I recently, well actually I got my wife Jan to do the ‘hands on’ or should I say ‘Needle and thread on’ testing of Plastic Canvas Design Studio. This software is designed as a pattern creation tool for people who use this craft product.

What impressed me most was that within minutes of installing the software Jan was gushing praise “Oh wow this is great”, “Simon, Simon come check this out!” etc.

Plastic Canvas Design Studio is bargain basement priced, and yet is so well put together it has the look and feel of software that costs ten times the $20 price tag. Again to quote Jan “This is a must have program for anyone that uses Plastic Canvas”.

I contacted Mark Miller of M&R and he agreed to an interview.

Can you tell us a little about M&R?

M&R has been in business since October of 1989, almost 18 years now.  We started with a product called PCStitch, which is still our flagship software product, for creating cross stitch patterns.

Where did the idea of creating the program come from?

The Plastic Canvas Design Studio grew as an extension of our cross stitch product.  We determined that there was a lot of crossover between cross stitchers and plastic canvasers, and that the crafts were similar enough that we could adapt, but different enough that they really needed separate pieces of software.

I have a theory about software, it is better to be a big fish in a small pond, i.e. cater to a specialty area and do it well, rather than try to be all things to all men and do it badly. However the risk you run is determining what features people want. How did you decide what to include?

The first version was just a lot of research about how plastic canvas patterns are created and printed.  We also did a lot of comparison with various paint programs to see what kind of useful tools we could include.  Our overriding concern about adding features is that the software be as easy to use as possible. 

On the whole my end user reviewer (AKA my wife) found that the core functions were very clearly laid out and she did not need to reference any kind of help material. However there were a couple of areas that confounded her, in particular the ‘Text’ feature, does M&R offer any support options for users with questions?

We offer email support at CustomerService@PlasticCanvasSoftware.com.  We go to great lengths to make sure all emails get answered within one business day.  We get a lot of compliments about our technical support for our products.

I am sure that you are busy working on the next release, can you give our readers any insight into what direction you are headed in?

Right now, we are thinking about the possibility of expanding into selling patterns and supplies.  These have been popular additions to our cross stitch lines with web sites at http://www.patternsonline.com/ and http://www.everythingcrossstitch.com/.  We are finding that the plastic canvas section at your local craft store is shrinking, but plastic canvas enthusiasts still need someplace to get quality supplies and designs.

As I understand it you have a try before you buy version that people can download for free. Where can people find this?

Users can download the demonstration of our software from http://www.plasticcanvassoftware.com/.  The software that they download is fully functional, except that it doesn’t allow you to save patterns or print patterns that have been modified.  If you like what you see, you can order online for $19.95 and get an unlock key right away that will convert the software into the fully functional version.  We also offer the option to get a CD sent to you via mail for an additional $4.25.

One of the problems that a small niche publisher has is finding the audience, I doubt you have millions of dollars to advertise, how do you get your product in front of the customer?

We do a certain amount of advertising in plastic canvas magazines, but we mostly depend on search engines and links for people to find out about us.

My wife has very positive things to say about this program, are you getting a lot of positive feedback from users?

We get a lot of great feedback from our users.  I believe that our “try before you buy” philosophy ensures that if the software isn’t right for a particular customer, they won’t purchase it.  If anyone has questions or concerns before they purchase, we always recommend that they try it first.

Postscript: I really love the boat she made me!

Simon Barrett



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