The Open Design Alliance (ODA) is a non-profit technology consortium founded in 1998 to provide the CAD industry with an open solution for .dwg interoperability. It was created as a different kind of standards organization.  Rather than focusing on the publishing of a formal design specification, the ODA is actually a software development organization. As a result, the ODA’s choice of business model has proved to be a great success. Their cross-platform interop solutions are used throughout the Computer Aided Design industry. Thanks to their efforts, the once-proprietary .dwg format has become ubiquitous across the CAD space.

Bricsys is a founding member of the ODA

We at Bricsys participate in the ODA consortium, and we use ODA technology inside of BricsCAD. Now that the issue of .dwg interoperability is solved, we asked the leadership of the ODA: what’s next? What they told us was both revealing, and exciting for BricsCAD users. Over the last several years, the ODA has been quietly executing a transition away from the reactive task of untying the interoperability knot. They have refocused their efforts toward the proactive work of taking .dwg technology to the next level- building .dwg for the future.

Their change in direction is based on three key principles:

  • First, all new development must be compatible with existing .dwg technology. The industry has made an enormous investment in .dwg over the years. The .dwg format is a powerful and well-architected framework. It is ideally suited for CAD data storage. New development must never disrupt the existing .dwg ecosystem.
  • Secondly, new .dwg development must be done in a cooperative manner across the industry, with a goal of improving the lives of end users, rather than increasing revenues for CAD companies.
  • Finally, as .dwg is the most widely used format in CAD, the next generation of .dwg technology must be open to everyone. This technology is too important to remain under the charge a single corporate interest.

Intelligently extending the .dwg format

This year marks the beginning of a new era of open innovation for .dwg, thanks to the ODA. They are focused on solving real problems for the design and engineering industry. First among these is the the .dwg format’s lack of a true version history schema. ODA developers are building an integrated version control technology that allows users to retain the change history of a .dwg file. This allows users to quickly compare versions, revert to a previous version, create branches, and merge changes from one branch to another. In addition to improving design workflows for single users, this new technology also enables simultaneous multi-user editing. Under this workflow, the need for file locking is abolished. This development alone is a huge step forward for the end-users of .dwg-based CAD systems.

The ODA did not stop with versioning. The team has also developed a new framework for web-based .dwg development. This framework supports the creation of file viewers, markup editors and other web-based applications. Finally, the ODA has begun work on a new Exchange Initiative, aimed at providing high-quality conversion of other CAD formats to .dwg. Initial efforts in this area are focused on conversion of  Bentley® MicroStation DGN and Autodesk® Revit file formats, with more formats to be supported in the future.

Find out more about .dwg technology, in London…

Join us in London for Bricsys 2018, to learn more about ODA’s innovative new work with .dwg. The president of the Open Design Alliance, Neil Peterson, will be attending the conference and speaking in detail on these initiatives. It’s a great time to use .dwg-based CAD! At Bricsys 2018, you’ll discover the future of .dwg technology – 23-34 October, 2018.