Monday, January 28, 2013

I must have missed a memo...

I've been a Cricut owner for about, oh, I don't know, say, 6 years give or take.  I own the 'Expression' machine and have over 65 shape and font cartridges.  I also purchased their Design Studio software which at the time was another $40 or something like it. The software allowed you to connect your Cricut to your computer and use the computer's monitor to design just about anything you could ever want to cut.  Saving your work into .cut files makes it ready any time you want it.  Periodically, as you purchased more cartridges, you had to update your DS product to recognize them. This was no big deal, just surf out to Provo Craft's website and download what you needed. 

About a year ago I went looking for an update to my DS software.  Provo Craft had TOTALLY revamped their website.  And for the most part it was a total fail.  There was no DS information ANYWHERE on the site.  And most of the links to ANYTHING threw an error.  I went out to the message boards and quickly found I was not the only one missing their DS updates and pretty much giving Provo Craft the finger for leaving their Cricut site such a mess.  Fast forward another 6 months (yes, that's how long it took them to clean up their mess) and someone finally found and posted on the message boards a place to update your DS software.  Whoo HOO!  Off I went!

Provo Craft also had this product called Gypsy - a hand held device that was essentially the DS software with all the cartridges already loaded. I never saw the reason for that product as the design window on it was SOOOO small as to make it downright silly. Why buy a Gypsy when I can run DS on my 17" HD laptop?  In my mind, the only reason to buy the Gypsy is if you took your stuff to the local crops and didn't want to carry cartridges or your laptop.  Me?  I never do that, so yeah, the Gypsy was silly. 

I started getting email for something called 'The Cricut Craft Room' at about the time the 'Imagine' product hit the market.  (The 'Imagine' product allows you to also color anything you want to cut, while the 'Expression' machine just cuts.)  I had no plans to purchase the 'Imagine', as coloring has never been my thing.  So, I pretty much ignored the email coming out of Provo Craft related to 'The Craft Room'.

Well...duh.  This past weekend I finally put two and two together and came up with four.  Yup, that's a little over a year it took me folks.  The Craft Room IS the WWW equivalent of Design Studio, which is now defunct.  If you have a copy, it still works, but they are not updating it any longer.  Instead, they have a thin client version of the product that you download for free from The Craft Room tab on the home page.  You will probably have to update the firmware on your cutting machine.  I did, and it was not a big deal.  Just follow the directions that pop up as you load the thin client. 

Once I got it loaded, there it was, the new and improved version of the Design Studio, hence forth to be known as The Craft Room.  Yeah!  You mark the cartridges you own by clicking the LINK button.  (You have to have your cutting machine connected to do that, which I thought was a minor annoyance.) Once you get all of yours linked, you can then design just using what you already own, or if you are shopping for something new, switch to ALL Cartridges and start taking a peak at what you might want to buy.  (Gypsy used to let you do this too, but that small window just made it nuts.) 

Using The Craft Room is a FABULOUS way to preview ALL the shapes on a cartridge so you can be sure you really want it.  Cartridges can now be purchased digitally or actually.  Although, they are discounting the digital versions by about $10.  And many of the older cartridges are no longer available.  You can only get them digitally. 

There are also a number of the full cartridges broken up into smaller sets.   Lets say you liked the haunted house from the latest Halloween themed cartridge, but the rest you could live without.  You can now buy just the image files for the haunted house.  These are ALWAYS purchased digitally and become available (or, are LINKED) in the Craft Room as soon as you get your receipt.

I haven't tried this but I believe any digital cartridge or image you purchase from The Craft Room is stored in the Cloud, so you can access it from any computer that has the thin client on it.  You log in with your Cricut account/password and, BOOM!  Off you go.  If this is true, then when you go to a crop, all you need is one computer and one Cricut and the whole room can cut all night long.  If I'm right about the cloud thing, when Andrea or Lynn want to borrow something I own digitally, I can just give them my account ID and Password and they can cut. Of course, if they want something I have on a cartridge, we'll still have to swap the old fashioned way. I don't see a way to 'convert' from actual to digital - although - it could happen just by LINKING them. If Provo Craft were smart, that's how it would work.  I'll have to play around a bit with some friends and see what happens.

Other cool things about The Craft Room:
  • There are Craft Room exclusive images.  These cost between $1 and $10 depending on the number of images in the offering.  Those email's I've been ignoring announce the new exclusives. 
  • Each week you get to cut something for free for the full week.  This week, the Extreme Font is available in The Craft Room to cut at your disposal until Saturday at midnight, at which time something else will be free for the cutting.
  • Seasonal sales on images - this week you can get a host of Valentine image files at a discount.  Something that would cost you $1.99 is now $1.47.  Every little bit helps.

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