Software challenges and feature requests


#1

Hi all,

I’m now a couple weeks into having a Glowforge, and thus far, when it works, it’s awesome. When it doesn’t, though, which is about half the time (though I’m likely putting it too much through its paces), it’s frustrating. Here are some issues I’ve encountered–curious if anyone else has:

  • Incomplete cuts on Proofgrade materials. I’ve had this issue both with Draftboard and Medium Maple.
  • Imperfect camera alignment. I don’t trust camera alignment for anything more than rough placement, so if a print fails, my only hope is that I didn’t move the wood, and that I can just print again. But, then I get stopped by:
  • Software hanging. I’ve had several cases where a large engrave, or even a simple cut, will have the software freeze in “Scanning your material” or “preparing your design.”
  • Long processing times. It can sometimes take 10-20 minutes to prepare a print.
  • No state saving. If I refresh my browser to try to deal with the software hanging, or I reset my machine, I lose my placement of the design.

A few software modifications would be incredible:

  • Basic editing - the ability to rotate objects and scale them to precise sizes would be fantastic.
  • Simple text boxes - a few fonts could go a long way for lightweight editing in-browser.
  • Save state - GF should be able to save designs in progress in their exact placement
  • Potentially - downloadable software. I imagine part of the issue is much of the processing is happening in the cloud, likely all at certain times, and I’d love to be able to use my local machine to accelerate processing.
  • Ability to modify proofgrade settings. I now always want to cut my wood designs twice, even though it produces ridiculous amounts of char, because I don’t trust the default settings to cut reliably.
  • Ability to save settings for my own materials.

Thanks for reading!
PS: I wrote this while GF’s software was hung. About 20 minutes ago I finished a simple, 1-2 minute laser cut in medium maple hardwood, it didn’t go all the way through, and so I tried to hit “print” again. It’s been stuck saying “uploading” next to print, and when I hit “print” anyway, it stays hung on “Scanning your material”. Think I’m going to have to refresh the browser–wish me luck!


#2

So I realized I CAN modify Proofgrade settings, which is very exciting! Unfortunately I ruined the previous cut, but now am trying again on a new piece of maple with slowed cut settings.

One other feature request - when you use an Epilog laser and hold open the lid, the laser just lights up where it would normally cut, so you can align the design and the work. This could go a long way to easily fix some of the issues folks are having with failed prints.


#3

I had it happen once. Luckily, just once.

Each Glowforge has its own alignment profile. So your results may differ from others’. Some folks will be more accurate, some will be less. As far as I know, Glowforge will one day (hopefully very soon) apply some sort of fix that will take into account your machine’s specific profile and compensate accordingly. Until then you kind of have to get to know your machine. Personally, I used a full-bed sheet of cardboard and tested various places where it would hit. Others have used grids (certainly most-accurate). Search these forums and you’ll find some useful info there.

Had that happen a couple of times. I do recall they fixed that issue, however.

It is what it is.

THAT does suck. Burned myself a couple of times with that issue.

IMHO, people should stop thinking of the GFUI as anything more than a really awesome print driver. Any/all design should be done in your design app. Including rotating and scaling. While I do believe what I just said, I don’t disagree that it would help in several situations. But I’ve gotten used to just not doing anything design-wise in the GFUI… If something needs to be changed, I just go back to AI, change it, save it, re-up it to the app. It causes me less stress. :slight_smile:

I’m stickin’ with the above. It’s not a design tool… at all. :wink:

To the best of my understanding they have 0 intention of going that direction… ever.

You can temporarily modify them (per job), but you cannot save them.

Nor can you save any settings for materials, which may be the most-needed/most-requested function.

Hope any of that helps you! :slight_smile:


#4

@hvalross, I’m sorry to hear about the trouble you’re having - please post these in Problems & Support so the team can try to help you fix them. In particular, the incomplete cuts shouldn’t be happening.


#5

I couldnt disagree more on this. If thats what they invisioned, they would have just made a print driver from whatever program is being used, like most other laser manufacturers. This would remove the ability to use things like ipads etc to even use the software.

They already give you the ability to move stuff around in the GFUI, theres no reason why they cant add the ability to do it with more precision. It wouldnt take much a lot of work to implement either.

I see numeric readout/entry as an essential next step along with saving/restoring state.


#6

I always value your opinion.

There’s lots they could do. All depends on what they define as the point of the application. Based on what we’ve seen so far from it, it doesn’t appear like they’re headed towards much more functionality than it has today. And I can accept that. Don’t get me wrong… in the few months I’ve had the machine there have been countless times I wished it’d do more. But what got me zen on it was to stop expecting more from it that it gives. It actually became easier for me when I accepted that. Now, my workflow is “Oh… Now that I see it on the material I want another 1º CW rotation on that.” I just flip back to AI, rotate it, save it, then re-upload it to the GFUI.

Bottom line? I’m not disagreeing it’d be great to see certain design functions built in, but I’ve accepted that that’s not the purpose of the GFUI and found peace with a workflow around that. :slight_smile:

Oh how I’d enjoy seeing it.

This first, please.


#7

You are mistaking a temporary workaround for a solution. In the short term, I have a way to get what I need done, and I agree that understanding the limitations instead of fighting them is key to being productive. That’s very different from “accepting that’s not the purpose of the GFUI”. This is a kind of Stockholm Syndrome. The limitations and bugs in the software are not your friend no matter how long you’ve had to live with them. I am biased here, of course. One of the fundamental aspects of my job is to recognize when we’ve fallen into the trap of making peace with our workarounds and to fight back.

“We made it this way on purpose and we’re not changing it” is not a successful software strategy, and I don’t believe it’s Glowforge’s strategy. The fact that there are so many requests for these features, and that people are regularly confused by the inability to do these things, is a clear signal to even a marginally competent product manager. I would stake a lot on these things already being on the roadmap. It’s a matter of prioritization and execution that determines when and if we’ll see them.

All of that being said, I am not (currently) complaining about Glowforge not giving us these features yet. I am happier to have something incomplete now, and they have bigger fish to fry. But I do want them some day and I get a bit frustrated around this increasingly popular notion that we should just be satisfied with what we’ve got and stop asking.


#8

I hear what you’re saying. But you seem to have a baseless presumption that there is a problem looking for a solution and/or a feature that’s missing. I’m not saying there aren’t features missing, but we don’t know that “design tools” are among them. So I’m going to stick to designing in the software that was meant to do that. Sure, you can often use a butter knife as a flathead screwdriver, but you’re better off with a flathead screwdriver. And if, someday, they decide to include design tools in the app, I’ll certainly check 'em out. But I have no such expectation at this time because I’ve never been given any indication that that’s a direction they might even consider going. As has always been the case, I’ll never ask my print driver to do anything more than print, and that’s how I have to consider the app.


#9

Would you ask your print driver to re-order operations, move, rotate, and scale individual objects on the page, delete parts of the print, or copy and paste them?

Inventables’ Easel is the closest thing to the Glowforge UI I can think of, and I think it provides a good example of where the GFUI could and should go. Another example is Silhouette Studio, which, while a desktop application, has a very similar need to set up jobs for 2D cutting, and also has the common feature set users have come to expect: repeatable positioning, sizing, and alignment, along with a set of basic drawing and text tools. And both of these have a “store” component like the Glowforge. It’s a similar product space and drawing on a common expectation based on what other programs can do is an entirely reasonable way to define missing features.

And as I’ve pointed out, people keep asking for these things. It’s not baseless. User feedback is how you find out how to grow and improve your product. Nobody in 2017 whose name isn’t Jony Ive gets to sit in a featureless white room deciding what features a product will and won’t have and still succeed in the marketplace. I don’t think Glowforge is that naive, which is why I do think they’re working on this stuff.


#10

I hope it goes without saying that, like @takitus, I very much value your opinions on things.

No way! I definitely consider the app to be a glorified print driver, but a print driver nonetheless. I’m thankful they’ve decided to include those features. But since they chose to use visual alignment, it’s required. Otherwise we’d simply measure things out to perform the same function. I wouldn’t enjoy that, but I presume other lasers work that way or similarly… with total numeric positioning for everything. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but I prefer the method Glowforge has taken.

Yes they have. I’m one of them. But, again, I’ve never seen any indication that that’s a direction they might go.

I don’t mean to be pedantic, but it is. We have no idea what they originally planned for the software or what plans they might have for the software’s future. To say that the thing you want isn’t there is something they need to address, when they’ve never indicated that they’ll ever do such a thing, is kind of the definition of a baseless presumption.

I don’t think there’s any basis for that statement either though. They haven’t said that, to the best of my knowledge. Again, the fact is, we’ve got no definition of what the software “should” do. Currently, it does what it does. That’s all we know. Theoretically, we have some “it’s in the hopper” statements that could one day come to fruition. But we really don’t know if they’ll ever see the light of day.

Nobody’s said that either. Ask all you want. I believe everybody should. Again, for many of these things, I have. But I’m trying to set realistic expectations. And for that I have to deal with what I know. In this case, all I know is what the software can do. We will, presumably, never see a software roadmap. So all I/we can know is that the things the software does, is what we can reasonably expect to work with going forward.


#11

I agree with everything you’ve posted about this. People are all deciding what the application should do based on their preconceptions and thus have decided any deviation from their view is a problem that is in need of fixing. Personally, I’m pretty peeved that my car has a speed limiter at 150 and yet the speedometer goes to 185. Obviously they meant for the car to go faster and the workarounds (chipping the car, finding tall hills to drive down, etc) are just stopgaps until they fix the car so it can really go 185. After all, that’s what cars should do. :sunglasses:

However, the GFUI isn’t really a print driver either - it’s a CAM application as opposed to the CAD application that houses most of the features everyone wants. CAM applications are job control programs so they have things like operation ordering, etc. There isn’t any “right” definition of a job control or CAM app that says it must have design features. All of them that do are limited and added as a sop for people who want to do design in CAM.

Just like I can use Excel to do some word processing, it’s not a word processor - that’s what Word is for. I can also do rudimentary calculation tables in Word, doesn’t make it a spreadsheet.

Just because we want something doesn’t mean it has to be given to us or even that it should. I’d rather have GF focus on things like job setting saving or auto alignment of pass-through material projects than adding the ability to draw an ellipse or box or line. Would I use both sets of features if they were available? Sure, I do that with the other lasers. But do I need the design features in there? No, I’ve got a design package. Adding design features to a CAM application removes development capacity that could be used to make it more robust as a CAM/Job Control application.

Since I already have a far more richly featured CAD application than GF can ever hope to develop, but I have no other option for the CAM side of things I’d rather they focus on building more robust machine & job control than embedded design features.


#12

I hope we all respect and value each others’ opinions, and can assume good intent unless and until proven otherwise.

Here’s the thing: text is a lossy communications medium. I am sure a lot of what I say is misinterpreted and that I am misinterpreting a lot of what I read, filling in the gaps with assumptions about the tone and intent behind the words. So the way I interpreted this is was very reasonable and fair post from @hvalross describing their experience and suggesting that “a few software modifications would be incredible”. And you replied to that, point by point, saying things like “It is what it is”, “stop thinking of the GFUI as anything more than a print driver”, “it’s not a design tool”, “they have 0 intention of going that direction… ever”. I read this as harsh and dismissive, particularly if I try to put myself in the shoes of someone who doesn’t read all the posts here to have the background context that we have. In my opinion, none of these requests are the slightest bit unreasonable, and (again in my opinion, but informed by 25 years in the business of making software) I think the odds are good that Glowforge doesn’t consider them unreasonable, just things they haven’t finished yet. I disagree with the practice of responding to these threads by downplaying people’s expectations by suggesting they get used to the limitations. That’s not our job as customers. I think I have shown that when Glowforge tells us something officially, then I’ll be happy to repeat it and point people to it in the future when they ask for the same thing.

I do think the metaphor of “glorified printer driver” is useful, and I have used it myself. Where we differ seems to be mainly on what to extrapolate from that: this is what it does today, but we should expect more and feel unsatisfied until we get it; or this is what it does today, we should accept it for what it is, any anything else we get is gravy.

There are two sides here who each think the other goes too far. We’re either making assumptions unsupported by facts that Glowforge is likely to add certain features in the future, or making the same assumptions that they’re not. I want to clarify that the claim I don’t think is baseless is that these are reasonable feature requests. I have given some examples of facts, such as all other software in this category having these features, and the drumbeat of customers asking for them, which support my claim that these are reasonable feature requests, independent of whether we’re going to get them. There is a separate issue about whether Glowforge intends to add these features. That’s not something anyone outside of the company can say, so while I continue to have an informed opinion about it, I can’t supply objective facts to support it and only time will tell.


#13

Being able to position, scale and rotate numerically aren’t design features. Neither is saving the state and having saved settings. All other CAM programs do this.


#14

Just went for coffee - did I miss anything?

Thank you everyone for weighing in! As @Tom_A and @jamesdhatch suggest, I’ve been using Adobe Illustrator for all of my small adjustments, and I think I have in my head the convenience I had at TechShop (RIP) when I could laser cut directly from a simple editor. Want to add a line to cut off part of the work? Easy! Need to add a simple bounding box to cut around a design? No problem.

Re: @dan the glowforge team has been awesome at responsiveness, and I very much appreciate that I have a physical unit–which WORKS!–and can now be talking about software. I’m sharing my experiences and thoughts on it in the interest of future improvements, or perspectives that can of course be ignored.

Re: @chris1 and @takitus, thanks for validating that some of these things at occurred to me as I was waiting for a print aren’t unique requests.

Overall, I am not the PM, but I work with a lot of startups, and any feedback can be useful for the company to process as they see fit. I trust that if and when I share feedback, which was very top of mind when I wrote it, they in turn can prioritize it however they want–including not at all. No one has to do anything to the software at all, but for me personally, some of these changes would lead to an even better experience.

Thank you all for taking the time to weigh in! Love being a part of a community of enthusiasts!


#15

All the designs on the home page have the ability to rename them. As an option at this point, you can edit the name of your file to include the settings.

Regarding design placement and hung software, if it’s not a file issue causing it, leave the UI open and in the case of hanging at ‘preparing’ just cancel the op and scan it again. For stuck at scanning, I restart the machine because cancel is greyed out.
Both methods leave your design layout in place.

Not a guaranteed fix, but worth a try in those situations.


#16

Personally I want all the things in the software, but believe the company should first focus on things for which there are no workarounds.

We can work around placement problems in a variety of ways. We can’t work around a 20 minute delay in processing a job, or the 3 hour limit, or the lack of promised automagical Pro passthrough alignment.

But, you have to balance that with the time and effort required for users to implement the workarounds, and the hard-to-quantify “fun to use” factor. I would argue that good camera placement is part of the secret sauce and is worthy of a high priority and a polished result, even though workarounds do exist.

GF seems to be going the Apple way in a lot of ways and so I am not holding my breath for “nerdy” things like numerical positioning.

All I know for sure is that any prioritization scheme or design philosophy is going to upset some of us. I did my part to try and effect change when I applied for the software PM job they posted. :wink:


#17

We can import a cut line or bounding box by the “add artwork” option. :+1:

You are right about the community, your best place for general help! :sunglasses:


#18

Thank you, as I do yours. I try to engage in discussions as objectively as possible, I hope it comes off that way.

To the topic at hand I would like to break things into two separate classifications: content creation/design, and content manipulation (as others have said - CAD and CAM).

Content creation/design is a slippery slope. Adding one tool would open the gates for requests for everything else in illustrator. I can do it better elsewhere. Totally cool with that.

Content manipulation however is something that I don’t believe should be, or can be done easily in external software. It would defeat the purpose for even having a camera in the unit. It is my understanding that this is one of the main reason why they created the Glowforge. Along this train of thought, the next step would be to take a screenshot of the Glowforge bed and bring it into illustrator to make sure your alignment is where you want it. I don’t want to be doing that. I don’t think anyone would.

The reason people made robotic machines of creation was to repeatably, and accurately (re)produce what they need. When you take out the ability to accurately reproduce something, it’s going against the reason for its existence.

We as computer users do have to come to terms with a few facts of reality: cuts don’t always go through, browsers/computers crash. This leaves us in a position where we need to recreate a previous job with as much precision as possible. This being a laser with a dpi/lpi of 1000+ you would expect to be able to harness that ability. When one of the only things preventing that from happening is someone putting in a field to type a number in, of which there is already a field for in the software (just not visible to the user), it becomes incredibly confusing and frustrating to have to spend 30 minutes to an hour trying to align something (usually unsuccessfully) that could be done in a fraction of a second if they just made that field visible for us to interact with.

TLDR: I’m only concerned with being able to reliably reproduce results created within the interface they designed specifically for the purpose of moving content around. Anything less is contradicting one of the sole purposes of having a CNC machine.


#19

We love the feedback. Right now we have a lot of unfinished business in delivering great layout and printing - the “glorified printer driver” work, as you called it. :slight_smile: In the future, we’ll explore all sorts of directions for the software, and knowing what’s important to all of you is a big help.


#20

Yes they are. CorelDraw does that. Inkscape does that. AI does that.

But yes, they can also be CAM features. Didn’t say they weren’t. Wasn’t flogging anyone’s horse on that. Those are actually some of the job control features that I’d like to see them work on vs things like drawing boxes and circles, adding gradients, etc. etc. etc.

BTW, the argument that “all other CAM programs do this” is not necessarily one that I care a rat’s derriere about. Just because every sailor likes getting drunk in Marseilles doesn’t mean we should all get drunk there. That’s how software bloat occurs. One person’s bad decision replicated across a hundred implementations doesn’t make it any better a decision, just a popular one.