It’s easy to tell whether your PDF file is a raster or vector format by viewing it in Adobe Acrobat. This is important since the two file types are converted differently. Vector PDF files are best transformed through data extraction. This is accurate and precise and involves minimal manual clean-up. Raster PDF files are traced since there is no data to extract. This is an approximation and requires operator involvement as well as manual clean-up. Visual Integrity is specialized in tools for vector conversion and will produce high-quality, accurate drawings from vector PDF input. If a raster PDF or scanned drawing is run through our software, we will turn the flat image into a tracing layer for manual work-up.
If you need to:
- Use PDF in a CAD/CAM program, look at pdf2cad, PDFin for AutoCAD, pdf2bricscad, PDF Import for DraftSight, PDFImport for ProgeCAD.
- Open and edit PDF diagrams in Visio, check out Insert PDF for Visio or pdf2picture
- Transform a PDF page into an editable PowerPoint slide, try Insert PDF in PowerPoint
- Work with PDF-based graphics such as logos, drawings, diagrams and charts, look at pdf2picture
- Convert PDF to image formats, try pdf2picture
- Convert a scanned drawing to an editable file, try the tracing tools in Adobe Illustrator or search on-line for “raster-to-vector” solutions
- Add PDF support to an application or automate a PDF conversion or creation process, check out our Developer Center
Test #1 – The Blue Test
Start by opening your PDF file with Acrobat or Acrobat Reader. Click anywhere on the drawing. If it turns blue, it’s a scanned drawing. Depending on the quality of the scan, you may have some success with a raster-to-vector tool. Alternatives are to manually redraw it or outsource it to be redrawn by a service bureau.
Test #2 – The Zoom Test
Open your PDF file with Acrobat or Acrobat Reader. Use the Magnifying Control to zoom in on a detailed section of the file. At 100-150%, it may be hard to tell the difference. Continue zooming until you are at a magnification greater than 400%.
The section of the picture should be magnified on your screen and it should become apparent whether you have a vector or raster PDF file. The Vector PDF file will look clear and smooth at any resolution while the raster PDF will become dirtier and grainier the more it’s zoomed. In the example below, the section is enlarged 400%. Sometimes, it’s necessary to magnify the file more than 1000% when it’s a high-res scan to determine the file type.
The current pdf2cad version is v11.2018 amd it was released in November 2018
How to find your version number.
If you do not know what version you are using, then launch the software. After that, click “Cancel” to bypass the file selection screen. Then, click on the box with two arrows in the lower left of the window. It will inform you of your version and build number. If you do not have the latest build, you can Upgrade or purchase a 1- or 2-year Advantage Support Subscription which ensures you always have the latest version and support if you need it.
If you are an Advantage Support subscriber, you can log into your account on our web-site and download the latest version at your convenience.
Your drawing is probably scanned. This process flattens it into one bitmap raster image which removes all the information about how the drawing was created or what it even is. As a result, it can not be redrawn or exploded into objects by pdf2cad. The most we can do with scanned files, is to create a high-quality copy to be used as a tracing layer in your CAD program.
If you look in the directory where the file was saved, you’ll notice that two or more files were created – a DXF and at least one TIFF or JPEG image. The DXF references the image(s) and assembles them on-screen when loaded. They must be in the same directory as the DXF file or the DXF file will look empty. This blank page effect will also occur if your CAD package does not support raster images.
If you want to try to create vector objects from a scanned drawing, you need a different class of software called “raster to vector”. This is an extremely difficult thing to do well. We recommend you start at trixsystems.com. They have a good product which performs specialized raster-to-vector conversion.
There are two types of PDF files – raster PDF and vector PDF. If your drawing will not convert, it is probably a scanned drawing saved as a raster PDF file. Unfortunately, there is no useful data in a raster PDF file for us to extract about the objects or text. When a drawing is scanned, it is reduced to a flat image, comparable to a snapshot or a photocopy. There’s nothing you can do except trace over it manually or with tracing software (raster-to-vector software). One way or another, you need to recreate it.
Our software is designed to convert vector PDF files. These files are created on computers using save, export, print-to-file, etc. These vector PDF files contain a rich data set and all the information we need to accurately extract the drawing and render it in a format Visio or AutoCAD, etc can digest.
For comparison sake, below is a snip of a raster PDF file at 500% where the characteristic “jagginess” or pixelation of raster PDF files can easily be seen. Below it is a snip of a vector PDF file which is remarkably smooth and clear even though it has also been zoomed to 500%. This visual method is a very easy and accurate way to determine if your PDF file is a raster or vector. Most people get both types of files so pdf2cad or pdf2picture may be useful for some of your files.
A sample vector PDF file at 500% – notice how smooth the lines are and how clear the text is. This type of file is best converted with vector-to-vector software like pdf2cad and pdf2picture.
Sometimes there is no output file produced or it may seem as though the software has quit working. This has to do with an invalid page range setting.
All of our products can convert one page, all pages or a page range. By default, they convert all pages. If you choose a page rage, you must reset it to all pages when done since the software remembers the last settings you used. If a conversion is attempted with an invalid page range, it will not produce a resulting file. It may seem as though it is not working. Once you go to “Options, Page” and adjust Page range to “All Pages””and re-attempt the conversion, you will produce a file.
pdf2cad, PDFin (formerly pdf2AutoCAD) an pdf2bricscad are different types of products. pdf2cad is an advanced, standalone PDF conversion program while PDFin and pdf2bricscad are plug-ins that require another program to run. PDFin requires AutoCAD or another Autodesk program that supports their extension API (Autoloader API). pdf2bricscad requires BricsCAD.
pdf2cad is a powerful standalone program available for both Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. It opens PDF, EPS and AI files as editable DWG, DXF or HPGL files. It provides many advanced features and user-definable conversion options. With pdf2cad, you can convert multipage PDF files, control layers based on color or other attributes, rotate your file during conversion and more. It converts multiple files and full directories with ease. pdf2cad costs $199.
PDFin and pdf2bricscad are plug-ins. PDFin is Autodesk Approved and available in their Autodesk Exchange | Apps. pdf2bricscad is available from Bricssys. Both will open any one-page computer-generated (vector) PDF file using controls within these programs. All objects can be modified and the file will be saved as DWG or DXF. Text will be editable as long as it was stored as characters in the original PDF file. If it was “plotted” as pen strokes, the text will appear but can not be edited. The plug-ins arenot for scanned drawings and other raster PDF files.
Tutorial: Using pdf2cad Mac
This tutorial assumes that you have already installed pdf2cad on your Mac and that you can access it from the Applications Folder, the Dock or the Desktop. Choose your preferred method and launch pdf2cad.
Step 1: Upon launch, Click Add to select the files you wish to convert.
When you click Add, you will see a list of files from your computer and any known linked devices to choose from. Select the ones you want and then click Open to move them into pdf2cad.
The selected files will be displayed in the preview pane on the left. On the right, are the most often used settings. These defaults should be correct for most conversions. Click OK to continue. If you find that you need to change rotation or fine-tune the process, there is a Preferences button where advanced settings can be applied. If you do not need to make any adjustments, you may click OK to run the conversion. The Options are covered at the end of the tutorial.
Once you have clicked OK on the previous screen, you will be returned to the file selection window. Add more files or select Next.
The conversions to be performed will be summarized on screen. Choose where the results will be stored. The default is in the same directory as the original file. Click Convert to proceed.
Once the conversion is complete, you can choose New Conversion to perform more operations or Exit the application. The converted files will be in your file system, usually in the same folder as the original folder. You can now open them in your CAD application.
Preferences and Advanced Options
The General Settings control options that apply to any file. These include choices about how you want text to be converted in your file. Optimal will ensure that any editable text remains editable while Convert Characters to Curves will deliver a perfect match if fonts are not available on your system. You can also choose to rotate the file or ignore items such as images which can not be edited. Finally, you choose your format on this screen – DWG for AutoCAD, DXF for most engineering and technical programs and HPGL for plotter specific applications.
An error in a VPORT table is not a common error and needs to be diagnosed. It could result from a corrupted input file, a partial conversion or an importing error. To troubleshoot, please send the original PDF file to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will test the file and get back to you with a solution.
Yes. pdf2cad and PDF FLY can both generate DWG. In addition to the native AutoCAD format, both products can also produce DXF and HPGL.
When a CAD drawing is saved as a PDF file, it still retains information about layers that can be extracted. When converting, pdf2cad looks at color attributes, or other definitions in the PDF file, to create layers. If the option to recognize layers is turned on, pdf2cad gathers all objects with same color and put them on one layer. If the PDF file has three colors, the resulting DXF file will have three layers. It is then easy in AutoCAD to turn off a complete layer. This setting can be found in the Options->DXF tab of PDF FLY or simply under Options in pdf2cad.
Yes! We have developed a intelligent mechanism to “recognize” circles/ellipses out of a set of polylines or bezier curves. It’s a standard feature of pdf2cad.
The hatching in your PDF-file is done with a pattern fill. Patterns fills are not recognized or supported in the DXF format. Since it can not understand the hatch, pdf2cad maps it to a grey value which can be manually modified once in AutoCAD or whatever editing application you use.
PDF Fly is a complete suite containing all of our input and output modules. It is used by technical writers and engineering professionals who need to convert a variety of formats with a high degree of accuracy. It costs $295. PDF Fly converts PDF, PostScript and EPS into the following formats:
- vector: WMF, EMF, SVG, CGM, EPS, PDF, PS, DXF, HPGL
- image: TIFF, GIF, JPEG, PNG, BMP
- text: stripped ASCII text, text with placement
pdf2cad is designed especially for CAD users and costs just $195. It is a subset of PDF FLY and converts only from PDF into DXF or HPGL. It contains all of the features and power of PDF FLY for these selected formats.
If you want to edit the graphics in a PDF file in Microsoft Office or Visio, you’ll want to try pdf2picture. It operates in both vector and image mode and you can choose which is most appropriate at the time of conversion. Vector mode explodes the file into editable text and objects while image mode makes a high-fidelity copy of the file in an MS Office friendly format.
pdf2image is also available as a low cost option when you just need to use raster image formats. It is ideal for those who work on websites or printed publications like newsletters, brochures and customer bulletins.
To use the graphics produced by either pdf2image or pdf2picture in MS Office, you use Insert > Picture > From File… to add the converted graphics into your document. If you used vector mode (Windows Metafile WMF/EMF), you can now edit text and graphic elements using the Office drawing tools.
Note: Neither pdf2image or pdf2picture are for converting Word documents or reports heavy in text.
The software has been designed to be very easy to use and involves just a few simple steps:
- Select the PDF file you want to convert
- Change or customize settings by clicking on the Options button
- Change the name and location of the output file, if desired
If you are using a desktop product, there is a Help file included with the software. Just click on the Help button found in the bottom right corner of the software dialog. A new screen will open, with a table of content for all the available topics. You can expand the outline to find the section on Conversion Options or search the index using the Find command. Depending on which product you are using, there will be General Options, Page Options, Size Options and Format Specific Options.
For Developers – In the “docs” directory of the Conversion SDK installation, each option is explained in “options flysdk.pdf”. In addition to the description, for each option, the corresponding API function is listed.
rotate(0) STDAPI VgRotate(INT rotate)
rotate(0) Rotate the drawing using the angle specified. Default = 0, no rotation.
Converting multiple files is also called batch mode and all of our products support it. To specify more than one file, use the “Add” button. Once you have specified your first files, you can remove files and add files until you have the batch of files together that you want to convert.
When adding files, pdf2image, pdf2picture and pdf2cad will only display files with a .pdf extension. If the file you want to convert has a different extension, but you are sure that it is a PDF file, you should rename it to include a .pdf extension. PDF FLY is capable of digesting more input formats so it expects files with a .pdf, .ps, .eps or .prn extension.
- Convert the PDF file to WMF, EMF or SVG (see which format produces the best results for your file) using pdf2picture. WMF and EMF are the native vector graphic formats for Microsoft applications. SVG is supported by Visio and is the standard vector graphic format for web-sites.
- Open the converted file in Visio. You can do this by “right-clicking” on the file and choosing “Open with Microsoft Visio” or by selecting “Open, File” (choose the correct file type, for example, Windows Metafile (WMF). > details (PDF)
- Adjust your drawing. You should see your file on the screen now. Adjust your paper size and orientation if necessary. Ungroup the Drawing. Select “Shape, Grouping, Ungroup…” to explode the drawing into individual editable objects and you are ready to make any changes that you want.
- Save as Visio Drawing. That’s it. Once you save the drawing, it is now in the native .vsd format and ready to share with your colleagues if necessary
A Few Words of Caution
- Is your drawing scanned? Before converting, make sure that your PDF file in not a scanned image. If it is, it can not be edited at the object level using this approach. To see if your file can be converted or not, open it in Adobe Acrobat and magnify it to 1000%. If the lines look smooth, you’ll have success. If the lines look jagged or boxy, it is scanned and you will need to use a different approach. > more on how to determine what type of PDF file you have.
- Text as curves. Sometimes, when drawings are originally authored in CAD systems, the text is “plotted” when it is saved to PDF. This means that the text is converted to a series of pen strokes or “curves” and the character information is lost. In this case, you will not be able to edit the text but you will have a graphical representation of it that you can use or replace in context. If you just find that the font does not match the original file, you may need to use the font mapping feature during conversion.
- Objects or shapes? When the drawing is saved to PDF, all information about pre-defined shapes is lost. When opened in Visio, an octagon is eight lines which can be grouped or ungrouped.
- Mind your Memory. Because of the large number of objects in many Visio drawings generated from PDF files, you’ll need a bit of power on your desktop. Every file is different so it’s hard for us to make general recommendations. If you find that the file is opening slowly or takes a while to refresh, you’ll need more memory. It’s not unusual for a converted PDF file to be comprised of more than 50,000 individual objects. This may sound intimidating but pdf2picture makes quick work of it!
- Ask for Advice. If you try to convert a PDF but are not getting the results you expect, ask us to troubleshoot it for you. It’s free and we are happy to help you achieve optimal results. Just send your PDF file tous along with a brief description and your contact info. The most complete requests are handled first.
Although pdf2cad is not available for UNIX or Linux, the PDF to DXF conversion capability is part of PDF FLY which is available on Mac OS X, Sun Solaris, HP-UX, IBM AIX and Linux. The Linux version, developed on Red Hat, also runs successfully on other Linux implementations, such as FreeBSD and SuSe. For all of the UNIX/Linux platforms, the PDF to DXF functionality is accessed via a straightforward command line tool, offering the same core functionality as pdf2cad on Windows. For more information, visit www.pdf-fly.com.
The DXF file format does not define physical dimensions using absolute measurements from a ruler. Instead it uses units which the user defines. When you create a PDF file from a CAD drawing, it is transformed to paper/print dimensions and the meaning of the original CAD units are lost but the xy relationship remains. As a result, pdf2cad can not restore the intended dimensions but it does preserve the scale. This means that you can calculate a scaling factor to apply during the conversion to achieve the size drawing you want. By default, pdf2cad uses 1mm(0,03937 inch) in the PDF = 1 unit in the DXF. You can change this under the DXF Options tab. You can also scale the DXF after import into your CAD application.
Tip: Sometimes pdf2cad delivers better precision and more accurate coordinates if you change one of the values in your pdf2cad.ini file. Please try setting the ctm_scale to 10.0 instead of 1.0 (default) in the pdf2cad.ini file. If this does not help, please send us the file to diagnose.
If the PDF file contains characters, pdf2cad will convert them and map them as MTEXT objects in the DXF file. Unfortunately, when creating a PDF file from a CAD drawing, the text is not always retained. Sometimes it is “plotted” as pen strokes or turned into curves. When this happens, the character definition is lost. There is nothing that pdf2cad can do about this – it can only reproduce the curves (=SPLINES entities) in the DXF file. What looks like text in the original file may actually just be an object, comprised of a series of pen strokes that looks like a letter.
Tip: to see if the text in your PDF drawing is live and searchable, open the PDF file in Acrobat (Reader) and use the Text Select tool. If you cannot highlight any words, the text is already outlined to curves. If a PDF file contains searchable text, pdf2cad will reproduce it as MTEXT in the DXF file, preserving the fonts and styles.
Tip: To create a PDF with searchable text from AutoCAD, make sure to use TrueType fonts in the drawing and ensure that your printer driver is set to retain text as text instead of converting it to curves. Text can be lost in either of these two steps in creating a PDF file. See how to create a PDF file with searchable text from CAD Digest.
Tip: if your PDF files contain non-Roman font text (such as Chinese, Arabic or Cyrillic), or if the text looks garbled in the DXF output, try using the “Convert characters to curves” option in the General tab of the Options menu of pdf2cad. This outlines the text during conversion to ensure WYSIWYG rendering (not editable).
pdf2cad will convert a “batch” of files when requested by the user. It’s as easy to convert an entire directory of files as it is to convert one file. That said, sometimes, companies want to use a watch folder or use scripts to automate conversion. When this is required, you’ll want to use FLY Batch. PDF to DXF is one of the modules in FLY Batch, a command line driven batch conversion engine that’s easily scripted for automated, central, high-volume or real-time processing. It runs on Windows, Mac, Linux and UNIX platforms.
pdf2cad is designed to convert vector PDF files which are generated by other applications using print, export or save-as. They contain all the data about the drawing which is accurately extracted as editable CAD objects. Since scanned drawings (raster PDF) have been flattened and reduced to bitmap images, we can not reassemble them into objects. We do however convert them into a tracing layer which is referenced in the DXF file and supported in programs such as AutoCAD. If you need to create a vector file from this file, you can use the tracing layer as a guide for redrawing the file or use a different class of software called raster-to-vector to try to generate objects. In order to see or use the tracing layer, your target application must be able to open DXF files and display referenced images. Our conversion of a scanned PDF produces a blank DXF file and one or more image files in either the TIFF or JPEG format. They referenced images must be located in the same directory as the DXF file to be displayed. Otherwise, you will see a blank page.
When you see a width dimension or what look like very fat lines in the drawing, you need to adjust the line width setting. It’s possible to turn off (reduce to zero) the line weight on the DXF Options tab or via Command Line. Change the value of the function zero_linewidth from 0 to 1 in the pdf2cad.ini, which is in the installation directory of pdf2cad and rerun the conversion. The installation directoryby default is C:Program FilesVisual Integritypdf2cad.
When the PDF file was created, the dashed lines were created as small individual line segments. Because of this attribute in the PDF file, pdf2cad converts them as small line segments in the DXF file. pdf2cad does not yet have an option to recognize these segments. as a line with a certain dashed-line attribute.
Not yet, but it is a frequent request and we have added it to the development schedule. We do not have a release date scheduled. Please email email@example.com for an update on availability.
This warning is to let you know that your PDF file uses non-standard fonts or font names. When this happens, you’ll probably notice that the text in your output file may look different than in the PDF when you open it in your target application. This not an error – just a reminder that some fine-tuning may be required, Please see the other entries on fonts and visit the Help system in the software for more detail.
If needed you can turn off the font messages, by adding the line: font_warnings(0) to the ini file of the application.
For fonts to appear correctly in a vector output file, the same font with the same naming convention must be on both systems. Sometimes, any mismatch can be resolved through font mapping. If you need support on adding fonts to your environment please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Custom font mapping is available as a service but is not covered by the standard Advantage Support Subscription.
By default the fontname used in the PostScript or PDF file is used also as fontname in the vector output file. Using the Font Mapping dialog you can change this by creating a mapping between the original fontname and the fontname you want to use in the vector output file.
Fonts are not embedded in the vector output formats. Most of the vector output formats do not support embedding of font data.
The font glyphs of the 13 standard PostScript fonts are included.
If you need to convert to an image format or the text to curves/polys (= emulate) in a vector format either the font must be one of the 13 standard fonts or the font should be embedded within the PDF or PostScript file. Contact email@example.com if you want to add font glyphs.