SoftStep Options

The Options menu is accessed from the main menu. This is where you set the MIDI device drivers, MIDI sync options, and other SoftStep options.

MIDI Output & MIDI Input

Although you can run SoftStep with no MIDI, to produce sound at least one MIDI output driver must be selected, and in order to respond to external MIDI messages at least one MIDI input driver must be selected.

The first time you run SoftStep the Options menu will pop up as a reminder that you need to select a driver. Once selected, SoftStep will remember it and will only pop up the Options menu automatically if the MIDI Port A output driver can not be found or is being used by another device when SoftStep loads.

You can have up to 4 MIDI Output and 4 MIDI Input drivers open at once, by selecting Tabs A-D, and setting the driver on that tab. Select the port A-D at the module by clicking on the appropriate port button in the pop up window that appears when you click on the MIDI module's channel setting button.

Most MIDI drivers only allow one connection at a time, so if you select a driver that is already in use by another port, the other port will reset itself to "None Selected." The exception to this is the Microsoft MIDI Mapper, which is actually one of the other MIDI Output drivers (you can select which one in the Windows Control Panel, in the Multimedia section). If you select a driver that is being used as the MIDI Mapper, you will get an error message telling you the driver is in use.

If you have installed a MIDI Loop Back program, such as Hubi's MidiLoopBack (Win 95/98), MidiYoke (Win98/2K/XP), or Sonic Foundry's Virtual Midi Router (Win98/2K/XP), the Loop Back inputs and outputs will automatically show up in the MIDI drivers list.

Options for Each MIDI Port

The following options are on the MIDI Port Tab area, and are individually set for each port selected.

When the All Notes Off button on the tool bar is pressed, the message types checked will be sent:

All Notes Off - sent to all 16 MIDI channels. Most synths respond to this.
All Keys Off - Note Off sent to all 128 keys in all 16 channels. Only use this if your synth does not respond to the All Notes Off message.
Reset Controls - Sets controls to their default values.

When Active Sensing is checked MIDI Active Sensing is sent on each MIDI tick, only to the MIDI Output drivers that have this option checked..

Options for MIDI Port A Only:


SoftStep can synchronize to an external MIDI device as either Master or Slave. When in Slave mode, modules do not process unless the Master device is sending out MIDI Sync clocks. Slave mode also disables the Tempo Control, as tempo is controlled by the Master MIDI device. MIDI Sync defaults to "None," and the setting is not remembered. You will have to select this option for each session in which you want to use MIDI Sync.

Remote Control

When Receive is selected, SoftStep's Transport buttons are remotely set by MIDI Start, Stop and Continue messages. When Send is selected SoftStep will send these messages when the Transport buttons are clicked. This control is not remembered, and the default is not checked. You will have to select this option for each session in which you want to use MIDI Remote Control.

When Send mode is selected, SoftStep sends the Start message when the Run button is pressed at the beginning of a play list, or after the Reset button has been clicked. When Run is clicked to resume play that had been interrupted by the Stop button, SoftStep sends the Continue message.

When Receive mode is selected, SoftStep responds to a Start MIDI message with a Reset/Run action; and to a Continue message with just a Run action and no Reset.

General SoftStep Options

The remaining options are independent of which MIDI Port you select, or in the case ProgChg>Snapshots below, can be independently set to any MIDI Port.

ProgChg > Snapshots

When this is checked, external MIDI Program Change messages, on the MIDI channel and port selected in the drop down menu just below, cause SoftStep to change Snapshots. When checked, the Composer button in the Tool Bar is disabled. This control is remembered; and the next time you run SoftStep it will default to the prior session settings. If you can't access the Composer button, it is because this button has been checked previously - uncheck it and the Composer button will become active again.

Play Resets Clock

If this is checked, the toolbar Run/Start button will reset and synchronize all internal clocks. If the Reset Modules option is checked, all MIDI modules will resend their control settings.

Reset Modules

Upon release of the All Notes Off button, MIDI modules will resend their control settings.

High Priority

Check this option to force Windows to always give SoftStep enough processing cycles to run smoothly, even when it is minimized or in the background. This is off by default to avoid conflicts with other time sensitive programs, but if there are no conflicts on your computer, it should be set on.

Auto Align

Check to automatically align modules on an 8-pixel grid; uncheck to allow free placement of modules.

Poly for FCP 1-8 & Poly for FCP 9-16

The Floating Control Panel sliders may be configured to send their positions to MIDI as MIDI Control messages, or as MIDI Poly Key Pressure messages. Check to send Poly Prossure messages, uncheck (default) to send Control messages.

Trigger Off

Check to inhibit Trigger Control Flags (TLoad, TStart) from firing. Also inhibits the SysEx File and Chain modules from executing. This option is not saved; it always defaults to unchecked (nothing inhibited) when SoftStep first loads. Trigger Off is useful for debugging, and for recovering ssp files that have accidently been set (with the Chain module) to immediately exit.

SB Banks

SoundBlaster sound cards use a non standard MIDI Bank Change protocol. If your sound card is any of the SB type cards, including SB Live! and Audigy cards, check this option to enable MIDI Bank Change to work properly with these cards.

Font Warning Off

When SoftStep starts up, if it detects you are using a non standard font size it will give you a warning that some components may not display properly. Check if you would rather not see this warning. If you are using standard fonts, this option is grayed out.

Expanded Tempo

The normal tempo range is 1-254 BPM, however you can expand the upper range to as much as 1000 BPM with this option. Very high rates are useful mostly for processing incoming MIDI values, to give a higher sampling rate. Use this in conjunction with the MIDI Input Trigger options, below.

MIDI Input Triggers:

Note On Trigs
Note Off Trigs
Pitch Bend Trigs
Poly AT Trigs
MIDI Ctrl Trigs

These options set whether a MIDI input will trigger an immediate module execution cycle. When any of these are checked, whenever a MIDI input is received, modules set to Priority "M" (for MIDI) are immediately executed; then they will not execute at the immedite next cycle, to prevent counters from registering an extra tick. This gives SoftStep the ability to work as an exceptionally powerful and open ended MIDI signal processor.

Since NRPN (Non Registered Parameter Numbers) are groupings of 4 Control messages sent at once, only one of the three Ctrl triggers (MIDI Ctrl, NRPN MSB, NRPN LSB) should be selected at a time. When you select any one of the three, any other that was selected will automatically be cleared.

Keybd Pages

Check to allow keyboard function keys F1-F12 to jump to SoftStep workspace pages. F1-F4 jumps to N, E, S, W of page group 1; F5-F8 to N, E, S, W of group 2; and F9-F12 to group 3. Group 4 is not reachable by the function keys.

Lock Modules

When checked, modules will not be movable, and input connection buttons can not be changed. This option is stored with the individual file, not as a system option.

Lock Page Change

When checked, only the current page can be seen. NESW buttons become disabled, and you cannot change pages with the keyboard Fn keys, or by right clicking. This option is useful for setting up one particular page as the control interface page, with other pages of modules hidden. This option is stored with the individual file, not as a system option. Not available in the Player.

Lock Page Hide

When checked, the above two options, Lock Modules, and Lock Page Change, are disabled (grayed out) if either have been set by the original author of the patch. This gives developers the ability to freeze thier patches, so they cannot be changed by anyone other than themselves. This option is stored with the individual file, not as a system option. Not available in the Player.

Ran Seed

Sets the seed to be used by the Repeatable Random number generator. The RRand module, and all other random generators except for the Rand module, will repeat the same sequence whenever SoftStep is restarted, as when the Toolbar Run/Start button is clicked. This gives you a stable, repeatable composition even if you use random numbers. If you want a random series that never repeats, use the Rand module instead of the RRand module. If you want all modules to always start with a random series, set Ran Seed to 0.

WN Delay

You can delay the onset of the whole note count (available as the Control Flag Whole) by setting a a value (in whole notes) here. Whole note counting starts after the internal clocks are reset (as when Run/Stop is clicked), and after the delay set here.


Latency is the amount of "head start" MIDI messages have so they can be sent out to the synthesizer or sound card with no perceived timing inaccuracies.. When first installed, Latency is set to 0, as this gives the best performance in the faster computers that are available today . The amount of latency you may need for accurate timing depends on the speed of your computer and the amount of overhead software. Adjust the latency by entering the number of milliseconds latency you want into the text box. 200 milliseconds (1/5 second) works well in many cases. When the latency value is too small you will get timing errors, and the red timing error LED near the tempo bar will light up

Zero latency is a special case in which the output buffering is turned off completely and MIDI data is pumped directly out to the synthesizer with minimum overhead. This may be desirable when synchronizing to another MIDI device. If you have a fast computer you may find zero latency to be preferable to buffered MIDI. There will be missed notes when you are moving windows around, but normal play is stable and much more responsive.

Abs Clk A & B

SoftStep modules are normally run in a loop set to MIDI clock cycles, and controlled by the Tempo setting. However there are two additional module execution loops available that are not affected by Tempo. Set the timing of these two loops by typing a value into the Abs Clk input boxes, or with the UF Programmer function SetAbsClk. Timing values are in milliseconds (1000 msc = 1 second). Although you may set these clocks to any value from 0 to 32767, low (fast) settings will be limited by the computer speed and the complexity of the modules. Set the modules to run from the Abs Clk loop with the module's Priority pop up.

Unlike most other Softstep options, the values are stored & set with the .ssp file, and always default to 0 upon New, or when SoftStep is first loaded. To conserve CPU cycles, you should set them to non zero only when in use.

A note of caution when using the abs clock loops: Modules that depend on internal MIDI timers will seem to work erratically when they are run from either of the abs clock loops. This is because they will be looking at the MIDI timers for the clock ticks, but they will be calculating the results asynchronously via the abs clock loop. If you want a clock-like function to work properly in an abs clock loop, you can use the Free Run Clock, or a UF module.

Start Dir Button

Normally SoftStep starts up in the last directory you used to save or load a file. But you can change this to always startup in the same directory. Click the button to call up a directory tree dialog, pointing to the current directory. If you want to start up in this directory, just click the OK button; if you want to select a different directory for startup select it from the directory tree, then click OK. To return to starting up in the last directory visited, click the Float button.

Background Color Button

Click on the button to select a new workspace background color. The default color is always selected when you first enter the color dialog, so you can return to it by clicking on the button to invoke the color selector dialog, and then immediately clicking on "OK" to select the default color.

Erase Snaps

Normally Snapshots are a permanent part of the SoftStep composition, and the list grows as you add to the composition. This button wipes the Snapshot list, leaving the connections of the currently selected Snapshot, and erasing all others.

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