limited. In a vector .PDF file, there are no CAD Arc or circle entities. Arcs and circles are either made out of many short lines that are difficult to edit, or out of Bezier curves. Converting .PDF files into DWG, DXF or HPGL using file convertors can be disastrous.

Prior to AutoCAD 2017, it was not possible to convert a PDF file to a DWG file using AutoCAD. PDF files could only be inserted as underlays (external references). The content could then be traced and scaled to known dimensions, if desired.

Fast forward to 2017 and with the release of AutoCAD 2017, using the PDFIMPORT command, it is now possible to import .PDF content directly into AutoCAD drawings. Lines will become editable geometry and text will become editable text. The accuracy of the resultant AutoCAD content is largely dependent upon the quality of the original PDF, so results may vary. Additionally, PDF underlays in drawings created with previous AutoCAD releases can be converted into editable drawing geometry using the PDFIMPORT command. The files can then be saved in DWG, DXF or HPGL file formats.

For users who are using an older version of AutoCAD, other external software can also be used to convert .PDF files into DWG, DXF or HPGL formats. The accuracy of the software varies from one program to the other, but there are a few notable software that can generate remarkable output, such as PDFGrabber, scan2cad and AutoDWG.


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