Friday, December 01, 2006

What's Hot a Autodesk University? DWF...

This has been true for some years at AU - but this year it was definitely pervasive. Everywhere you looked people were touting DWF, and doing more and more with it. The (unofficial?) theme of the conference seemed to be "Experience it before you build it" - and DWF was a big part of that.

Windows Vista and DWF
One of the classic objections to pervasive use of DWF has been that "my customers know and have Acrobat Reader - they don't have this DWF thing, and they won't download it". Autodesk has pulled off quite a coup - while they didn't get the DWF Viewer included into Vista, they came close... They made DWF compatible with Microsoft's XPS (PDF competitor) spec... So Vista will be able to view 2D DWFs NATIVELY... Of course, it won't support 3D - but it will CERTAINLY help the adoption of DWF in the marketplace over the longer term (it's too bad that Vista adoption will be so slow).

Editor's Clarification: From Scott Sheppard, DWF Evangelist... It will just be the new DWF 7.0 standard files which is viewable via Microsoft XPS Viewer. XPS Viewer will also be backported to Windows XP as well. Also look for a new file extension: DWFx for future versions.

DWF Freewheel
One of the most interesting technologies I've seen lately has been Project Freewheel from Autodesk - a technology that uses AJAX (asynchronous Java and XML, and DHTML, etc) - to view DWF files on a web page with no viewer installed.

How does it work? Using only Javascript and web services, it requests that one of Autodesk's web servers render the view of your DWF file. Every time you pan and zoom, it does a quick round-trip to Autodesk to render it.

What's the downside? Well - I'm not sure if customers will have a hard time with the fact that the DWFs must be uploaded to Autodesk or otherwise publicly visible on the web in order to make use of the technology. I know that certainly manufacturing companies have been skeptical of such approaches in the past (raising the question, "how long before we see the Enterprise Freewheel project?").

The Freewheel sample has been been posted for a few months now - but only in 2D of course. Of course there was the inevitable question - what about 3D? And the word was that they were looking into it... But I was skeptical - that would mean some kind of capability of simulating 3D rotation in DHTML - and then re-rendering the 3D View dynamically... But they've done it!
That is quite the technical accomplishment...

Check out:

If I had to guess, I think that they might be pre-rendering a bunch of low-resolution shots of different angles... Still impressive.


Mistress of the Dorkness said...

Don't forget another place DWF showed up... in the FM track. There were a few FM Desktop classes for us Facilities folks this year, and DWF is the common file format that Facility Manger uses to be able to work with AutoCAD, ADT and Revit.


Matt Mason said...

The Mistress! I'm honored...
Very good point.
No one has made better use of integrating DWF into their application than the FM Desktop guys. And I think it's fascinating to see how the FM-Desktop / Revit integration came about - with DWF providing not just "a viewable drawing" but effectively providing an interchange file format to get the underlying BIM data into FM Desktop.

Why didn't they go with the Revit API? I'm not sure.