How Patchboard Works
Patchboard has a number of different subsystems that differ from typical audio & music software. Below is a brief technical overview.
User Interface & Web Server
Patchboard uses web technologies to make its UI available on any device and platform with a modern web browser. Whenever Patchboard is running, it shares a web page to your local network. This web page actually is Patchboard’s UI. Whenever you look at the user interface on your main computer, that’s actually a thin wrapper around the same web page.
Patchboard is only available inside your local network. It is inaccessible from the internet unless you modify your network and firewall to allow access to it. (I’m not sure why you’d want to but you never know!)
Menu Bar / Task Bar App
While Patchboard’s UI is accessible on any device on your network, the brains of Patchboard are all running on the same computer as your DAW. When it’s running, Patchboard’s icon and menu will be available in the menu bar (macOS) or task bar (Windows). That icon indicates that the web server, DAW plug-ins and MIDI integration are all active.
Of course, that means that if Patchboard isn’t running on your computer, it will not be available on any of your other devices either.
Patchboard uses different methods to integrate with your DAW, depending on the specific DAW. Patchboard maintains a list of tracks in your current project and information about those tracks. In most cases, Patchboard acts as a control surface plug-in to obtain this information.
DAW integration allows Patchboard to recall and record arm tracks, as well as detect when a user has record armed a track inside the DAW itself. This integration makes pulling up patches and showing the appropriate controls in the Dashboard seamless.
MIDI for Instruments
MIDI is the lingua franca of music software. Patchboard creates a virtual MIDI port (macOS only) so it can switch articulations or other settings on instruments. For this to work, the host track needs to be record armed in the DAW so that MIDI from Patchboard gets passed through to the target instrument.
It doesn’t matter whether the instrument is loaded in Kontakt, PLAY or Vienna Ensemble Pro on a different computer. As long as MIDI from one of your tracks is reaching that instrument, Patchboard can use that same conduit to control its settings.