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Getting Started: What Software Will I Need?


At a minimum you will need Mach3 or Mach4.  The Mach3 or Mach4 software interprets a G-Code file that you supply to it, and converts each G-Code movement into high-level commands, which are sent to the SmoothStepper. 


If you are just getting started with Mach, seriously consider using Mach4 and NOT Mach3.  Mach3 is essentially end of life, and not supported with any new development.  Mach4 has new features under development and has much more in terms of capabilities and flexibility - especially with lua scripts.  However, the number one reason in our book is diagnostics, in Mach3 it is hard to determine what went wrong when something doesn't work. In Mach4 the diagnostics log and the screen set messages make it much easier to understand what is going wrong.


We are so confident that you should be using Mach4 with the ESS, we offer an ESS with Mach4 bundle which will give you a massive discount!


However, if you want to create your own designs, you will need other software.  First you would typically use CAD (Computer Aided Design) programs that allow you to create specific designs and shapes in 2D, 2.5D or 3D. Then you would use a CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) program to convert the 2D and 3D CAD files, DXF files and graphics into the GCode that is used by Mach.  Alternately there are also programs which will convert photos into G-Code for you. 


While we don't want to recommend one software product or another, here are some of the programs we typically hear about and some relevant links for those programs.  Keep in mind, we are not endorsing, recommending or supporting any of these programs.  With that being said, the names that are repeatedly mentioned by our customers in a good way are:


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