Evaluating the software

Now that more Glowforges are getting into people’s hands, I am seeing more complaints about the software, including from at least one person who said it so inadequate that they gave up and sold their unit. I have always found it odd that I am not allowed to see or try the software that is part of the package I paid more than $4000 for back in September 2015. Are there good, independent, walkthroughs out there somewhere?

I made this purchasing decision two years ago and I am starting to feel like I need to make that decision afresh now that I have more information. Most of that information is not positive. If the software is not good, that could be the killer.

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The software is beta at this time. The company decided to ship to cut our wait time. I’m fine with improvements appearing like the most recent one.
Personally I haven’t had any real issues with usability. I think you are seeing more problem reports because the forum is where they will funnel to. An increase in problem reports reflects more units being shipped. Without the knowledge of that number it is difficult to associate accurately.

No owners near you that you could check out?


The software as it stands right this minute is a mixed bag. If you are new to a laser cutter, it’s is by far the best I’ve seen especially with proofgrade (and yes, IMHO that’s even counting that some environmental factors still lead to not all the way cut sometimes.)

However, it’s missing some important things that were promises and even after those arrive, I think that people who are used to the level of control and precision they get with another system may struggle with the choices Glowforge made to make it more approachable for more people.

For me, it works well enough for now even though I’m a technical tinkerer and generally don’t need the handholding. I’m eager for some of the features they’re working on though. And some that are just in the hopper (or maybe not) like saving my settings.

I think the software is good enough to make it do what you want with some things taking more work than they ought, but if you’re looking to use it as an industrial mass production machine, you might find the job set up too cumbersome.


I could post a walkthrough, but I think @marmak3261’s are already better than what I would produce. Maybe it’s worth some fresh screen shots with commentary?


I find the software to be adequate to my needs at this time. In some ways it’s great. In other ways it needs a little work.

It’s way better than the other lasers I have used.

The $30k Epilog in the maker space I used does not even have a software UI. You print to it using a Adobe PDF. Any line that is a certain width gets cut and anything else gets engraved. You use the print driver to set the power and speed settings.

Having the ability to see the material I’m cutting on and being able to place the things I’m cutting where I want them is fantastic (even if they may be off by 1/4 inch).

Being able to use different settings for different parts of my design is also fantastic. With the Epilog, I needed to make different files for scoring and for cutting. It was tedious.

Being able to go back to previous projects is also great.

Yes, there are some things missing I wished were there now. But I also know they are working on the UI and those things will start appearing.

I’d like anyone who says “the software is not good” to tell us which laser’s software is better than the current GF one. I’m not saying that there is nothing out there that is better than this UI, since I’ve only used a couple of lasers in my life. If there is something better, I’d love to know.


Quite honestly - the software, at least on our end from a users perspective, is incredibly basic and easy. What exactly would you like to see a walkthrough of?


“It does everything it said it did, but I ordered it in blue and it doesn’t match my teal refrigerator so I’m giving it 1 star and am returning it,” to paraphrase an Onion article about internet reviewers.

The software isn’t polished, features are missing, they have all sorts of things to do, but inadequate to the point of selling their unit strikes me as not 100% true.

I’m happy to answer any questions you have. But there just isn’t much to walk through. You upload your file, maybe re-position it over your material, if you’re not using proofgrade you configure your settings, you click Print in the GFUI, wait a few seconds to a few minutes and press the glowing button. Personally, I have more issues with the software I use to make my designs than the glowforge software. That is where you spend all of your time, not with the glowforge software.


Very true


Not sure I understand the complaints about the software - it works really well - you just have to know and use your design software correctly and well. If the design is faulty or has flaws, the GF software isn’t going to fix that for one, any more than MSWord can make one a better writer. As GF moves forward, the software keeps getting better. The first generation of my 3D printer software took some work too, and has constantly improved over time, too.


Agree with all of the above. The software looks pretty basic, and simple to use and I believe that’s a result of some very good UI and GUI design on the part of the Glowforge team.
It looks simple, does things that aren’t possible with pretty much any other laser software, gets the job done and is still evolving.

Most requests for additional features that you’re seeing (including my own) are nice-to-haves rather than must-haves.


The software is not that bad. It just has some limitations. Depending on your point of view and your expectations, they may be major or minor.

The biggest thing to understand right off the bat is that the Glowforge software/app/web site simply doesn’t do much. It’s not a full-fledged design program like Silhouette Studio. It’s more like a print preview window. You have to do all of that work in another program and just load it into the Glowforge app to place it and select options for material type, cut settings, etc. Personally I’m hoping it evolves into a more capable program that lets you at least draw basic shapes, but for now be aware that the workflow is 90% in another program.

The next friction point comes from the interaction between your drawing program and the Glowforge app. At the best of times, it’s slightly tedious. Export from here, save, go over there, upload, find the file, open. If it doesn’t come out right or you want to make an adjustment, repeating this can get really boring really quickly. There are a lot of details in the way vector files are constructed that means what you see is not necessarily what you get. You will have to deal with combining paths and grouping and outlining and fill vs. stroke and rasterizing and embedding and exporting to SVG with the right units. It could be argued that this has nothing to do with the Glowforge software, but at least some of the prep you have to do in your art program is to avoid features that aren’t supported or to work around bugs and design flaws details in the app.

Sometimes you upload the file and get a vague error. Sometimes it works on the second or third try for unknown reasons. Sometimes the Cloud is down, or at least that’s your best guess because other people on the forum are complaining and it starts working again later. Sometimes it’s the file: you may or may not figure out what’s wrong with it, but you need to change it in some way before GF is happy with it. A few of these are specific issues that tell you what the problem was. Most don’t.

Now we get into the UI itself. As has been described endlessly, the camera is out of focus and out of alignment. How much depends on your machine and how much you care depends on you. Positioning, resizing, and rotating things can only be done by eye. As has been described endlessly, there’s no option to type in how big or where you want a thing to be. Your best bet is to make it the right size in your art program. If you’re using the wrong browser (even a supported one like Safari), you will experience error messages and incorrect behavior until you give up and use Chrome. As has been described endlessly, the manual settings are confusing and in undocumented, non-linear units.

Sometimes you try to select or drag and thing and end up moving the wrong thing, or just part of the thing that you thought was a group of things. Undo mostly works here. Sometimes you click print and you get an error. Maybe the cloud is down. Maybe your file is too big or too complicated. The error message doesn’t say, so if this happens, you have to experiment. Hopefully you didn’t enter too many settings, because you’ll have to start over to upload a new file. Sometimes you’re forced to reload and lose your settings anyway. When it does work correctly, you click print and wait quite a white for the scanning to happen, then wait quite a while for the processing to happen.

There’s no concept of a project, so if you do have multiple parts you’ve arranged in the app and settings you’ve applied, you can’t save them to recall later. What you do get is a sort of library of previously uploaded files, but whenever you open them, they are in their default configuration. You can’t group or organize these files in any way, so scrolling back through them all is a pain.

I think I’ve described just about all the ways I’ve seen it do something wrong or annoying. Like I said at the beginning, it’s not that bad. If I wrote a similar list of the frustrations of using an iPhone, it would be ten times as much. For many of us, much of the time, it’s a matter of exporting a file, loading it into the GF UI, and clicking Print. The times when that doesn’t work are fairly well understood. We’ve learned not to touch the hurty things.


Thank you. That was a particularly helpful reply.


There are valid complaints and improvements needed to the interface, but some of the complaints seem to be more about the design limitations of the software. I think some folks had the impression that it was a stand alone program and no outside design program or skills were needed. They seem to be a bit taken back by the complexity of designing your own files. The software isn’t meant to design or create files with, it’s just a mechanism to get designs into the GF. There are several things that could be done to improve the GUI, but we knew that is was an evolving program. (Better error messages and a way to save setting please!) That being said, I don’t think you can find a more user friendly laser.


This is where I come down: I am more annoyed with so many other programs (particularly ones unrelated to design or the glowforge) that the glowforge software just doesn’t register with me as a problem. It’s at the bottom of the queue.


Software will improve over time. To keep it in perspective, this is the interface you get with a lot of other lasers:

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Maybe we need an very old pirated copy of Corel like you get with the Chinese lasers.


I say bad words every time I fire up Corel to drive the K40.


The Corel 12 I got with mine was old :grinning: But X8 will drive a K40 and you get 10 generations of software improvements. Just don’t use the Home & School version (won’t work).

I think it’s perfectly reasonable to expect app functionality on the level of Inventables Easel or Silhouette Studio, for example. I’m comfortable using Fusion 360 and 90% of the time I would probably prefer it, but there are those times you just want to draw a circle around something.

I of course have no knowledge of what Glowforge’s plans are, but to me it is strange that many forum regulars seem to have the attitude that everything is pretty much done and we should be making our peace with the limited functionality available. The glimpse we saw of the iPhone app coming soon should be a reminder that a company like Glowforge probably has plans stretching for years into the future, multiple versions out. One thing that’s fairly obvious about the architecture of this machine is that it’s designed with latent capabilities that will be unlocked through software updates. And somewhere, down in a product backlog, there is a full suite of drawing tools. That doesn’t mean it will make it high enough in the priority list to get done soon, but I would be astounded if they haven’t thought about it at all.


Lord no. Nobody expects the S/W to remain stagnant. There will be many improvements and quite possibly an Easel like capability at some point. But let’s hope the announced features are completed first. Also might note that GF said in the beginning that the original features would remain free forever. The way that was worded leaves no guarantee that the other things up their sleeves would not be part of a subscription service. Easel Pro is now subscription.