I’ve Gone to the Dark Side…

As many of you know, I’m a die-hard Mac lover and it takes something turly seriously cool for me to “do Windows.”  

For the past year or two or so, my good friend Gary Walker has been trying to persuade me to use yet another embroidery digitizing program that only runs on Windows. I “fell” for that the first time and ended up losing a ton of time screwing around with Generations and even writing a course at his behest. 

Bad judgement on both our parts but it looked good at the time. Things change and you have to move on.

WHEN IT’S TIME TO MOVE ON

The thing about switching software when you already have something you know and love (even if it has become outdated and superseded in features), is that it’s like your favorite most comfortable shoes. They’re worn in, they conform to your body, and they’re just easy to slip into.You know them and they know you.

Punto’s like that for me.

Coming from a graphics background of Macromedia Freehand and Adobe Illustrator in the early 1990’s (even back into the 80’s with Illustrator 88!), Punto was a natural. The tools were similar, the short cut keys were similar, and of course, it felt like a real Mac program, because, well it really is a real Mac program. And another plus – it could work with my POEM!

And, as I started hiring digitizers at Cactus Punch—mainly graduates of Pima Art Center, Punto was a natural for them too. They were used to using Macs and used to using bezier drawing programs. I could teach them how to digitize without spending tons of time learning a bazillion tools in a weird program on an alien planet like Windows.

THE NUDGE THAT PUSHED ME OVER

So in the course of normal business yesterday, I was in a Skype conversation with John Deer and he happened to mention this program that Gary had been bugging me about and mentioned that it was so comparable to what he’s used for over 30 years.

That really piqued my interest! Here was a “real digitizer” who’s opinion (and work) I really respect and admire recommending this program.

TAKING THE PLUNGE

This program can be downloaded for a free 30 day trial, which is certainly enough time to give it a thorough go.

Of course, that means you have to actually make time to give it that thorough go but a little jingle played through my head, “You deserve a break today.”

So although I have a to-do list a mile long and I’m still recovering from the web site crash that took me offline for 3 months, I said “yes” to that little voice and downloaded it. 

WINDOZE… UGH!

Of course, then I had to dig out my Windows 10 laptop and wait for it to boot up and update itself. It’s not terribly fast in the first place and I’m accustomed to working at the speed of light on my desktop Mac Pro and have a tendency to think things might be locked up if it takes longer than 2 seconds for something to happen.

Unfortunately, while I was able to install the software and activate it, I couldn’t get it to launch so I contacted tech support. And while I waited on that, I remembered I had Windows 10 on my older Mac laptop so I installed it there, where it worked! – if very slowly. (Not just the app, Windows 10 in general.)

In the meantime, after a conversation with tech support and some help there (where I found a long lost industry friend, Kim!), I got the Windows machine working. 

INITIAL OVERWHELM

Like most other digitizing programs I’ve played with, the initial presentation was quite overwhelming with a plethora of tools and buttons and I realized that I was not really going to be able to do anything quickly and easily. 

Fortunately, there are many videos on using this program and the vast majority are by professional digitizers with decades of experience and who are highly respected. I spent hours watching them and only got more excited.

I knew that I’d have some down time retraining myself. The tools are all different and Windows shortcut keys are all different from Mac’s. Also, I’d have to put Windows 10 on my desktop Mac for max efficiency. 

However, I knew that ultimately that downtime would turn into saved time because this app automated so many things I have to do manually in Punto. Have you ever tried to draw stipple stitching? Bleah!!!

“THINK DIFFERENT”

So I had to follow Steve Jobs’ motto about the Mac and just think different(ly) to switch to somthing new.

Punto’s model of working is quite different from seemingly every other digitizing program on the planet.

It’s like having a graphics program built into your digitizer. It’s entirely possible to draw without ever applying any stitches at all. In fact, I often use it as a graphics program and then just export the eps or copy and paste into Illustrator to finish.

With most other digitizing programs, as you draw your shape, a stitch effect is applied immediately after the shape is completed. 

This is one of the things that held me back from investing both time and money into another program. I had to totally rethink the way I worked.

SYSTEM INTERUPTUS

Another issue I’ll need to work out is that I have a whole integrated system of automating as much as possible the steps of completing a design to getting it ready to go into the web shop. Part of that is an export I can get from Punto with design details that I then import into a custom database system I’ve written in Filemaker. 

With Filemaker, I can organize and maintain all the design details consistently and produce various color sequence sheets and even the code to upload for the shop details.

That will take some work that I’ll just take a “Scarlet O’Hara” on for now.

THE ADVANTAGES OF NEVER SWITCHING APPS

Whenever you switch to a new program, you may lose the ability to easily, efficiently, or effectively work with files created in the previous program. Shoot, even Keynote can’t open old Keynote presentations! (Big bummer!!!)

Add to that in my case, I’ll have files on Windows and all the rest of my files on Mac. (Parallels will ease that to some degree.)

Using 2 different digitizing programs to create different parts of a design ends up with a composite that’s not completely compatible with either program. I’ve done that from time to time trying to create sections with Embrilliance Stitch Artist and then combining them with Punto.

BUT DON’T I USE EMBRILLIANCE?

Why not do the whole thing in Embrilliance Stitch Artist instead of half and half? I just can’t wrap my head around the way it works. 

I really wanted to love that program. After all, it does work natively on Mac. And it does all kinds of cool things Punto will never do.

But, it has other quirks that I just can’t live with as a professional digitizer, such as “tie stitches trigger trims on some machines” – uh, really? why?

Other programs I use don’t do that. And sometimes I want to add tie stitches on an object so that it’s possible to do editing tricks later on. Tie stitches should not in my notion of good digitizing trigger a trimmer on the machine.

The truly annoying part is you can’t see trim commands in StitchArtist so therefore you can’t delete them (nor can you add any, because “home machines don’t use them” as I was told). So then I have to open up the stitch files in a program that does see them (Punto) and delete them. 

So does that mean Stitch Artist is “bad”? Nope.

It just means that’s not something I’m willing to live with. And actually, if I did only stitch on home machines instead of 12-needle SWF, I probably would never have known those extra trims were there.

And if I didn’t stand there and watch the test sews, I wouldn’t even see other little things that annoy me that I don’t know how to work around. (Punto has them too, they’re just different and I’ve figured out fixes.)

All programs have pluses and minuses and their own little quirks and you just have to decide which ones you can live with and which ones you can’t. 

Another factor in choosing a program is how it works and how you work. Just like your friends, your closest ones are going to be the best match to you. 

“MAKE NEW FRIENDS AND KEEP THE OLD”

As a long-time professional digitizer, I need something, well, more professional.

I’m still “friends” with Embrilliance and Punto but I just may have found a new “best friend” that combines the best features of both of those programs, even if it does make me do Windows. :-<

Punto isn’t a “bad” program either but now newer programs have outpaced it and it’s time to move on <sigh>. So if you haven’t figured out yet what program I’m going on and on about, it’s Wilcom Hatch.

Hatch, while comparably priced to the Embrilliance suite, is a child of Wilcom, which has been an industry standard for decades. It’s been time-tested and used by a huge number of professional digitizers around the world whom I’m sure have had an input into the direction of feature upgrades and squashing any buggy things.

I do have to give some credit here to the Embrilliance team. While they have years of programming experience, Embrilliance is pretty much a young upstart in the industry and it has created its own stir. It’s still in its infancy compared to programs like Wilcom and it may have even been the thorn in the side of some of these big industry leaders to focus more on the growing mass of digitizers.

So I’m still learning my way around the software but expect me to be adding content in the form of more posts, videos, and even the addition of EMB files on new designs. 

Why did I never do that for Punto? Because nobody uses it. Well not nobody, truly, but not enough bodies who would need to know how it works because they already do. And they’re not home embroiderers who read such stuff.

NEW BEGINNINGS

Remember, this is an entirely new program for me and just because I’ve digitized for nearly quarter of a century doesn’t mean I instantly know how to do anything with it! I’m pretty much starting over from scratch with new tools that work differently and all new shortcut keys my fingers will have to learn.

At this point, I feel more like a blind-folded person trying to sort out what’s what and where is it. All new programs are that way and whatever you choose, you need to take the time to figure it out. Even if that means reading the manual.

I need to resist the temptation of jumping in and doing something really cool and amazing and instead start with the basics to get a good feel and understanding of how the program works.

Right now, I’m still trying to get Windows 10 on my desktop as a new virtual machine and I’m sure I’ll be using plenty of my specially reserved “sewing room” words directed at that particular beast!

Thanks to my Facebook friend Mikel who commented on a post this morning, I learned I can have two virtual machines so I can still have good ole’ XP and then Windows 10. Just what everyone needs – 3 OS’s in one box!

So now I’m off to see the wizard and see what surprises are in store.

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