What’s wrong with using Dropbox to share CAD files?

“I’m just going to send that CAD file with Dropbox.” No! Wait! Stop! There’s a better way! Just because you can’t afford the collaboration features of a PDM or PLM system, doesn’t mean you have to settle for a general file sharing solution. Even if (ESPECIALLY if) you need to share CAD info with someone who doesn’t actually have CAD software, there is now an affordable,  CAD-specific solution for doing so - GrabCAD Workbench.


Let’s look at the differences between sharing CAD with Dropbox and sharing CAD with Workbench.

Wasting time and making mistakes

First, I’d like to preface this by saying that I’m a big fan of Dropbox. They have a readily available, easy to use solution for sharing. I’ve used it for both personal and professional file sharing - photos, word docs, video, PDF and more. But it isn’t designed for CAD file sharing. Because of that, you and your collaborators end up making mistakes and wasting time that you really don’t have to.

You waste time

If your counterpart doesn’t have a CAD solution (or the same CAD solution) as you, then you are probably spending time taking screen shots and uploading the images to dropbox. Even then the recipient may not know what you are trying to show them in the image. So you probably have one conversation going on in email about a file, with the actual file’s stored in Dropbox, and then they are downloading those images onto their workstation folders. Maybe you even take the extra effort to send the model in different angles or marking the image up with circles and arrows in yet another application.

Let’s say your recipient actually does have the required CAD to open the file you shared in dropbox (or bugged a coworker with CAD to open it for him). Now you have one copy of the file and your collaborator has a second copy. There is nothing to prevent both of you from unknowingly working on the same version of the same file at the same time. You are forced to choose one person’s edits and throw away the other person’s work.

You make mistakes

Companies invest in PDM and PLM systems because tracking versions and file dependencies are important. General file sharing tools like Dropbox don’t identify CAD file relationships, so they can’t prevent or warn against common mistakes.

By sharing CAD with Dropbox there is a greater threat of simple human error without history as backup. A collaborator could delete a file that you still need or corrupt a whole CAD assembly by renaming or moving a file.

You lose track of communication

Because Dropbox doesn’t have tools for making comments and notes on your files, you’ll struggle to communicate effectively about changes you’ve made or are requesting. Emails and IMs with your ideas will float around (or disappear) with no link to what version of the model they refer to.


GrabCAD Workbench is built to safely manage, share and view CAD files. We make it easy for two engineers to work on the same assembly at the same time, or for an engineer to keep a supplier up to date with the latest revision.

Check out our full Workbench vs Dropbox Comparison Sheet which matches the solutions up feature for feature.

Or, check out other materials in the new Workbench Resource Center.