DWG, IFC, RVT, PLN? Most Common File Extensions in Architecture

It's very common for architects to use more than one program when developing a project. While one software can help us with the conceptual design and image of the project, other programs may work better for the development of technical documents, such as drawings, sections, and details. On the other hand, other software products can help us make a three-dimensional model, and yet others allow us to create renderings. There are also programs used for the postproduction of images, videos, or even to diagram panels and portfolios. The list is long and as a result our computer processors may suffer.

Although with BIM (Building Information Model) programs, this pilgrimage between programs tends to decrease when covering the entire design process, understanding the extensive list of file extensions is not as simple as it seems. In addition, it's not uncommon to find incompatibilities between versions and file types when, for example, the project must be opened on complementary equipment. Next, we review the file extensions most used by architects, focusing mainly on BIM programs.


Most architects around the world have ever worked with CAD files. The built-in extension of AutoCAD, it covers both 2D and 3D drawings and contains all the information entered in the CAD drawing, such as lines, geometric data, and inserted photos.

DXF (Drawing Exchange Format)

DXF is an exchange file for CAD models. As such, it works in all CAD programs and can also be read in vector drawing programs.

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SketchUp is the most widely used 3D modeling software worldwide, from the initial stage of the project to the final stages of design. Its main extension is SKP.


Autodesk Revit uses the RVT extension to store its files. The files cover all the elements and construction information of the model database.


These are the archives of Revit families, where in addition to the object's geometry, relevant information and data about them are retained. On ArchDaily, you can download a series of BIM objects of products present in our catalog.

Cortesia de Academía BIM


Templates help speed up the design process, standardize designs, and retain relevant information on the styles and visualizations of projects. We have published several templates in ArchDaily. The extension of these files in Autodesk Revit is RTE.


These are the main types of documents built-in to Graphisoft Archicad. It is essentially equivalent to the Revit RVT, and includes all the model data and views generated for the project, as well as the default configuration, attributes, and references of the library.

Cortesia de Graphisoft


TPL contains all the preference settings of a project, including default project elements and tools for Archicad templates.


Like the Revit RFA, GSM refers to objects in the Archicad library.

 IFC (Industry Foundation Classes)

The IFC is a neutral file format that allows the exchange of information between different CAD and BIM systems. The format sets international standards for importing and exporting construction objects and their properties. Thus, through this file, you can open a file in Revit that was originally created in Archicad, or vice versa, transporting its data.

COBie (Construction Operations Building Information Exchange)

Basically, COBie is a table format in Excel that collects information relevant to the administration and operation of the building, which is essential to support the operation, maintenance, and administration of assets when the building is in use. This type of file helps you capture, record, filter, and separate important project data, including equipment lists, product data sheets, warranties, spare parts lists, and preventive maintenance programs.


An NWD (Navisworks) file creates a "snapshot" of the project, gathering in a single file all the loaded templates, the scene environment, the current view, and the favorite views (including marking lines and comments). Navisworks is an Autodesk 3D project review product, which allows users to open and combine 3D models, navigate in real-time and review the model, identifying possible interferences and allowing other analyses.


BIMx is known as a "hypermodel." It can contain all the project documentation in the Archicad software, such as 3D geometries, views, designs, and even cameras. It can be opened in lighter displays, which can be run on phones and tablets, making it a good tool for presenting projects on the ground.



3DS is one of the most common file formats used by the Autodesk modeling, animation, and rendering software 3ds Max, which is very common among architects working with realistic renderings.


The 3DM extension corresponds to files generated by the Rhino3D modeling program, based on NURBS technology.

SHP (Shapefile)

Geographic information systems, also known as GIS, are often used by architects who work in urban planning and urban studies. Its main extension is Shapefile (.shp), a popular file format that contains vector geospatial data, describing geometries, points, lines, and polygons, each with their respective attributes.

There are programs that, although not limited to architecture in their use, are widely used by architects. This is also true of vector softwares such as Adobe Illustrator (and its extension .ai) and CorelDRAW (.cdr), open-source programs such as Inkscape (.svg), and image editing programs, such as Adobe Photoshop (.psd).

Have we forgotten any important extension? Leave your comment below or on social networks to update the article!

About this author
Cite: Souza, Eduardo. "DWG, IFC, RVT, PLN? Most Common File Extensions in Architecture" [DWG, IFC, RVT, PLN? As extensões de arquivos mais comuns para arquitetura] 27 Dec 2019. ArchDaily. (Trans. Franco, José Tomás) Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/930660/dwg-ifc-rvt-pln-most-common-file-extensions-in-architecture> ISSN 0719-8884

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DWG, IFC, RVT, PLN…盘点建筑师电脑中最常见的文件格式

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