Open AutoCAD drawings without using AutoCAD

DWG is a native AutoCAD file format but it can be opened with other software’s and online tools as well. When you don’t have access to AutoCAD software and you really need to view the files you can use any of the four methods mentioned in this article to get the work done.

The easiest and most recommended method is using Autodesk Trueview, a free DWG viewer from Autodesk.

Autodesk Trueview

Autodesk Trueview is a free software which can be used to open DWG files and it can also perform some basic measurement task on the drawing. However, you can’t modify your drawing in any way using Trueview.

True view also allows you to convert the version of AutoCAD files to any previous release. This is especially helpful when you are using an old version of AutoCAD and you received drawings in new DWG formats.

You can use Trueview to batch convert multiple drawing file versions and then open those drawings in your AutoCAD software.

To open the drawing simply download the DWG Trueview from here and install it, then open files in it.

Once your files are open you will see a tab similar to the one shown in the image above. You can clearly see that it has Measure panel with common measurement tools and some other tools like visual styles and object snap.

To change the version of DWG files click on DWG Convert icon of Files panel and add files to the files tree as shown in the image below then select the version in which you want to convert it and click on convert button.

Open AutoCAD drawings without AutoCAD

By default, the original drawing(s) is overridden by the converted drawing but you can place the converted drawings in a new folder or zip file.

To change drawing conversion settings click on conversion setups button on DWG convert window and select Modify from conversion setups window. From Modify Conversion setup window change the conversion package type to folder or zip and click on OK to close and exit the open windows.

Autodesk 360

You can also view drawings without installing any software right from your browser using Autodesk 360 viewer. Go to A360 site here and create your free account, then click on upload your design icon and select the drawing from local/network drive or cloud accounts like Dropbox, Google drive or Box.

You can also upload a complete folder containing multiple drawing files. Once you upload the files the viewer will take some time to prepare the upload and an email will be sent to you once the files are prepared for viewing.

You can use A360 to view 2D as well as 3D drawings and it can also be used to measure different geometrical features of the drawing. You can also generate a link for users who don’t have A360 account and share the drawing with them and they can also view it in the browser directly.

You can also view the AutoCAD files on a mobile device using A360 mobile app for Android, IOS and windows devices.

Open source CAD applications:

There are also plenty of low cost and lightweight alternatives to AutoCAD that can be used to view the drawing by installing their trial version. The best among these is a free and open source software called LibreCAD.

The software is very small and it installs in a few minutes. You can simply open the DWG files in this software and also make minor drawing modifications in it. The LibreCAD recognizes layers and blocks of the DWG files too. However, I will not recommend using LibreCAD for drawing modification tasks as it crashes a lot and it is also not able to properly handle large file size.

GrabCAD online viewer

This is similar to A360 viewer but with limited features and control over your drawing file. To use the online viewer of GrabCAD you need to register on the website. Once you have your account created you can upload as many drawings as you want and view the drawing in its 3D viewer.

How do you prefer to access DWG files when you don’t have access to AutoCAD? Let us know in the comments below.

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About the Author:

I am a mechanical engineer and I have worked with Design, Manufacturing and Training industries but now SourceCAD is my full-time work and I use it to train students all over the world. I also train corporate clients and help them develop the skill set of their workforce. I am Autodesk AutoCAD Certified Professional and an Autodesk expert elite member. I am a regular contributor of AUGI World magazine and apart from SourceCAD I also develop AutoCAD video courses for Pluralsight and other E-Learning businesses.


  1. Kevin Breedveld January 5, 2017 at 1:07 am - Reply

    I’ve used Rasterex’s RxView and RxHighligt for viewing DWG and 250 other formats for 20 years, Also WiseCAD from CSoft and nanoCAd from Nanosoft are cheaper and as good as AutoCAD. TrueView is a big lump of software (AutoCAD without editing) and viewing can be done with a lot less resources

    • Jaiprakash Pandey January 5, 2017 at 1:59 am - Reply

      Yes Kevin, these are indeed lightweight solutions but they come with an upfront cost or with a limited time trial, I have only included open source or free solutions in my article.

  2. Philippe Halet January 4, 2017 at 2:25 pm - Reply

    You can also use Bentley View from Bentley Systems, the editor of MicroStation.

    With Bentley View you can view DWG and DGN files but also a huge range of other formats like :
    * 3D Studio
    * Shape files
    * AutoDesk FBX
    * MIF/MID
    * IFC
    * Rhino (3dm)
    * Sketchup
    * Image files (tiff; jpg,…)
    * Georeferenced image files (tiff, itiff, hmr, cit,…)

    You can also use some basic function to make measurements (distance, angle, surface,…)

    • Jaiprakash Pandey January 4, 2017 at 7:12 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your inputs Philippe

  3. Bob Doughty January 2, 2017 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    At home I use ‘DraftSight’, a free 2D CAD package, to view and edit my AutoCAD dwg drawings but if sending an AutoCAD drawing to a client at work I send them an ‘AutoCAD True Viewer’ link to use as a viewer.

    • Jaiprakash Pandey January 4, 2017 at 7:25 pm - Reply

      That is an easy and hassle free option!

  4. mahesh hegde May 27, 2015 at 3:30 pm - Reply

    I have AutoCAD True Viewer 2016. But when I try to measure dimensions, I am not able to use Object Snaps properly. why?

    • Jaiprakash Pandey May 27, 2015 at 8:34 pm - Reply

      select distance from measure panel then click on endpoint on object snap and click at two points,the calculated distance will appear above command line. Repeat same process for other object snaps like center etc too.

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