A file with the IFC file extension is an Industry Foundation Classes file. The IFC-SPF format is currently developed by buildingSMART and is used by Building Information Modeling (BIM) programs to hold models and designs of facilities and buildings.
The IFC-XML and IFC-ZIP formats are similar but instead use the .IFCXML and .IFCZIP file extensions to indicate that the file is either XML-structured or ZIP-compressed, respectively.
How to Open an IFC File
IFC files can be opened with Autodesk’s Revit, Adobe Acrobat, FME Desktop, CYPECAD, SketchUp (with the IFC2SKP plug-in), or GRAPHISOFT’s ARCHICAD.
See how to open the file in Revit if you need help using it with that program.
IFC Wiki has a list of several other free programs that can open these files, including Areddo and BIM Surfer.
Since IFC-SPF files are just text documents, they can also be opened with Notepad in Windows, or any other text editor. However, only do this if you want to see the text data that makes up the file; you won’t be able to see the 3D design in one of these programs.
IFC-ZIP files are just ZIP-compressed .IFC files, so the same text editor rules apply to them once the file has been extracted from the archive. A file unzip program can open one.
On the other hand, IFC-XML files are XML-based, which means you’ll want an XML viewer/editor to see the text in those types of files.
Solibri IFC Optimizer can open an IFC file, too, but only for the purpose of reducing its file size.
If you find that an application on your PC does try to open the file but it’s the wrong application or you’d rather have another installed program open it, you can change which program defaults to opening IFC files.
How to Convert an IFC File
You can save an IFC file to several other file formats using IfcOpenShell. It supports converting IFC to OBJ, STP, SVG, XML, DAE, and IGS.
See BIMopedia’s Creating 3D PDFs from IFC Files if you want to convert it to a PDF using Revit.
Some of the programs from above that can open an IFC file may also be able to convert, export, or save the file to another format.
Still Can’t Open the File?
The file extension is the first thing you should check if you can’t open it using the programs mentioned above. Some formats use an extension that looks a lot like another kind of file, but that doesn’t mean that the formats are related or that the files can be used by the same software.
ICF is one example. Those letters resemble IFC but they’re actually used by Zoom Router Configuration files as a backup text document for the settings of a Zoom router. In other words, they have nothing at all to do with Industry Foundation Classes files and so can’t be used with IFC file openers.
Another example is the FIC file extension used for WinDev Hyper File Database files. They might look like IFC files when you just look at the extension, but the format is actually only usable with PC SOFT’s WinDev.
The Autodesk company started the IFC initiative in 1994 as a way to support integrated application development. Some of the 12 initial companies that joined included Honeywell, Butler Manufacturing, and AT&T.
Industry Alliance for Interoperability opened membership to anyone in 1995 and then changed its name to the International Alliance for Interoperability. The non-profit’s intent was to publish the Industry Foundation Class (IFC) as an AEC product model.
The name was changed again in 2005 and is now maintained by buildingSMART.