August 28, 2013

OrthoGraph CAD export formats, their use, and their differences

OrthoGraph Architect 7.0 has several output formats available direct from the iPad or through external desktop converters. These are DXF, IFC, ArchiCAD, Trimble SketchUp, OrthoGraph’s own SRVD format and maybe the PDF format could also be listed here, although that is rather for professional listing only.

There is a big difference between the content of these formats that is necessary to mention: some of them are 3D and some are 2D only.

The most content certainly is stored in OrthoGraph’s own SRVD format that is very near to the content that can be opened up using the native ArchiCAD import Add-On. As OrthoGraph is a BIM application that intelligently handles graphical elements with many custom properties, therefore the BIM output formats provide the most benefit. The ArchiCAD Import module (sold separately) adds the capability of opening up OrthoGraph’s SRVD format into ArchiCAD’s open and merge menus. The Add-On reads the SRVD file in, and then an identification window lets the user to set what OrthoGraph object should be converted into which ArchiCAD graphical element. Doors and windows are identified with one selected ArchiCAD door and windows. After opening and SRVD file a multi-story 3D graphical model is built up with walls, doors, windows and objects with their right positions, converted properties and orientation. It is very important to identify the OrthoGraph objects with the proper ArchiCAD graphical library parts to have a 100% result in ArchiCAD. This Add-On is available for both the Mac and Windows version of ArchiCAD.

Next we would say is the IFC format that contains the whole 3D BIM model with the building’s logical structure and all properties stored in the survey project. As the IFC model is exported directly from the iPad it stores every OrthoGraph element with their properties, but in case of objects only cubes/blocks are exported that have their own attached property lists. Doors and windows are converted to IFC’s default door and window formats. The default OrthoGraph IFC output is 100% compatible with the native IFC Solibri viewer (the most standard IFC viewer), but we experienced problems when reading in these files into ArchiCAD. The exported IFC files contain a multi-story 3D building model with all walls, windows, doors and blocks representing objects.

When staying at the 3D formats we should mention the Trimble SketchUp converter that can be freely downloaded and used from OrthoGraph’s website. This converter runs only on Windows desktop computers and works from the native OrthoGraph SRVD file format. The output is a 3D building drawing with walls and wall holes representing the 3D project created using OrthoGraph. It doesn’t contain objects, and the doors/windows are also converted to simple panels, but the measures, the wall thickness and every opening has its respective measured size that is a good basis to start the CAD editing on the PC.

The most standard file format in the CAD world is AutoCAD’s DWG and DXF formats. OrthoGraph had formerly a desktop DWG converter that was sold as a separate product, but starting from the 6th version OrthoGraph natively creates DXF files, that have the same acceptance in the CAD world as the DWG. The most important difference of the DXF format compared to the formerly mentioned formats is that it contains only 2D drawings. Every room containing doors, windows and objects is exported to a separate layer, and in addition to that all measurements are also exported to a separate layer. This format doesn’t hold the properties set in the OrthoGraph model to the graphical elements as well as the height and story information are also not converted into this format. The DXF format is a very good basis for starting the CAD work on the desktop if you work with AutoCAD or with other CAD software that starts from 2D, but even in its default format is a well usable 2D drawing for further use.

The PDF format is not a real CAD format, but is used by most of OrthoGraph Architect’s users regularly. The PDF files generated directly from the iPad contains a room book listing all important properties that are related to the floor plan. First of all the first page contains a view of the whole floor plan scaled as is shown to the user when clicking the PDF creation function. After this overview page each room starts on a new page showing its floor plan with doors/windows and objects, all properties related to the room and then related to every single objects placed down inside the room. This is the only output format that contains photos attached to graphical elements so through this format all survey results can be exported into a single, well readable electronic format.

The last format is OrthoGraph’s native SRVD format that is used today only for the external desktop converters/Importing Add-Ons. There is plan in the near future to start a new OrthoGraph Cloud Service that will support sharing OrthoGraph drawings between different users with their iPads. In this new service a new functionality will also be available that is very important for surveyors: the teamwork functionality. Through this functionality the users will be able to share and merge their measurements, and store all of them on a central server hosted by OrthoGraph without any technical difficulties. This hosted cloud service is coming soon, so OrthoGraph’s own format will become very important shortly.


  1. Can you post a sample DXF file please? How are doors and windows treated? As line work? As a block. Does the DXF contain layers? Can there be any customisation?
    Many thanks! ;-)

    1. Dear The Don,

      You can find sample DXF files here:

      Doors and windows are treated as blocks.
      The measurements , the windows and doors are in different layers. You can customize whether you want single layer or separate layers.