The release candidate for DWF™ Toolkit 7 features portability across Microsoft Windows, Linux, and Apple Mac OS X. The toolkit’s debut on May 25, 2005 has many users asking about what is now possible with the new toolkit. To answer this question properly requires an understanding of the structure of a DWF file as well as the Autodesk DWF Viewer.
The DWF format is based on industry standards. For example, a DWF file itself is actually a standard zip file. The zip file contains a manifest, which is like a table of contents, constructed from XML – another industry standard. In addition to the manifest, the DWF file contains 2D and 3D streams of graphics. You can actually rename any DWF file to have a .zip extension and see the manifest, 2D streams, 3D streams, thumbnail, etc. inside.
The DWF Toolkit provides an application program interface (API) for reading and writing 2D or 3D DWF files. This free piece of software allows third-party developers to build applications that create and view multisheet 2D and 3D DWF files, object properties, DWF Composer markups, and more. The toolkit contains C++ libraries that aid in the generation, reading, and parsing of DWF files. Companies can use it to work with DWF files without having to understand the underlying data format. The DWF toolkit contains support for DWF files as defined with the release of AutoCAD 2006.
The DWF toolkit is actually comprised of several smaller toolkits – each with a special purpose:
1. DWFTK – reads and writes the DWF format including the manifest and the zip structure
2. WhipTK – reads and writes the 2D graphics streams
3. W3DTK – reads and writes the 3D graphics streams
4. DWFCore – provides a basic framework for building a DWF-related application
These four toolkits have been written in a platform independent way so that they operate on Windows, Linux, or Mac OS X. Compared to earlier versions, DWF Toolkit 7 provides a more obvious API, faster XML parsing, and optimizes string processing. With the introduction of DWFCore in DWF Toolkit 7, developing a DWF application has never been easier.
The Autodesk DWF Viewer and the Autodesk DWF Composer are two applications that make use of the DWF Toolkit. In addition to the DWF Toolkit, these applications make use of an underlying operating system to provide their functionality.
The Autodesk DWF Viewer and Autodesk DWF Composer also provide an API. This allows the viewers to be embedded in HTML pages, Microsoft Office documents, or other third party applications. The API for 2D viewing is available today. The API for 3D is under development. Unlike the DWF Toolkit which requires C++, programming to the viewer API can be done with other programming languages like Visual Basic.
The portability of the DWF Toolkit to the Mac OS X platform means that DWF-based applications can run on the Macintosh. For example, a company could now develop a translator application that converts ArchiCAD data to DWF. This application could now run on the Macintosh. As such, many Macintosh developers have downloaded the toolkit since it was posted on the Autodesk web site. The portability of the DWF Toolkit to the Linux platform means that DWF-based applications can run on the various flavors of Linux. For example, a company could now develop a server application that generates DWF files on demand. This application could now run on a Linux-based server. As such, many Linux developers have downloaded the toolkit since it was posted on the Autodesk web site. With the DWF Toolkit being platform independent, the future looks very promising for more and more DWF-based solutions.
DWF Technical Evangelist