I need several things from whatever software I choose. The ability to resize, rotate, change stitch density. I need to be able to split into multiple hoops so that I can stitch large designs on a small hoop. I want to be able to create my own designs from scratch for use with our Kingdom of Akron heraldry.
I initially planned on purchasing the Brother software - after all, it made sense. Buy the software designed to work with your machine. But the purchase price of $1600 made that an immediate Nope! I mean, are you kidding me? You sell an embroidery machine for the price of a low to midrange sewing machine and then charge four times the cost of the embroidery machine for the software? Maybe its worth the purchase price, but I'm not about to find out.
That little revelation sent me on a two month journey to find "affordable" embroidery machine software. I discovered that I had three basic options and have spent the last couple of weeks testing them out.
All of these opinions are based on demo versions only.
Option 1: Embrillance by BriTon Leap Inc. Cost: $150 for Essentials, $200 for Enthusiast, and $170 for Stitch Artist Level 1 for a total of $520 (Significantly higher than I wanted to spend) to meet my minimum requirements. I did contact the company in the hopes that I could just purchase Enthusiast to get the functionality I require, and Enthusiast is NOT a stand alone program. It does require Essentials in order to run, so you need to buy both. And realistically, I would want Stitch Artist Level 2, which costs $380, pushing this program so far out of my budget that the cost alone would prohibit a purchase.
Honestly, I really didn't spend too much time with this program. Firstly, the free trial is severely limited and the interface isn't intuitive. I played around with splitting a large design into a multihoop project and it just didn't go smoothly. With saving disabled, I wasn't sure if I could even save it in the correct format or if the multihoop option was working. There wasn't much I could easily figure out how to do, and I stopped working with it out of frustration.
Lastly, I was also put off by the attitude displayed by the company while answering customer FAQs. It came across as a very "screw you" type policy. I wish I could find the link to the FAQ page but it seems to have disappeared.
Note that this was one of the software's discussed in my Craftsy embroidery class, so maybe I was just missing something? It seems to be a popular option.
Option 2: BuzzEdit by Buzztools. Cost: $190 for basic package plus $130 for resizing module for a total of $320.
This has 21 day trial period with "full" capabilities. Good video tutorials available online.
But... I couldn't get the software to work. It installed just fine, but when I tried to create a closed object to define a stitch area, the software crashed. Several times. I couldn't find a solution on the forums. I did send an email to support, but considering that I used the software for all of five minutes before it became unusable, I decided that this definitely wasn't the option for me. The GUI is pixelated and has a Windows 3.1 feel - not very polished.
UPDATE (3/2/15): Buzzedit has contacted me to let me know that they are working on a fix for the bug that caused the crash.
Option 3: Embird by Balarad. Cost: $164 for Basic Embird and $150 for Digitizing Studio, for a total of $314 (most affordable option yet!)
This is probably what I will end up purchasing. It has all kinds of neat Photoshop type software features that Jack recognized and approved of (I don't use Photoshop, so I will defer to his expertise in this matter.) I found it easy to install and use, and I digitized the Angelfoot Hawk with nifty feather-like stitch pattern and special outline in the space of a few minutes. The demo version has disabled saving of files, so I couldn't test stitch the design. Actually, I wasn't convinced that I could save the file in the right format, until I learned from the website that you had to export it to Basic Embird and then convert as needed.
The Embird website has well written easy to use tutorials on their software. They seem friendly and professional, and the contact I have had with support was positive and helpful. This was also the only software I tested that I liked right away.
They also have a neat add on called an Iconizer, which edits your embroidery filed to include a small picture of the motif as an icon. Pretty much the more I learn about this software the better I like it.
I know that was a long and wordy post, but I hope it was helpful. There are a few other options out there (SewWhatPro or Perfect Alignment for example) but I got the feeling they were pretty limited and I didn't spend much time on them.