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Embroidery file types

There are two types of embroidery file format:

File typeFunction
DesignDesign files, also known as ‘outline’ or 'all-in-one' files, usually contain digitized shapes and lines, selected stitch types and stitch values and effects.
MachineMachine files, also known as ‘stitch’ files, generally contain stitches and machine functions and are only suited to specific embroidery machines.

Design files are generally ones you open and modify in the software. Machine files are generally ones you send to machine for production. EMB is the native design format. Other 'all-in-one' formats such as ART and JAN are also supported. The software supports many machine formats. There is some inter-convertibility between design and machine formats. Note that you can filter your design library between these two broad categories...

The software supports many machine formats such as JEF, SEW, DST, EXP, and others. See also Supported embroidery files.

Design files

All-in-one design files, also known as 'outline' files, are high-level formats which contain object outlines, object properties and stitch data. When you open a design file in the software, corresponding stitch types, digitizing methods and effects are applied. These can all be viewed in the Sequence docker. See also Viewing methods.

Machine files

Different embroidery machines speak different languages. Each has its own commands for the various machine functions. Machine files, also known as 'stitch’ files, are low-level formats for direct use by machines. They contain information about the position, length and color of each stitch. When read by the software, machine files do not contain object information such as outlines or stitch types, but present as a collection of stitch blocks also known as 'manual objects'. Stitch blocks consist entirely of individual stitches.

Manual objects

Manual objects are created wherever machine functions – e.g. color changes or trims – are detected in the design. They have only general and connector properties. Manual objects, in turn, consist of individual stitches, called ‘manual stitches’. In the Sequence docker, manual objects and manual stitches appear as one-and-the-same thing.

Scaling machine files

You can scale raw machine files, but because the stitch count does not change, the density increases or decreases with the design size. Thus you should not scale these designs by more than ±10% or some areas may be too thickly or too thinly covered.

You can, if you wish, manually adjust the stitch density of whole or selected parts of a design. See also Fabrics & densities.

Machine file recognition

While machine files are generally not suited to scaling, the software can derive object outlines, stitch types and spacing from raw stitch data with some success. The Sequence docker will generally display recognized designs as a mixture of 'embroidery objects' and 'manual objects'. In other words, where it is unable to recognize objects, it leaves these as manual objects.

Processing is effective for most machine files but cannot produce the same level of quality as original outlines and may not handle some fancy stitches. When the software 'recognizes' a machine file, it recognizes stitch types, spacing and length values, stitch effects, and can determine object outlines. Stitch types are assigned as satin or tatami depending on the pattern of needle penetrations.

Recognized object outlines and stitch values are stored as object properties in the software. This means you can scale and transform recognized designs in the usual way. Stitches are recalculated for recognized outlines but not for manual objects.

File recognition options

By default, machine files are converted to object shapes (EMB Grade C) upon opening. If you want the software to leave your machine files as individual stitches, or 'manual objects', turn on the 'leave stitches' option in the Embroidery Settings > Design tab.

Convert stitches on opening

Alternatively, if you want to convert machine files on a case-by-case basis, you can choose to convert at the time of opening via the Open Options dialog. This can be accessed via the Options button in the Open Design dialog.

Alternatively, even after opening a machine file, you can recognize stitch blocks as objects by selecting Recognize Stitches from the Edit menu.

File sources

There are two types of embroidery file format:

Design:Design files, also known as ‘outline’ or 'all-in-one' files usually contain digitized shapes and lines, selected stitch types and stitch values and effects.
Machine:Machine files, also known as ‘stitch’ files contain only stitches and machine functions and are suited to specific embroidery machines.

While design files are broadly classified as ‘embroidery’ (outline) or ‘machine’ (stitch), the software internally tags files as belonging to one of four types – native design (A), imported outlines (B), processed stitches (C), or imported stitches (D). These are summarized as follows:

ANative designNative EMB designs as well as ART and JAN files are all ‘Grade A’ design formats read and written by the software. They are called ‘Grade A’ because they contain a complete set of design information in a single file – object outlines, properties, stitches, thread colors, thumbnail image, and comments. It goes without saying that only Grade A files provide 100% perfect scaling and transformation.
BImported outlinesDesigns read from an outline format such as CND / GNC and saved in ART / EMB / JAN format. Such designs cannot be read directly by the software but once converted, they are treated as Grade B designs.
CProcessed stitchesDesigns read from machine files – EXP, DST, PES, etc – where stitches have been converted to objects. Such converted files may have limitations in resizing.

Imported stitches

Designs read from stitch files, where outlines may or may not have been recognized, but stitches have not been regenerated through stitch processing. Note, however, that if you change a stitch design – e.g. add a lettering object – the status changes to ‘Processed Stitches’ even though the imported stitches may not have been regenerated. Such files are not generally suited to resizing.

For information about the source of an embroidery file, refer to the Design tab of the Design Information docker.