Rich retrieval: Autodesk, Google, Microsoft simplify CAD file search
A treasure trove of CAD documents is more readily available to the world with Autodesk ‘s December announcement that design files in its Design Web Format (DWF) can now be searched, indexed, and retrieved via Google and Microsoft Live Search. Any DWF file—whether a 3D model, drawing, map, or something other—exposed to the Web can be quickly searched and retrieved.
“You can use the power of Google to review anything you want to expose,” says Paul Huff, senior developer and system architect for Columbus, Ga.-based Kysor Panel Systems , a supplier of walk-in coolers and freezers. “We’ve created a collaboration site for allowing users to view, mark up, and send back information in a secure format. We don’t have to worry about indexing it. Google and Microsoft do that.”
DWF files offer much richer display of CAD data than the more universal “.pdf” file format, yet does it in a smaller file-size footprint than typical CAD files.
“DWF is very CAD-oriented, with dimension layers and properties,” says Kathleen Maher, analyst with Tiburon, Calif.-based Jon Peddie Research , which specializes in graphics and multimedia markets. “Before you had to know where to look for such files. I was delighted with the search capabilities. It’s fun to use.”
Google and Microsoft Live Search both “crawl” the Web in search of files with .dwf extensions as a part of their standard function set. A user can now simply type “filetype.dwf” and a descriptor specifying the type of detailed graphic file sought—i.e. “wrench.”
Autodesk also added Freewheel, a free .dwf hosted viewer that companies can add to their Web sites. Freewheel enables users to view files without downloading a viewer themselves.
“Our flagship product is Design Review, which allows companies to share designs. Freewheel also makes it possible to review and print designs online with no viewer required,” says Jennifer Toton, Autodesk senior product marketing manager for the extended design group. “Companies see value in putting more design information online, where users on the receiving end know that the information can be found and retrieved more easily. It’s a nice complement to what .pdf provides, but with .dwf, we can capture richer data and highly precise information from the engineering model.”