The complexity of embroidery file types and resources causes a great deal of fear for those moving from print to embroidery. Initially, one must discover the difference between a working file and a stitch file. The working file is unique to its particular software suite and stores all imported art, drawn shapes, and stitch settings. An embroidery machine cannot read a working file. The stitch file is generated by the digitizing software on export, taking the shapes and instructions in the working file and outputting them as a set of coordinates and commands that can be read by the machine and locked to the specified size of the design. Though stitch file types can be proprietary, the most used format, .DST, can be read by a multitude of machines, and most stitch files can be converted from one format to another for use on any machine. Stitch files generally contain only the stitch coordinates and commands needed for the machine to run but no longer include the shapes created in the working file nor the prescribed settings attached to them.
Unless the software is used to process stitch files into objects or to interpolate/remove stitching, stitch files cannot be resized without increasing or decreasing density, altering stitch length, potentially creating stitches longer or shorter than recommended, or making details either too packed or too sparse. Though you may load a stitch file into digitizing software to add text or combine more than one design for a single decoration area, any significant editing or alteration of the basic shapes, settings, or sequence in a design requires the original working file and must be done in the same software suite in which the design was created. Though some software can ‘process’ stitch files to create editable working file objects, the process almost always results in shapes far different from the original working file and often changes the texture and quality of the original stitching.
Source: Erich Campbell