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 Product Review : BlockBase Software

BlockBase software is based upon Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns. Quilters and quilt historians alike will find it an extremely valuable resource. This package is comprised of almost every pieced block published between 1836 and 1970. Amazingly, there is an excess of 4000 block designs in all.

BlockBase can be used as is, or as an add-on to Electric Quilt versions 4.0 and 5.0. As a standalone program, BlockBase provides a useful resource for quilters. It allows a great deal of block design flexibility. Combined with Electric Quilt, however, it opens an even wider avenue of quilt design possibilities.

System Requirements

To install BlockBase, the following is required:

- Windows 95 / 98 / 2000 / ME / XP
- 11 MB free hard disk space
- 16 MB RAM suggested
- Monitor capable of 800x600 resolution or higher
- CD-ROM drive

There are a few restrictions to consider before installation. Windows NT is compatible with BlockBase in non-networked systems only. Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher is required on systems running Windows 95.


A considerable benefit of the BlockBase package is its user interface. Patterned after Electric Quilt, users will find it relatively easy to work. Current EQ users will feel right at home, and require less time to master BlockBase's functions.

With such a large collection of blocks, locating a desired design could be very difficult, but with BlockBase's robust search function, this is not an issue. Block designs are organized by 22 search categories to simplify location. It is also possible to search by block name, words contained within a block name, Brackman ID number, source or keyword.

Expanded use of finished block designs is relatively simple. Blocks may be moved into other programs for quilt design, class handouts or web pages. Blocks may be exported as either bitmaps or metafiles for this purpose. Users may also copy their designs to the Windows clipboard and paste in other applications.

For quilters that also own a copy of Electric Quilt 4.0 or 5.0, it is especially easy to merge BlockBase's collection with the design software. Because this is an EQ add-on, it is fully linkable. BlockBase designs appear within the EQ block libraries automatically. It is also possible to gather a group of blocks, save them together within BlockBase and open the project for further work with Electric Quilt 5.0

Block Base provides considerable flexibility in printing. Users may print blocks :

- of any size
- as templates
- as numbered foundation blocks
- as rotary cutting instructions
- as whole block designs in color, grayscale or outlines

Pros :

BlockBase is a hugely informative resource for quilt historians. There is a wealth of information included in addition to the vast collection of published designs. Block designs include Design Notes featuring the Brackman I.D. number, block names, and dates. Further information is available in the Published Names section. This includes names, publication source, date of publication and copyright notice contact information.

One of the most impressive assets of BlockBase is its organization and user interface. Although there is a vast number of block designs included, locating desired designs is not an overwhelming task. The user interface is efficient and well-designed. Once mastered, BlockBase is a powerful tool.

Cons :

BlockBase is a sophisticated piece of software. Although it's operation and functionality is certainly well-designed, those new to digital quilt design should expect to spend some time learning the ins and outs of the software. The more time invested in learning it, the more powerful a design tool BlockBase becomes.

Mac users will need to install emulation software in order to use Block Base. It is worthy to note that this quasi-compatibility applies only for a newer Macintosh systems , such as iMac, or systems with a 603 180 MHz processor or better Older Macs cannot run Block Base.

Quilters using BlockBase in conjunction with Electric Quilt should be aware of a small compatibility issue. BlockBase project files can be opened by Electric Quilt, but the reverse is not possible. A project file saved in Electric Quilt cannot be reopened under BlockBase. When working between the two packages, block selection should be performed before designing the quilt in EQ.

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