The SoftStep Tool Bar

The Toolbar is the control console for SoftStep. While it contains some duplicated controls, such as the file controls, most controls are available nowhere else.

File Control Buttons

The first three buttons are the standard file control operations. New, Open, and Save. If a file does not exist when you click on the Save button, it acts as a Save As command.

SoftStep system files have the extension ".ssp" - they save the state of SoftStep, including Snapshots and all parameter values and connections of all the Snapshots. These files vary greatly in size from a few KB to 100 or more KB, depending on the complexity of your composition, and whether you have imported a lot of file data into the File Sequencers.

SoftStep remembers the last directory you saved to or loaded from, and it will default to that directory the next time it is run. Or you can load .ssp files and run SoftStep by double clicking on an .ssp file from any directory, which will become the default directory until you load or save in another.

Help Button

Pops up this Help document. Help in SoftStep is a standard web type htm document that you can read with most any web browser. SoftStep uses your default web browser to access Help.

Composer Button

Brings up the Composer utility. This gives the ability to create and edit a playlist of Snapshots that can be made into a standard MIDI file. See the Composer utility page for details.

The Composer can be expanded to show the playlist, or collapsed to show only the transport controls. When collapsed (the default), clicking on the Composer button will start it playing, so it becomes a Player button for the whole composition, not just the currently displayed Snapshot.

If the Composer button appears not to be working, it is because the Composer button is set to Off when you set Snapshots (below) to respond to MIDI Program Change instead of the Composer play list. To turn the Composer Button back on, select Options from the main menu, and remove the check from the checkbox that says: ProgChg -> Snapshots.

Snapshots

SoftStep's Snapshot, or Patch Save, system. At any time while you are working with SoftStep, you can click on the camera button to save the state of your composition. This will increment the snapshot number and add the snapshot to the list. Before saving the snapshot you can type in a descriptive name of the patch. If you forget to do this, no matter. You can use the update button (the squares to the right of the camera) to update the patch.

Snapshot 0, named AutoSave, is special. It is the default patch that is saved whenever you save your work. Thus, the latest version of your work is always saved, even if you forget to take a Snapshot of it. For this reason, you should avoid trying to Update Snapshot #0. To remind you of this, SoftStep does not let you rename this Snapshot.

To revisit a patch you have saved, select it from the list in the drop down menu. If you select the MIDI Program Change option in the Options menu, you can change patches with a MIDI Program Change from an external MIDI device. You can have up to 128 Snapshots per composition.

When you save a file, the save process reverts the display to the state of the most recent user defined snapshot, so it may seem that you have lost your most recent connections. When this happens and you want the connections back, drop down the snapshots menu and select autosave. All the connections will be restored.

File Has Changed LED

When you have made a change in SoftStep the LED graphic will go "on," indicating there has been a file change; and you will be asked if you want to save the current file when you exit, open another file, or clear the workspace with New. There is some gray area about exactly what constitutes a change, so you should be aware that some changes are not tracked. These are changes that are likely to be part of a performance, such as changing parameter values; and changes that do not alter the sense of the patch, such as moving modules.

You can disable the file warning popup by clicking on the LED. It will light up yellow instead of red when there has been a file change, and no save warning will appear on exit, New, etc. To restore the file warning, click on the LED again.

 Tempo Controls

Use the Tempo slider bar to change system tempo. Range is from 1 to 254 beats per minute. The four "LED" indicators to the right of the bar indicate: tempo (lower left, green), timing errors (upper left, red), MIDI input (upper right, magenta), and MIDI output (lower right, blue). When SoftStep is in Slave mode, synchronized to an external MIDI device (or another instance of SoftStep), the Tempo control is disabled, as tempo would be controlled by the Master MIDI device. See the Options page for information on setting MIDI Sync.

All Notes Off

With MIDI, sometimes you get stuck notes. Press this button to send All Notes Off messages to all MIDI channels - almost always this will clear the stuck notes. SoftStep is inhibited from sending MIDI while this button is depressed. Click it a 2nd time to resume normal operation. The MIDI data sent by this switch is configurable. See the Options page for details.

Run/Stop

Sets the Run/Stop Control Flags so you can start and stop playing from the tool bar. Duplicates the transport controls in the Composer utility page.

The Run/Stop button does not of itself run the SoftStep modules. It can not because SoftStep modules are always running. Every MIDI tick, every module is processed. What the Run/Stop does is set a value that reports to SoftStep modules what its state is, and it also sends out a message when the transition is from Stop to Run, that tells certain modules to reset themselves. It is very much up to the composer how the Run/Stop button affects the patch, and some patches do not use it at all.

Floating Control Panel

Shows/Hides the Floating Control Panel, which is a set of 16 sliders you can use for whatever you like. Whether or not the FCP is showing, the settings of the sliders are always available as Control Flags slider 1 through slider 16.

Each of the sliders can be labeled by right clicking on the slider you want to label. The label shows when you hold your mouse cursor over the slider for a moment (it is a tool tip, and works like the tool tips used throughout SoftStep); and you can also expand the FCP so that all labels are showing. To open and close the label area, click on the little button at the top of slider 16.

In addition to sending slider positions to the slider control flags, the FCP can be configured to also send the positions to MIDI as MIDI Control messages, or as MIDI Poly Key Pressure messages. Check the checkbox in the upper left of the label area to enable MIDI control message output. To switch from the default Control Messages to Poly Key messages, check the Options menu selections Poly for FCP.

You can minimize SoftStep while the FCP is showing, and just the FCP will remain onscreen, floating on top of any other programs. This gives you a handy way to adjust parameters on your synthesizer or soft synth from SoftStep.

The default for the MIDI control check box is unchecked, no MIDI output. The box to the right of the checkbox is the MIDI channel used to send the control messages. Use 1-16 for Port A; 17-32 for channels 1-16, Port B; 33-48 for channels 1-16, Port C; and 49-64 for channels 1-16, Port D.The next two boxes are the control message numbers in two groups of 8 consecutive control numbers. The default of 102 and 110 set the messages to the generally unused control numbers 102 - 117.

The L and S buttons on the upper right of the label area are to Load and Save the labels. Only the text labels are loaded and saved, and the format is a standard text file you can edit with NotePad, one label per line, a maximum of 30 characters per label.

Page/Bank Controls

SoftStep has 16 workspaces in which to place or create modules. These are arranged a 4 banks of 4 pages. The page buttons are labeled North, East, South and West, and the banks are numbered 1-4.

Click on one of the page buttons to make that page active. Modules on other pages continue to operate normally, and you can connect to them just as always.

You can get a listing of all modules created on all pages by selecting the top menu Map command. This will pop up a window with 16 lists of modules, one for each page. Click on any of the module names to go to the page they are in. Use the Map dialog to move modules to other screens.

Additionally, you can enable the keyboard Function keys, F1-F12, to instantly jump to the first 12 of the 16 pages. Enable this feature in the Options menu by checking the box labeled "Keybd Pages."

CPU Usage Meter

The little number display to the right of the page buttons is the CPU load in percent of available CPU cycles (not available in Windows 2k/XP). Running modules at very fast clock speeds or tempos, especially modules with a lot of moving graphics such as the Rhythm module, will use up more of your CPU processing potential. Keep an eye on this readout to be sure you are not overloading your computer.

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