Tom Gagnon

Broadly, what is "native format" as a contract requirement?

Discussion created by Tom Gagnon on Apr 10, 2019
Latest reply on May 15, 2019 by Paul Wyndham

Today I am assisting our sales department to determine our capabilities to provide drawings to two different clients in their native format. Searching through the forums here has been indispensable in quickly finding answers among the shared history of others generally in the same position. It leads me to ask a question with a broader applicability but a finer point to define this term, Native Format.


What is Native Format (NF)?

I am not asking what SWx native format is, nor contextually what any other software's native format is.

I understand the generic definition, as found at Techopedia, Wikipedia, and EDRM (Duke Law). Most web sites seem preoccupied with MS Word as an example, but a few do address the similar applicability of AutoCAD and similar in our field(s).

It is less important to me to adhere to its pure definition than to apply its effective intent of usefulness. That may not be the case for everyone.


What is the actual effective contract requirement for Native Format? That is, what is actually acceptable as such?

In my practice, the overwhelming majority of customer submittal drawings from a handful of business applications is in Adobe PDF format. Practically, I understand a requirement for Native Format as: ANYTHING but PDF, TIFF, JPG, napkin sketch, blueprints, or ink on dead trees. The effective PURPOSE of NF is that they require useful input for their systems, standards, and practices without needing to re-enter or clean up the data.


[Aside: As an OEM, I wish I could call for the same mandate upon our vendors and component manufacturers, but yeah good luck with that. Results on my end are entirely mixed, ranging from crooked scanned images of drawings dating back 20+ years to fully featured Solidworks models (thank you McMaster-Carr!). I understand that some products are simple enough that if they provided every detail, then anyone could just dupe their product and effectively steal every aspect of their design and development investments. It takes all types.]


A few others have echoed this client experience here on the forums. The client asks for (insert other software here) files. You do not own that software and will not be purchasing it, or learning it, or using it, to meet the 'requirements' of this one job or contract. Your software is capable of producing "Neutral Format" files which are fully functional drawings or models when imported into Other Software. It works for the client, and therefore they do not complain or protest. Life and work proceeds.


The most common example of Neutral Format is DWG, which once was proprietary to AutoCAD, but now is as much of a victim of its own success as Adobe PDF has been, so that now it is an open standard where other entities are adding functionality and developing data use cases not approved by the file format's originator. As such, control of the format has escaped its originator. Therefore, because all Solidworks applications that I know of can export to DWG, *and* because nearly all Other Software can import DWG files, then the client accepts DWG files as NF even when it is not actually NF but is a Neutral Format instead.


In 3D designs, I appreciate the fact that Parasolid is potentially a shared common kernel between Solidworks and Other Software. Metaphorically, we are not far from the trunk of this tree, so it's easy to share with some other nearby branches. It doesn't solve all cases in all conditions.


Has anyone ever found a Client that would not accept a Neutral Format as the requirement of providing Native Format? Is this merely a linguistic disconnect between Lawyers and Engineers? Engineers know what is useful and proceed without trouble. Lawyers know what words mean and will shove it up your ### when it comes time to pay you for your work.


I've seen contract requirements which explicitly state the contractor will USE Other Software to produce the following content. I advise sales to tell them to shove off, and instead they note the non-conformance among notes and clarifications in their proposal. I guess that's business for ya.


I want to change the world. Start with this word. Make it easy. That's the INTENT of Native Formats anyway.


Clearly, exceptions do exist. If we make drawings, and client requires a database, then these are potentially related but entirely separate deliverables. Not everything  everywhere accepts what we consider Neutral Format.


A personal thanks here to Matt Peneguy for his useful responses to other threads on this topic in varied cases.