Appendix

Users' Forum

The best way to get support for SoftStep is to visit the Users' Forum:

http://algoart.com/forum

Not only are many questions already asked and answered, but there are additional tutorials and a growing library of user contributed patches. An additional reason to visit the forum is this is where we will make available "in-between" version updates that are not announced anywhere else. These will be listed in the forum, along with quick download patches if available.

Technical Support

Technical support is available by email to: support@algoart.com. We try to answer all support questions promptly - usually within hours - but please help us help you by first reading the online manual. The Main Menu, Toolbar, and Options sections are especially helpful for trouble shooting. If you do email, please include the following information:

  1. Are you a registered SoftStep user? Email technical support for the unregistered free trail is limited to installation issues only.
  2. Describe the computer you are using, including operating system, amount of memory, CPU speed, graphics settings?
  3. What other audio and MIDI software is installed in your computer?
  4. As much information as possible relating to your question(s). The more information you provide the faster we can help you. Feel free to attach illustrative .ssp files or screen capture image files if you think that will help.

Please note that while we try to answer all tech support questions as quickly as possible, those that are already covered in the online manual do not receive the same high priority, and often will be answered simply by a manual reference.

Update Notification

While we do not send out unsolicited email (spam), we do have mailing lists you may easily subscribe and unsubscribe to. Even then, we only send out email when we have something new to pass on to you, such as notice of new versions. To subscribe or unsubscribe to our mailing lists, visit the Algorithmic Arts Support Page.

SoftStep File Compatibility

SoftStep files are downward compatible with earlier versions, but not upward compatible. This means you can load a SoftStep file created with an earlier version, but the earlier version can not load files created with a later version. This is mostly because later versions have additional modules.

Name Stamping Your Compositions

All compositions created by registered SoftStep users will have their name stamped into the .ssp file, which is displayed on the SoftStep title bar when the .ssp file is loaded. Files created by one registered user but modified by another will have both names listed.

Maximum Number of Modules

The maximum number of any one kind of module you can create is 99. This is a "soft"" limit. You can create a few more than 99 of some modules, up to an absolute maximum of 128 - but going above the 99 limit should be done sparingly. On slower computers, with some of the more graphics intensive modules, this number may be reduced somewhat.

CPU Loading Issues

There are two related but separate MIDI timing issues in SoftStep that sooner or later you will run in to. One is the CPU load, and the other is MIDI latency, discussed in the next section.

For the most part, processing MIDI is far less CPU intensive than processing audio streams. And typical SoftStep setups can coexist very well with software synthesizers and samplers on the same computer, running at the same time. A typical SoftStep patch will run at under 10% of CPU load, often under 2%. However it is possible to load up on graphics intense components and run the CPU load right up to 100%. Almost always, a little judicious planning will prevent CPU overloads.

The trick is to realize that it is not the MIDI processing that is hogging the CPU cycles, it is the feedback graphics. The very blinky lights and number readouts that makes SoftStep so much fun to compose with. The good news is, when the graphics are not displaying, the processor load goes down dramatically - even while the modules are still running. So to keep processor load down on large patches, try to keep one of the pages free of fast moving graphics, perhaps making it a controller page. Or, simply minimize the SoftStep window when you are running it.

Another technique to use with large setups, is to replace the graphical sequencers like Knobs and Sliders with the Runs & Page sequencers. These take very few system resources, and are highly flexible. You will know when you are ready to use Runs & Page sequencers when you find yourself using the Fill utility more than the knobs and sliders to manipulate the sequencer data.

MIDI Latency in SoftStep

SoftStep uses zero latency, which means that when a note is created it is instantly sent out to MIDI with no timing lag (latency) other than the overhead of the MIDI driver itself. This may cause timing problems for some users so SoftStep also has a Latency setting that allows you to adjust Latency for more stable buffered timing. Zero latency is the default, and this setting is recommended for computers faster than about 450 MHz. See the Options page for details.

Known Bugs

None known at this time. But we want to know if you run into one (see below).

We want your feedback

Customer feedback - whether favorable, unfavorable, or just suggestions and wish list items - is essential to the process of making software that works well. We really do want to hear from you. Please email your comments, suggestions, and any other wish list items to: support@algoart.com.

SoftStep is Copyright © 1999-2004 by John Dunn and Algorithmic Arts. All Rights Reserved.