CAD drawings in your browser – no viewer

At, Randall Newton discusses a new experimental offering from Autodesk Labs (this is Autodesk’s own version of the ground-breaking Google Labs – the technology playground home of, among other things, web-based spreadsheets – see my post). Randall talks about Project Freewheel, which allows users to view DWF versions of CAD drawings in a web-browser without any special viewer application (similar to another product, AfterCAD InSite).

To view and mark-up DWFs and other file formats, most current construction collaboration technology (aka ‘extranet’) platforms tend to rely on third-party plug-in viewers (eg: Cimmetry’s Autovue, Informative Graphics’ Brava! – BIW is the only collaboration vendor to develop its own integrated viewer), but these would become at least partially redundant if DWFs could be delivered direct to the browser.

However, according to Randall, the DWFs would need to be on an open website with a public URL (not something that many project team members would be happy to allow):

Freewheel cannot currently view DWF files which are behind a firewall, are on a private network, are password secured, or are otherwise secured. The service works by downloading a specified DWF (by URL) from the source web server to an Autodesk server, which renders the content and delivers the result to a user’s web browser. Autodesk says the Freewheel server may analyze, process, report on, and cache the DWF data provided to it.

HTML source code is available at the Freewheel site that allows viewing of DWF files on any open website. “To allow people to view your DWF file inside your own web page,” says the documentation, “you first need to make your DWF file available publicly on the Internet (it must have a public URL so that the Autodesk server can retrieve the DWF file and render it).”

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