Able2Extract can export a pdf to various formats:

In my testing, I opened a 97mb pdf file in Bluebeam and extracted one page to a separate pdf file for conversion. I opened this pdf in Able2Extract and tested exporting to DWG and DXF with various export options. My results are shown below.

Polyline width detection: Good

Connected segments into polyline: Good

Hatch creation: Good, with colours when RGB ticked on export

Good, probably best to export 1:1 then scale in AutoCAD using commands SC and ALL for selection (can also use scale export option)

Text detection: Not good
EDIT: Explanation “The PDF you used contains 4 embedded fonts with custom encoding (File>Properties>Fonts in Acrobat Reader). “Embedded” means that the PDF contains all necessary info to draw them correctly. But, according to PDF Standard 1.5 (, page 427: 5.8 Embedded Font Programs…

Font programs are subject to copyright, and the copyright owner may impose conditions under which a font program can be used. These permissions are recorded either in the font program itself or as part of a separate license. A font program may allow embedding for the sole purpose of viewing and printing the document, but not for creating new or modified text using the font (in either the same document or other documents); the latter operation would require the user performing the operation to have a licensed copy of the font program, not a copy extracted from the PDF file.

It means that we can extract from the PDF its content, but not fonts.”

Now, the real question: is it worth it? I think the ease of use is good, and the overall functionality also seems compelling for the US99.95 price tag. This is obviously a lot cheaper than buying a full standalone license of Adobe Illustrator. However, the lack of text support when converting to DWG / DXF is unfortunate. If you plan on extracting the vector information out of PDFs for tracing or use in Revit, and you don’t really need the text, Able2Extract could be worth a look…

How you can get it:
Direct link to 7 day trial for Windows

Main download page here and help page for DWG conversion here

I have previously posted how to convert pdfs to vector information using free tools and using Adobe Illustrator (with video).

I have also provided a guide on converting a raster image to vector information for use in CAD and BIM in this post:
Raster to Vector to DXF for use in AutoCAD, Revit or Navisworks (with video)

I loaded a 97 mb, 208 page architectural set into Able2Extract. It opened up quickly, but then it crashed before I could initiate a conversion.

We often have to deal with data that hasn’t always “lived” in our CAD, BIM or Revit world. Take a hand sketch, for example – how can you get that into a format that can easily be used in AutoCAD or Revit? Some PDFs have vector information, which I have described how to access before. But the below workflow takes it one step further – how to get any raster image into a vector format, using a few free tools.

Here’s how to do it, without Adobe Illustrator:

  1. Make your source file (PDF / Scan etc) into bitonal TIFF image (I use Bluebeam and Irfanview in the video, but you could easily save the PDF to image using GSView)
  2. Open in Inkscape
  3. Vectorize using Path – Trace Bitmap… Brightness steps, set to 2.
    Untick: Smooth, Stack scans, Smooth corners and Optimize paths.
    (this step makes the black and white image into lines and outlines)
  4. Save as EPS
  5. Open in GSView (requires Ghostscript and pstoedit)
  6. Save as DXF (using Convert to Vector format). From here, you can get to AutoCAD or Navisworks easily…
  7. Open in AutoCAD
  8. NWCOUT and/or
  9. Append the DXF directly to Navisworks
  10. Scale and position appropriately

Here’s a quick video of the process:

The file sizes at each step look like this:

Did you know support of Sketchbook Designer is coming to an end? Check this out:

SketchBook Designer – Concept Design & Illustration Software – Autodesk

I guess the story is a bit like Impression 3, and to a lesser extent Design Review 2013 – Sketchbook Designer 2014 is the last official version.

The main difference seems to be that Sketchbook Designer is / was a desktop design tool, while Sketchbook Pro is a sketching tool for tablets and stylus use. Personally, I will be be keeping Sketchbook Designer 2014 installed for a few years I think…

Sketchbook Designer 2014

Sketchbook Pro 2015 (aka 6.2 ?)

This option in Sketchbook Pro 6.2 will launch Designer 2014

Sketchbook Pro 2014 is equal to 6.1

Sketchbook Designer (not Pro) can export vector formats such as DWG – you can also have Vector or Raster layer types:

If you open PDF files using the embedded vector data (ie. lines), you can then use ADR (Autodesk Design Review) to snap to PDF lines in order to measure them.

This may be useful to you if you are using ADR for markup tasks.  In our office, we are still very much PDF-centric, and various PDF readers allow you to measure PDFs anyway, so … you get the idea.

If you want to force ADR to open PDFs as vectors, follow the steps on the following post at RevitForum:
Design Review Tutorial

Some direct links (you will need to login to download):

Attached Files Attached Files

Thanks to Tim West for the post, the training guide and the registry tweak.  Nice job!

From Tim West’s PDF linked above

Manual steps from Instructions.txt:
    Open your system registry editor with command ‘regedit’
    ‘HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareAutodeskDesign ReviewPreferences’
    If there is not a key called ‘PDFImport’ please create it.
    Create a DWORD value whose name is ‘PDF Conversion Method’ and set its value as 2.
    Close your registry editor.
    Open your PDF files with ADR2012
    PDF will be converted to DWF as vector; you can save this DWF file by then.

    Open your system registry editor with command ‘regedit’
    Expand ‘HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareAppDataLowSoftwareAutodeskDesign ReviewPreferences’ or ‘HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareAutodeskDesign ReviewPreferences’
    If there is not a key called ‘PDFImport’ please create it.
    Create a DWORD value whose name is ‘PDF Conversion Method’ and set its value as 2.
    Close your registry editor.
    Open your PDF files with ADR2012
    PDF will be converted to DWF as vector; you can save this DWF file by then.

You can now filter Google Image Search to just show you SVG files. Here is an example search:
“Nintendo” SVG files

See Only Resize-Friendly Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) In Google Images | Lifehacker Australia

So what is so good about SVG? From the wiki page:

Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) is a family of specifications of an XML-based file format for describing two-dimensional vector graphics, both static and dynamic (i.e. interactive or animated).
The SVG specification is an open standard that has been under development by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) since 1999.
SVG images and their behaviors are defined in XML text files. This means that they can be searched, indexed, scripted and, if required, compressed. Since they are XML files, SVG images can be created and edited with any text editor, but drawing programs are also available that support SVG file formats.

Sometimes you will have access to a PDF file, but not to the original DWG.  Is there any way you can get the base vector data, such as lines and arcs, out of the PDF and back into a DWG?  Yes, there is – and it’s free.

You will need 3 things:
Ghostscript or here
pstoedit (or Windows exe link here)

Download and install each of the above tools.  Make your life easy and stick with the 32-bit version of everything.

Once you have installed them all, open a PDF file using GSView.  GSView is usually located in  
C:Program Filesghostgumgsviewgsview32.exe

With your PDF open, take the following steps:

  1. Click on ‘Media’ and set the correct paper size.
  2. Go to ‘Edit’ and click on ‘Convert to vector format…’
  3. At the resulting PS to Edit dialog box, choose dxf_s, and add the following Driver options:
    -mm -splineaspolyline -splineprecision 10
    (I have found these settings to work quite well)
  4. Click OK.
  5. Select the page in the next dialog (usually only 1), press OK, and then pick a place to save the DXF file.
  6. Click Save.
  7. Open in AutoCAD and scale to correct size.
  8. Save as DWG.

If you have any problems, feel free to comment and I will try and help you out.  If you intend to import the DWG into Revit, keep in mind that Revit is not very impressed with very short lines.

Enjoy your PDF hacking!

So, you try and print a view with an image in it, and Revit 2010 just decides to crash…and you can’t figure it out!

Well, Revit wants you to choose ‘Raster’ instead of ‘Vector’ under the ‘Print’ dialog – ‘Setup’ button…

There you go, no more crashing!

I have reported this to Autodesk (see below 😉

Summary: Printing ‘linked view’ with image – crashes
Description: When printing a host view with a linked RVT view that contains a high res image.

The same problem occurs if printing the drawing from the linked file (the image seems to crash revit).

However, changing the print type to ‘raster’ solves the problem. Revit should realise that ‘vector’ is going to crash, and switch to ‘raster’ automatically.

Please correct this problem as it is irritating.