File Formats for Conversion to XAML

As WPF application development continues to pick up steam, it’s becoming more and more important to consider which file formats make the most sense for conversion to XAML. Just based on discussions I’ve had with many of you regarding my Illustrator export plug-in, I know that there are other formats out there that—due to lack of tool support—are very difficult or next-to-impossible to convert to XAML.

So, I’d like to identify a list of “top x” file formats that would help ease the pain for both WPF designers and developers. What tool does your company use to create 2D or 3D content? What file format(s) does it make the most sense to convert? If you don’t have an opinion (possibly because you don’t work with those tools), please forward this to your design staff. I’m very interested in feedback.

Comments (34)

  1. For applications I work with having a converter for EMF/WMF as a callable utility would be great. This would allow copy/paste with Office, Visio, and many other tools. Ideally anything that supports OLE should be something that can be converted to XAML for inclusion as content in a FlowDocument or FixedDocument.

  2. Stephane Comeau says:

    Flash, definitely. We have lots of legacy flash based content that we’d like to carry forward. Yes, the animation part too please. Illustrator also, but fortunately that one seems likely already.

  3. anon says:

    SVG is one obvious candidate… there are a plethora of XML-based UI layout schemas out in the wild. Not sure which, if any, are truly popular enough to invest in a converter.

    Heck, it would also be nice to have a forward-port ability for RC files and WinForms designer-generated CS/VB files!

  4. Erwyn van der Meer says:

    I would like to see a XHTML 1.0 Strict + CSS 2.1 to XAML converter. Seeing that WPF has many HTML-like elements/classes, e.g.,, this should be possible.

  5. 3D Joe says:

    I would really like to see X3D/VRML2 support, it will be great to see all the wonderful scenes I’ve got render in a XAML3D window

  6. Andrew Deren says:

    WMF/EMF would be great.

    Corel Draw files too.

  7. Ashvil says:

    Flash is the current animation leader and I cannot imagine MS shipping the WPF platform and tools without a Flash import either directly or via a partner.

    It would be like MS shipping Exchange without any tools to migrate users from CC:Mail, etc.

    It’s a tough sell to ask someone to redo all their Flash content.

    Warm Regards,


  8. Jakub Müller says:

    We use Corel products for graphics design. The import/export functions for collaboration with Corel formats would be great.

    Support for wmf/emf files would be very usefull too.

  9. mswanson says:

    Thanks for the insight so far, everyone. If you have an opinion, please provide feedback (or use the Email link to send me something directly). I’d like to collect as much information as possible regarding the formats that would provide the biggest benefit.

  10. Michael, How about the ability to translate an existing Form1.Designer.cs file or .vb file? I am guessing this will be baked into the IDE at a pretty low level. -A

  11. I’d like to see support for some of the more common 3D formats (other than .OBJ) such as .COB (Truspace),3DS or DXF

  12. Fred Coote says:

    Suggest support for native Rhinoceros (Rhino) 3D files;3dm.

  13. Given the designerdeveloper interaction I can see the most common being the most common 3D file formats and designer tools such as PhotoshopIllustrator.

  14. Adam Kane says:

    I’d love to see a plugin for 3D Studio MAX which provided an export-to-xaml capability.

  15. csgallagher says:

    We are on the threshold of making it possible to create and interact with a real as well as virtual representation of the classic man-machine interface. I mean this literally as well as figuratively.

    Please do not continue to choose to focus on drawing buttons and dancing monkeys to the exclusion of making it possible to represent and interact with real and meaningful representations of our real world.

    There are serious people doing serious work using software developed by vendors such as Autodesk or SolidWorks for example.

    The DWG/DXF/EPS file formats have been defacto standards for well over a decade.

    Do we need dancing monkeys? Animated buttons? Hell no. We need support to enable highly skilled professionals to create interactive floor plans, interactive machines and other examples that enrichen the human experience in real and meaningful ways.

    The world has enough dancing monkeys. Please stop pissing on humanity and get serious.

  16. Teaf Ives says:

    I want more Universality / layman operability of transparent layers. So I can make my dancing monkeys stand out better.

  17. mswanson says:

    Based on the feedback, conversations with customers, and a lot of the e-mail I’ve received, it seems that these are the formats that come up most frequently:

    2D formats: Flash, SVG, and WMF/EMF

    3D formats: 3ds Max and Maya

    Of course, there are others (as noted in the feedback above). If you care a lot about a format I haven’t summarized here, please add to the mix and let your opinion be known!

  18. Jonas Beckeman says:

    A quick’n’dirty solution for 3D interop might be a w3d/u3d importer. The two are very similar Intel formats, used in Shockwave, Acrobat 7 and other programs (see

    Exporters for Max, Maya and Lightwave already exist for w3d, and at least u3d is well documented.

    2D: Photoshop PSD

  19. brandon says:

    curious what can be done with the autocad and civil3d formats.

  20. Jon Schneider says:

    I feel there is a definite need for the AutoCAD (DWG, DXF) file formats to be converted to XAML. We use SharePoint for our document management but the bulk of our business documentation is in DWG format. Therefore the bulk is not managed with anything other than network shares. It would be awesome if we had the ability to utilize our existing document management system (Microsoft SharePoint Portal) for all of our business documentation. If I could utilize SPS for AutoCAD as well as other documents, I would personally teach the monkeys how to dance.

  21. csgallagher says:

    Brandon et al,

    Circumstances being what they are, Autodesk’s development of the DWG/DXF vector file formats are globally supported and enjoy a serious monopoly in the AEC-FM [1] industry the same way Microsoft does on the PC. What can I say? Its hard to beat a class act 🙂

    Literally, hundreds of thousands of professional services firms world-wide use various software products from different software product vendors whose products support the DWG/DXF vector file format. This occurs every day as such individuals, firms, and organizations design and draft everything from floor plans to radiological diagnostic devices, to dashboards for automobiles, ships, boats, airplanes and on and on.

    I’m often an out-front big thinker and have this "vision thing" which can get people angry with me as many prefer the comfort of the status quo.

    But I "see" myself using a 30"x42" LCD supporting ink and touch as a display environment for example. Now I said I am a big thinker so I want two of them side-by-side. 🙂

    I want to design and draft whatever it is I will be working on using AutoCAD, Architectural Desktop, or a comparable product from a software vendor whose product saves its vector files in the native .dwg format or can save to .dxf which is similar to an .ini file in its data structure.

    I appreciate all forms of design including the current trend to publish to the web using magazine publishing or cartoon paradigms but quite frankly, drawing dancing monkeys does not require a license from the state to ensure the preservation of the safety, health, and welfare of the people who use our buildings and machines designed and drafted by architects and engineers who are involved in serious endeavors. I haven’t even barely touched on MCAD which is mechanical and machine design.

    The virtual representation of our real world is now possible and we are indeed on a threshold which can and will occur with Microsoft’s support for importing DXF/DWG/EPS vector file formats into the Expression Suite products.

    Having been degreed and working as an architect I am currently in the Microsoft Empower ISV program developing product as a .NET developer. I know many of my architectural and engineering peers are eager to usher in a new era of CAD and quite frankly, Autodesk has been sitting on their hands but couldn’t do what needs to be done anyway even if they chose to be altruistic.

    Altruism is not the only game in town however. There’s big money in what I am talking about. Really big money.

    The National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) released a report stating the US construction industry operates at a $15 billion annual loss!

    NIST attributes the annual losses to two factors: A.) lack of technical skills in industry personal and B.) lack of support by software vendors who develop solutions for those who design and draft using vector file formats. Its a real chicken and egg scenario.

    Those of us who have the vision thing will drag the laggards kicking and screaming into the present like we had to when we adopted CAD in the mid 1980s (when CAD really started to come into its own) but we need Microsoft’s support for the critical vector file formats that professionals use in their work everyday.

    We need XAML to make it possible to use schema to model the representation of our objects which will enable us to use the .NET Framework to create interactive software applications using graphic representations of our real world.

    I hope this was more helpful to all concerned…

    [1] Architecture, Engineering, Construction – Facility Management

  22. You may recall my post last month titled File Formats for Conversion to XAML. In that post, I asked which…

  23. Wilbert says:

    I love working with Cinema 4D, it’s easy to learn and has a superior interface. I would like support for the C4D file format.

  24. queen says:

    A9Converter Pro – converts DWG or DXF files to various raster images, support bi-directional DWG/DXF conversion, autocad 2006.

  25. alois paulin says:

    Cinema 4d is really a great tool, which is gaining wide acceptance amoung the upcomming generation of 3d-designers, because it is easy to use and more intuitive than maya and alternatives.

    for 3d design a Corel-Draw support is a must-have. as it is equally important as Illustrator is.

  26. Tom says:


  27. Bo says:

    I would love to see a Cimema 4D converter too

  28. I’ve heard tons about a visio to XAML converter… I guess it makes sense if you use Visio as your UI design tool… we go the other way though, Visio is a diagramming tool and we use Expression / VS.NET as our UI tools – so I find myself wanting to export XAML into Visio, not the other way around…

  29. grezlam says:

    Adobe Illustrator (AI) and CorelDraw (CDR) are a must have, for vector graphics.

  30. Matts says:

    I would like to see an exporter for Cinema 4D.

    I have to export my c4d files to FBX format, then import it to Maya.

    Maya can export to XAML.

    Problem is, some of my textures and animation gets lost in the FBX file…

    I say, XAML exporter for Cinema 4D please!

  31. c4d says:

    c4d aswell, especially suppport for splines. right now C4D only opens .ai as splines i think..

  32. Ed Burns says:

    I would love to see a XAML exporter for Cinema 4D! Cinema 4D rocks!!!

    Cinema 4D + Silverlight + WPF = Bye Bye Flash!!!!

  33. Bryon says:

    XHTML text(font size, family, style, etc…) to XAML for textblock elements at least.  Rich text from XHTML should be a basic requirement to convert to XAML textblocks.

  34. John says:

    I have a Visio license and I can draw simple line and box drawings and give names to each box.  I’d like to ship to my customers the Visio drawing and some C# compiled code that can color or highlight a box based on other input to my C# program.  I cannot require my customer to have a Visio license.  So I don’t care so much about a particular format; I care about enough compatability to get me an end to end solution.  If that means Visio to SVG to XAML that would be fine, but the code I’ve seen to do that seems old, unmaintained, and buggy.