How to Open and View STEP files to Collaborate Efficiently in the 3D Design World

April 17th, 2023
STEP File Format

STEP files have become an essential part of the manufacturing and design process in various industries. This article will provide an in-depth understanding of what a STEP file is, how to open and view them, and the benefits of using STEP files in your workflow. We will also introduce you to a powerful 3D collaborative platform called Jinolo, which supports STEP files and provides advanced features for a seamless design experience.

What is a STEP File?

A STEP file, short for STandard for the Exchange of Product model data, is a widely used file format for exchanging 3D CAD data between different software programs. It is often represented with the extension ".step" or ".stp." This file format is designed to be vendor-neutral, meaning that it can be opened and edited in various CAD software without compatibility issues. STEP files are popular in industries such as automotive, aerospace, and consumer electronics.

How Do You Open a STEP File?

Opening a STEP file involves selecting an appropriate tool, whether a software program or an online platform, that is capable of reading STEP files. This is followed by launching the tool and using its 'Open' or 'Upload' function to navigate to the desired STEP file. Once the file is located and selected, it can be opened for viewing and interaction. While the process remains generally the same across various tools, the additional features and capabilities each tool offers, such as annotation, permission management, and file organization, can differ greatly. Thus, the choice of tool should align with the specific needs of the user.

To help with the selection of the right tool to open a step file, this section explores several ways to open STEP files, addressing both standalone software solutions and online viewers, and introduces a standout platform that offers a comprehensive approach to dealing with STEP files. From eDrawings, a product visualization tool by SolidWorks, to online 3D viewers, and finally Jinolo, an innovative browser-based platform, each tool offers unique capabilities suited to different scenarios.


eDrawings is a popular and powerful product visualization tool created by SolidWorks, a subsidiary of Dassault Systèmes, a global leader in 3D design software, 3D Digital Mock Up and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solutions. The software was specifically designed to facilitate the sharing and interpretation of 2D and 3D product design data.

Launched in the early 2000s, eDrawings offers capabilities for viewing, printing, and reviewing all types of eDrawings files, as well as native SolidWorks files as well as STEP and many other neutral file formats, allowing for broad interoperability.

However, while eDrawings is a powerful and versatile viewer, it may not be the most convenient or efficient solution for everyone. A significant drawback is the necessity to download and install the eDrawings viewer software onto your computer before you can view any STEP files.

Downloading and installing a viewer can be a time-consuming process, and in many corporate or institutional settings, users may not have the required administrative privileges to install new software on their systems. Also, for security-conscious individuals or organizations, downloading an executable file from the internet might not be an acceptable risk, as executable files can sometimes contain or be used to deliver malicious software.

Moreover, the requirement to install software makes it less convenient to quickly view a STEP file, especially if the user only needs to view STEP files infrequently. This can be a barrier for stakeholders such as clients, vendors, or team members who just need to review a design but do not necessarily need a full-fledged CAD system.

In these scenarios, online STEP file viewers can offer a more convenient and efficient solution. These web-based platforms allow for instant viewing of STEP files directly within the web browser, without the need for downloads or installations. This makes it easy for anyone to view a STEP file, whether they are a design professional with a powerful CAD workstation, or a client reviewing a design on their smartphone.

STEP File Online Viewers

An online 3D viewer is a web-based tool that allows users to view and interact with 3D models directly in their web browser, without the need for specialized software or powerful computing resources. However, many generic, non-manufacturing specific online 3D viewers do not support STEP files due to their complexity. STEP files contain a wealth of information, including detailed geometric data, assembly structures, and other product manufacturing information. Processing and rendering this data can be resource-intensive and challenging, particularly for generic viewers that are not designed with the needs of the manufacturing industry in mind.

Online 3D viewers that do support STEP files offer several distinct advantages, especially when collaborating with clients, suppliers, and internal design teams. Firstly, they are platform-independent, meaning they can be accessed from any device with an internet connection, including tablets and smartphones. This makes it easy for all stakeholders to view and interact with 3D models, regardless of their location or the hardware they have at hand.

Secondly, online viewers typically don't require users to download or install any software, which simplifies the process for users who may not be technically savvy or who may not have the necessary permissions to install software on their device. This is particularly beneficial when working with external stakeholders like clients or suppliers, as it removes potential barriers to accessing and reviewing designs.

Finally, online 3D viewers can facilitate real-time collaboration and feedback, as users can all view the same model simultaneously and discuss changes or issues directly. This can greatly speed up the design review and iteration process, leading to faster project completion times and improved outcomes.


Jinolo is a highly innovative and powerful 3D collaborative platform that provides full support for STEP files, positioning it as the perfect choice for streamlining your design workflows. This platform has been meticulously designed with engineering and design teams in mind, making it adept at handling the complexities and nuances of product design and manufacturing processes.

One of Jinolo's key strengths lies in its robust file sharing capabilities. It allows multiple users to access and annotate STEP files simultaneously, fostering a highly collaborative environment. These annotations can serve as effective communication tools, clarifying design intentions, highlighting areas of concern, and facilitating swift resolution of design issues.

Being a browser-based platform, Jinolo offers unparalleled accessibility. You can access your design files from any device with an internet connection, whether it's a desktop computer in your office or a mobile phone while you're lounging on your couch. This level of accessibility ensures that design reviews and iterations can happen anytime, anywhere, which dramatically improves workflow efficiency.

Jinolo also brings remarkable organization features to the table. Its folder system keeps your files neatly organized and easily retrievable, saving you from the hassle of sifting through countless files. This feature is particularly valuable for large projects with multiple design files and versions, helping you keep track of the most current and relevant files.

Jinolo’s superior security features means it provides granular permission management capabilities, ensuring that your files are accessed only by authorized individuals. For instance, if you're sending a file for a quote but aren't ready to share the STEP file due to concerns about potential reverse engineering of your intellectual property, Jinolo allows you to manage permissions so that the file cannot be downloaded. This offers a far more secure alternative to email attachments or tools like eDrawings, keeping your proprietary designs protected.

Signing up for Jinolo is completely free, making it accessible for all design professionals looking to enhance their collaborative efforts on STEP files. With its powerful features and user-friendly interface, Jinolo is poised to revolutionize how design teams collaborate and communicate.

It's clear that STEP files play a crucial role in the manufacturing and design processes across various industries. Their ability to seamlessly transfer 3D CAD data between different software programs makes them invaluable. Opening and viewing STEP files can be achieved through a number of tools, each with their own strengths and limitations. However, online platforms like Jinolo are breaking new ground with their ability to not only open and view STEP files but also facilitate real-time collaboration, permission management, and file organization, all within a secure and accessible environment. Indeed, as design and manufacturing become increasingly digital and distributed, the ability to effectively handle and collaborate on STEP files will continue to be of paramount importance. In this context, platforms like Jinolo represent the future, offering powerful, versatile, and user-friendly solutions that can meet the demands of today's design teams and help drive innovation in product design and manufacturing.