After first being hyped last May, Silhouette Studio version 4 arrived in public beta last week, but notably missing pretty much everything that was promised at its announcement, or anything from our longstanding wishlists. The only announced feature that is actually in the current beta of V4 is the progress bar, and that is not operational. The announced features we were looking forward to, like object on path, bar code print and cut, or font-related improvements are nowhere to be found. There has also been no mention of improvements or fixes to the cloud/library or Bluetooth issues. It’s clear that not much has been changed under the hood, as most of the bugs and design flaws in V3 (including things that used to work in V2) are still evident in V4.
V4 does have a few pros. The new Photoshop-like panels are an improvement. Gone are the annoying nested scroll boxes. And the contextual toolbar is a plus for sure. DE users will be happy to know that Bring to Front/Send to Back can now work across layers.
A Discard All button has been added to the autosave panel. A Despeckling control has been added to trace, which is helpful for improving the cut and weed friendliness of a trace. And best of all, Silhouette Studio V4 now allows a limited (one color at a time) Trace by Color capability.
Magnet Trace (a DE only feature for background removal or creating a silhouette) has the potential to be a pro, but is not really in a usable state yet.
As for the cons, I already mentioned that V4 carries over many of the bugs/design flaws from V3, most egregious of which is the poor performance of the eraser tool (and related functions like knife, and divide). Another of my pet peeves is the inability to design for a machine that was not the last one plugged in. And the slider ranges and toggle increments, originally destroyed in V3, are exactly the same in V4.
The new look, while an improvement, does not seem to have taken basic interface design principles into account. For example, some common tasks,
like opening a new document, take more mouse clicks and mouse distance than before. You often have to travel past rarely used buttons or menu items to get to frequently used ones. And unless you stick with the tiniest button size, some buttons can fall off your screen altogether.
Activating cut lines and applying settings is now done in a separate mode, called Send. I find it frustrating to not be able to group/ungroup, make compound paths, etc while choosing/previewing cut styles and I end up having to backtrack quite a bit. It seems they fixed something that wasn’t broken here.
Odd changes have been made to the trace function.
The high pass filter is now harder to turn off (and it should be off by default, IMHO), and because low pass and scale settings have been removed, there’s no longer a way to control how smooth the trace is. UPDATE: Silhouette heard our feedback, set high pass to off by default and brought back low pass. A key change is that the trace preview is no longer solid yellow but outlined, which means we have to unlearn the old paradigm and be careful to check for double lines.
They chose to randomly change some terminology, which can be a problem when certain terms like “Cut Edge,” albeit confusing, are entrenched in existing understanding, tutorials, etc. The increased reliance on hard to see and hard to describe icons, which are sometimes too similar to each other, or which serve multiple purposes, is likely to cause a good bit of confusion.
Not only are the promised text improvements not included, but working with text seems clunkier to me than in earlier versions because of the way the text panel is triggered. As far as feature removal, V4 no longer has a Save as Legacy option, so those who still find V2 superior (and it totally is!) are being further marginalized. Gone is the ability to set the area outside your mat to white so you can work at larger sizes without visual disruptions.
Sticker makers were quick to see that they had lost the ability to set both kiss-cut and through-cut by line color. Indeed, what used to be advanced mode isn’t very advanced any more because only one material can be selected. That means that all you can change by line color, fill color or layer (DE) is the action (cut, draw, etc). You can’t set 2 different cut settings or 2 different draw settings, for instance … an unfortunate regression for those hoping to enjoy the full benefit of dual heads.
There are a number of things that just don’t work yet in V4 in its beta state, but this doesn’t appear to be a return of the V3 “Titanic edition” débâcle. Among the malfunctioning features are the Add New Material pulldown, the Transfer Properties eyedropper (DE), and most importantly, Cut Preview is not working reliably. I would expect these things to be repaired before V4 comes out of beta.
So should you update? The answer is almost certainly no. V4 is still in public beta (where I hope it will stay for a long time). That means there is no support from Silhouette America, and little in the way of tutorials or troubleshooting help from the bloggers you count on. But here are more specific recommendations …
-If you have any Silhouette except Cameo3, install 3.6.057 from here. It is stable and does not involve you or your precious library in the still glitchy Silhouette Cloud.
-If you have a Cameo3, install version 3.8.188 from here. This is the most stable cloud version. There’s no non-cloud option for the C3, unfortunately. Be sure and back up your library before you install a cloud version.
-If you have a Mac and want to help find bugs, install the latest V4 beta version from here in addition to your current versions.
-If you have more than one Windows PC and want to help find bugs, install the latest V4 beta version from here on one of them, but keep your favorite prior version for important projects.
-If you do load V4, let Silhouette know any problems you find and your opinions on the changes using this link. Those of us who participated in the private beta were able to influence at least a few things in V4. Please take advantage of this opportunity.
-Whether or not you load v4, continue to let Silhouette America know what wish list items are important to you.