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  • Why is sign software SO exspensive?

    Posted by Kevin.Beck on December 3, 2002 at 7:11 pm

    Trying to sort out a problem with a second hand cutter I had just bought. I was put in touch with the lads from ” Future”
    In return for sorting out the problem ( it took 1 fax!), thus saving me £150 call out fee. I bought their sign software, VMP. (I was having a few problems with SL at the time, hopefully sorted now)

    SL cost me approx £1000 about 4 years ago. It`s not the top level, but it does for me. (75% of work is screen printing textiles)

    VMP cost me £499 + vat. and it came with a rip & a font detective.

    I`ve not yet picked up the manuals for the last 2 items, but the VMP looks like it out guns my version of SL by miles.

    I know you can buy modules for SL, thus upgrading it. But at what cost, I daren`t think.

    Don`t get me wrong I love SL to death, it`s so easy and quick to use. I recomend it to every sign maker I speak to. I`ll always use it.

    VMP does looks alot more complicated and long winded.

    I`m not knocking any manufacturers software here. I surpose they all have their pros & cons. What I find easy or hard to use, other people will find the opposite.

    My question is this- why is SOME software so pricey??????

    Is VMP, the start of a pricing war???????

    John Childs replied 21 years, 5 months ago 12 Members · 36 Replies
  • 36 Replies
  • Robert Lambie

    December 3, 2002 at 7:32 pm

    hi becky
    i know what you mean, signlab is pricey there is no doubting that…
    but i would say this, i really havent spoke to somone in the last 13 years of being in the trade, who have tried signlab properly… properly meaning over a period of time. and then decided there old software was better.
    you pay for what you get!
    vmp may well be very very good but i will stick my neck out and say it probably doesnt have a whole list of functions signlab does…

    signlab top end is about £2000

    vmp starting a price war? well…i dont really think so. 😕
    ill leave others to comment then ill maybe pipe in again….

    thanks for the post though. it should start some good opinions going, hopefully 😉

  • Paul Davenport

    December 3, 2002 at 8:19 pm

    Expensive…..youre buying from the wrong place……lol

    ONLY HAVING A JOKE all you software manufacturers !!!!!!!

  • jon vital

    December 3, 2002 at 10:41 pm

    I don’t think Signlab comes close to FlexiSign. Especially V6.5 upwards.

    Is it just me or can you only have one file open at a time in SL?

  • Phill Fenton

    December 3, 2002 at 10:43 pm

    I think the answer is simply the fact that sign software is only sold to a limited market. Of the millions of PC users out there – only a tiny fraction are signmakers. Therefore the demand for sign software is obviously limited. Virtually all PC users wil use a word processor – so the unit cost of word processing software is very low due to the volume sales. Conversely sign making software is not sold in high numbers – so the price remains high. Desktop publishing programs like Corel Draw appeal to a much broader market than just signmakers.Therefore because it sells to a much bigger market it can be sold at a much lower price yet still return a profit to it’s developers. However, it lacks many of the features that are included in dedicated sign programs.

  • Robert Lambie

    December 3, 2002 at 11:16 pm

    do you mean multiple files jon? or do you mean multiple windows showing differnt files..
    if the first then yes you can open many files…. just click merge and in it goes along with the rest…

    now based on your reply mate i would reckon you have only dabbled in signlab.. there for i think you maybe biased in your opinion…
    im not knocking your opion mate honest… 😉 just think that if you have tried and fully understood the software then you would see just how good it is… thats all… and again thats just my opion… 😀

    now i do sound biased dont i? 😮

    anyway hope that come across right mate… not being funny

    and thanks for joining in jon… 😉

  • jon vital

    December 3, 2002 at 11:23 pm

    I mean multiple windows so I can just ‘ctrl-tab’ between them.

    It’s true to say I’ve only ‘dabbled’ with SignLab but it just seems clunky to me. Even ff you just have a dabble with FlexSign I’m sure you’ll find you can achieve the same results much quicker.

  • Phill Fenton

    December 3, 2002 at 11:57 pm

    I use Casmate Pro and Signlab 5. Casmate allows the use of multiple windows which Signlab doesn’t. This is a feature that I do miss when working with Signlab. However Signlab has useful features that Casmate doesn’t. Having said that, I wouldn’t say one was better than the other (In many ways I much prefer Casmate, but that’s probably because I’ve used it for much longer).

    Casmate is no longer supported which is a great shame. I think the reason for Signlabs success is more to do with it’s marketing than the fact that it may or may not be a better product than other sign software.

    Given the limited market, some great products (such as Casmate) have inevitably fallen by the wayside.

    Back to the original question – why is sign software expensive – It has to be in order to make a profit for it’s developers. If it doesn’t make a profit, it no longer gets supported. So unless we have a huge expansion in the numbers of signmakers (which is bad news for existing signakers profits) I think we’re going to be stuck with so called high prices 😀

  • Martin Pearson

    December 4, 2002 at 7:12 pm

    Phills right, sign software doesnt sell millions of copies so to recoupe the development costs the unit price has to be higher.
    As for casmate pro dissapearing Phill it became Inspire which has also now been superceeded.
    I think the majority of signmakers will tell you that there software is the best, its just because they are use to using it. I believe flexi is far more popular in the states so maybe some of our american members will comment further on the Flexi versus SL debate.
    Both are dedicated sign programs packed with features and both with a high cost, I expect some things are easier in one than the other and vice verser, so it will probably come down to personal choice.

  • Kevin.Beck

    December 4, 2002 at 9:21 pm

    I do understand the developing cost to produce the software, and that the makers do not sell it in huge quanties. So their mark up has to be large.

    So why is VMP alot cheaper than most “start up” packages from other Manufacturers???

  • Phill Fenton

    December 4, 2002 at 9:24 pm

    Don’t know 😕

  • Robert Lambie

    December 4, 2002 at 10:06 pm

    maybe the fact that they are just reproducing there version of bits and peices of other software… bits that they think the most important and put together a version of there own… but really it does the same job as the others just a bit of research on whats really needed & what isnt…

    before i go any further, i am not saying that is how vmp was created.
    just answering your question in “my veiw, it maybe”

    you sit for say 5 hours coming up with a great van design.. maybe more! on top of that, you have done research on the company before hand, went back and forth to ask colour preferences and the whole sha-bang! just to get things right..
    top notch design, top notch vinyl used, customer happy. 😉
    you quote £500 and indeed you should….why not you worked damn hard.

    a sign guy walks into the customer and sees the layout on his desk..
    “£500” he says. “i would do the exact same job for £250”

    catch my drift 😉 😀 😀

  • Phill Fenton

    December 4, 2002 at 10:17 pm

    Perhaps it’s simply a case of trying to capture a big market. A couple of years ago Cadlink allowed owners of existing signmaking software to upgrade to signlab for only £500 (and still keep their existing software). Presumably this was to encourage existing signmakers to switch to another brand of software when they may not have done so otherwise. This was a very clever bit of marketing as it meant they sold software that they otherwise may not have done – and gained future customers who would upgrade this software to even newer versions of Signlab in time. It also meant they could continue to charge much higher prices to the first time buyer as they were not upgrading from another sign making product.

  • Shaun Morrell

    December 7, 2002 at 1:35 am

    Hi Guys

    Just so you know about us and how we came about…

    VMP and FutureRIP have come about as a direct result of what I and the other guys at Future Corp considered at the time to be well over-priced, under-valued sign software (early 90’s). So we downed tools (brushes and ladders) and set out back then to do something about it. It took a few years and all our resources to get our first program out but it did the job and was well priced…

    Anyway there’s been a lot of water under-the-bridge since those days and our current programs are sold in over 50 countries at what we believe is a fair and reasonable price (not cheap) with the best support we’re capable of providing.

    The programs we have under development right now are an order of magnitude better than our existing programs, so were quite excited about what’s just around the corner and hope you guys can enjoy the fruits of our hard work… without paying an arm and a leg for it!

    All I can say about the high-cost of sign software on the open market today is – it’s a shame some people still believe in: ‘Let’s just sell our products for what the market can bear’…


  • Fat Bob

    December 7, 2002 at 3:39 am

    Nice one Shaun

    I have been a SL man since it was sign factory but now its up to e6 I am getting tired
    of the “Designer Syndome” where they start to bolt on new whistles and Bells to
    Make it a Must Have Product but don’t improve some of the Basic Needs of us
    Vinyl Jockeys This Added to the fact half the stuff you never use or what you like
    gets made more complicated than it needs to be then gets moved somewere else
    is and wants to wisk you off to this web site and that web site to make/store
    Which will become charge Zone as soon as you ” Cant do Without it”
    When all you need is it to cut vinyl. Im Ranting Again.

    The Point is im thinking of a second Product so if something should happen to Cadlink
    like Casmate or some of the others which have gone into a black hole I wont be caught
    with me pants down.

    Do you supply Litreture or Demos

    Regards FB

  • Shaun Morrell

    December 7, 2002 at 9:00 am

    Hi Bob

    Sure do… if you like e mail your postal address to and I’ll send you a Demo CD etc.


  • Martin Pearson

    December 11, 2002 at 12:12 am

    Although casmate was developed into another program which has since also been developed into another program there is still quite a bit of support available for casmate, its not from the manufacturers but mainly from users and most of it is american based as I believe the program was popular over there.
    I’d be interested to know how many signmakers have more than one signmaking program, I dont mean like photoshop or corel but actual signmaking software like Phill has, and if they use both or if one is just kept as a backup. At present I am not in the position to buy additional software just in case I have a problem but I have wondered what I would do if say the dongle broke, how quickly could I get it replaced and how would I cope in between.

  • Lee Attewell

    December 11, 2002 at 2:33 am

    I know exactly how buying software hurts.

    Just yesterday, I purchased Sign Wizard from the local dealer. I got No manuals, nothing else just a dongle and a disk. $4000 later, I’m still playing to find out how it works.

    Just a bit disappointed.

  • Shaun Morrell

    December 11, 2002 at 3:21 am

    Hey Leeroy

    That’s absurd! Why not send it back and get a refund (?)

  • Lee Attewell

    December 11, 2002 at 3:37 am

    Yeah Shaun, I know it is.

    what I did was to sell my digital printer back to the bloke that sold it to me. he’s also a dealer for sign Wizard . There is a thing here that’s a Barter trade system that we’re both members of. As I bought my printer in this way, I sold it back to him the same way. Anyway I wanted to get this programme for a long time, I traded it along with a barter balance for my printer. Complicated I know, but there’s some logic there ( somewhere). Basically I didn’t buy it cash, I bought it on trade.

    Ok I know I live in Oz, our dollar is abysmal when purchasing from overseas, so Yeah it’s a bloody lot of dosh to part up with. The way I figure is that I now have something that’s going to enhance my business and I’m going to use every day.

    I could just be stupid.

    I’d love to buy Mike’s CD, but at one hundred pounds, man that’s nearly $300.00. Cash is rare at the moment. I have these trade dollars up the yazoo, so I use them where I can.

    I paid the price as shown on the suppliers website, got the pro version and away I go.

    I guess I wanted some packaging…Not just a burnt CD.

  • Shaun Morrell

    December 11, 2002 at 3:58 am

    Fair enough! But even so, you’d think you’d still get the full box and dice!

    Sounds like you’re in BarterCard or something similar?

  • Lee Attewell

    December 11, 2002 at 4:44 am

    Yeah baby you got it…

  • Shaun Morrell

    December 11, 2002 at 4:53 am

    Yes, we had the BarterCard rep in our Melbourne office the other day… it all sounds great until you take a real hard look at it and weigh up all the costs and FEES…

    Probably pretty good for a hotel with empty rooms to fill… not so sure for a retail business on tight margins?

  • Phill Fenton

    December 11, 2002 at 9:06 am

    Shaun – Can Vinyl master import files from Casmate (.scv). I know signlab and flexisign can open these files, but I’m not sure if vinyl master will. Are there any plans to introduce this option in future releases of vinylmaster?

    Casmate Pro will not run under windows xp or 2000 (windows 98 is the last o/s that allows it) so at some point users of this software will have to upgrade to a newer product 😀

  • Shaun Morrell

    December 11, 2002 at 8:42 pm

    Hi Phil

    VMP imports ai and eps files which maintain file integrity. Casmate, Signlab, Flexi, CorelDRAW and Illustrator etc. etc. all export ai and/or eps so it is easy to get jobs from any of these programs into VMP and vice-versa…

    The next generation of computers which we’re currently developing for won’t even run Win 9x or ME so there is definitely a line being drawn in the sand right now…


  • Brian Ellis

    December 13, 2002 at 8:02 am

    HI Becky

    Have you received your manuals yet. If not get back to me.

    Brian Ellis

  • Kevin.Beck

    December 13, 2002 at 8:43 am

    Got them ok. Still reading through. Finding the scanning section a little hardgoing. Haven`t even looked at the font detective or the rip manuals yet. All in good time.

    for the price VMP is, I feel every one should have it.

    One of the great things about VMP, you can put it on as many computers as you like. You can only cut from one, but the good thing about this, if the main computer is being used (ours have sign soft ware on, embroidery soft ware, corel and a load of other programs) you can use another, then save on a floppy and take to the cutter latter. This alone should save people time. I`ve got it on 2 at the shop and then the one at home. Jobs a good en. 😛

  • TonyDwyer

    January 15, 2003 at 12:38 am

    only been doing this sign game for about 2 years. We use CoralDraw 9 and signtools 3 plug in for our cx300. Never had any problems and we find you can use said software to do the job just as well as a much more expensive package.

    By the way, what a great site! 😀

  • Martin Pearson

    January 16, 2003 at 11:19 pm

    I dont want to start an argument Tony as I dont use corel draw at all and like yourself have only been in the sign business for a couple of years but I find it hard to believe that corel can do the job as well as a dedicated sign program. After all if corel did the job so well their wouldnt be as many sign companies buying expensive software. I can see some people getting caught out thinking they must have dedicated sign software to do the job but not all of them. Perhaps Shaun would know a bit more about this as I am sure he must have looked at all sorts of software for producing signs.

  • TonyDwyer

    January 17, 2003 at 12:13 am

    to be quite honest martin i haven’t tried using signlab etc… I have a demo version of vmpro but haven’t looked at it in great depth. i have been using coreldraw for a few years as i started off designing company logos and whatever. when i bought my plotter i was going to invest in a decent sign making package, but because i knew coreldraw quite well i bought signtools 3 and roland cutchoice as plugins to get started. Combined the software seems to work as a great bit of kit, doing everything that at this moment in time i require. i think personally it works just as well as a software package far more expensive, although that is not to say that specialist signmaking software is a con. i know that signlab and the like are specifically written for the trade and you only get what you pay for. Expensive packages are written for signmakers by signmakers who have been in the trade a lot longer than myself.
    the thing is, its like anything. you get so attached to something its hard to be persuaded otherwise. i wasn’t recommending coreldraw, i was just saying it works for me. If money wasn’t an object, i wouldn’t think twice about investing in a top signmaking package!

  • Shaun Morrell

    January 17, 2003 at 2:17 am

    Hi Guys

    OK… reading through the most recent posts we’re in part comparing apples with oranges! CorelDRAW is an excellent desk-top publishing program that has some great design tools which can be applied to doing vinyl signs…

    Programs such as Signlab, Flexi and VinylMaster Pro have a number of additional tools which allow the sign maker to create a wider range of vinyl signage very quickly (rapid design environment). For example, separating the vinyl colors and nesting the cut files is completely automatic in a good sign program, plus there’s things like full plotter support. (I could go on and on here)

    Although CorelDRAW may be able to eventually get a similar result (and this is not always true) let’s face it, time is money!

    Also CorelDRAW is not ideally suited to large format digital printing as it has built in size limitations. For example you can not render a bitmap any larger than 10k x 10k pixels. Also, I believe it still won’t let you print over a certain size (physical) it used to be A3… not sure what it is in 11?

    Most importantly CorelDRAW does not have a RIP, therefore it will never reproduce colors correctly on demand and will be anything up to 50 times slower than a good RIP.

    The RRP difference between CorelDRAW 11 and VinylMaster Pro is less than a £100 so that’s not a significant difference…

    But there is little doubt having both a good sign package AND CorelDRAW is the best option…

    Thanks, 😀

  • Martin Pearson

    January 17, 2003 at 9:55 pm

    I think that was what I was trying to say to Tony in a round about way Shaun, that the sign software would perform a lot of sign related tasks that much quicker and as time is money where possible you were better off with the right software. However I also agree with Tony when he says that he is use to using corel. I have tried a few different art packages and the biggest problem is finding the time to try them and learn what is what, normally before you get time to look at it properly the 30 days are up and you are no further forward.
    Shaun is it true you can run VMP on more than one computer or do you need a seperate agreement for each machine ?
    We use Inspire at the moment and there are times when it would be really great to have the software on a second machine but for what they want for a second dongle just makes this impossible.

  • Fat Bob

    January 17, 2003 at 11:12 pm

    Hi Martin

    Tell me more about inspire its not one ihave heard of before.


  • Shaun Morrell

    January 17, 2003 at 11:23 pm

    Hi Martin

    I agree that learning new software is a real pain! We’re continuously buying new software because it’s the business we’re in. So we tend to get new packages as they come out and are forever learning something new…

    That’s why we’re now mapping out how we are going to help people learn our software programs from our present method.

    However, in answer to your question ‘Yes’ VMP can be installed on as many computers as you like with the only limitation being you can’t cut what you’ve designed, export or run Font Detective from an unregistered copy…

    But you can do everything else like design a job and save it off and then load it onto a registered computer and cut it out etc. This is very helpful with those using laptops out on site… because you can design your jobs with an unregistered copy and then cut them out back at work with the registered copy…

    Thanks, 😉

  • Kevin.Beck

    January 18, 2003 at 8:22 am

    you must spend all your time answering questions about vmp. I`ve been on other sites.(sorry Rob ) and there you are.

    One thing we all agree on – Great product. great service.


    Other software manufacturers should take note.

    PS. Shaun, have you had any feed back from other manufacturers, regarding how you are pricing your product (alolt cheaper than theres) etc.

  • Shaun Morrell

    January 18, 2003 at 10:49 pm

    Thanks Becky… 😀

    In regards to our competitors. We tend to ignore what they’re charging for their products because we sell our software etc. for a fair and reasonable profit NOT for what the market will bear (and in many cases can just bear).

    However I have noticed some discounting on upgrades, cross-grades and some price adjustment in various countries…

    Developing software is an expensive exercise so it’s not surprising sign software tends to be expensive in comparison to mass marketed programs. What I disagree with is some of the very high prices charged, considering the quality of the software and what it comes with (help, support, updates etc.)

    In many cases I can not believe what has been charged for a particular program and sympathize with the buyer who stands by the product because of their investment… despite its obvious shortcomings…

    If you ever see a high priced program from us you’ll know it’s because there’s been a very long and very expensive development phase behind the product and the target market is relatively small…

    Thanks again…

  • John Childs

    February 3, 2003 at 10:37 pm

    My set-up seems to be the other way round to everyone elses.

    Because of the nature of our business we don’t do that much artwork and design but once it is done we want to cut it many times over a long period of time.

    Therefore we do our artwork on one computer, save it to a server and then open and cut the files on any one of three computer/cutter combinations. Design on many and cut on one is exactly the wrong philosophy for us.

    Whereas buying one expensive sign programme is not a problem it is obviously ridiculous to buy two more copies to put on computers that are only ever going to be used simply as plotter drivers.

    We use Apple computers, so our software choices are more limited than PC users, but we design in Adobe Illustrator and have a copy of Illom Cutline on each of the three cutters to load, colour separate and cut the files.

    Whilst perhaps not everyone?s ideal, the system works well for us. We can achieve most things in Illustrator that dedicated packages can do and whilst it may take a little longer our experience with the programme and the low amount of artwork we do means that this is not a significant problem. Cutline, although being a competent programme, is very easy to use – it makes Flexi-Cut look like nuclear physics – which means that new people can be trained to use it and be profitable very quickly indeed.

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