Basic concepts


A Parsim simulation project lives in a project directory. The project directory holds alla cases and studies of the project, as well as custom Parsim configuration settings and event logs for the project.

To start using Parsim with your simulation, you need to initiate Parsim in an existing directory, using the psm init command. This directory is now your Parsim project directory.

Configuration settings

There are a number of configuration settings, which control how Parsim works with you project. All settings have sensible defaults, which can be altered when the project is created. For an existing project, configuration settings can be modified with the psm config command.

The following table describes the available project configuration settings.



Default value(s)


Path to directory holding model templates for the project. Either an absolute path, or relative to the project directory.



Name of default model template directory (inside the template_root directory).



Name of file defining default values for all parameters of a model template. Path relative to template directory.



Name of default executable for psm run command, if not given on the command line.



Path/name of Python executable, for use with Python scripts and the psm run command.



Path/name of Dakota executable, for using Parsim as an interface to the Dakota library.



File containing ignore patterns. Files/directories matching a pattern will be ignored when templates are replicated into new cases.



Project-wide definition of patterns to be ignored when processing model templates and creating cases. a pattern will be ignored when templates are replicated into new cases.

‘.psm*’, ‘.git*’, ‘.svn*’, ‘*~’, ‘default.parameters’


Log level to use for parsim loggers (use only ‘info’ or ‘debug’ for correct behavior).



Default name of file containing results, to collect with the psm collect command.



Prefix to use when constructing a directory name for case directories from a case name.



Prefix to use when constructing a directory name for study directories from a study name.


Model templates

A model template is a directory containing all files necessary to run a particular simulation. The input files and scripts may be parameterized by replacing values and pieces of text with parameter names. When a new case is created, the template directory will be replicated into a case directory, and all parameter names replaced by case-specific values.

To create a model template, you usually start by creating a working prototype case, including all scripts used for pre- and post-processing and running the simulation. Then you identify the settings and parameters you want to modify.

Where to store templates

It is practical to place all model templates you want to use in the template root directory of your project. When you create projects, the model template to use is then specified as a relative path to this directory.

The template root directory is defined when you initialize your project directory, but can be changed later. By default, the template root directory is a subdirectory named modelTemplates inside the project directory. In some situations, the template root directory could be in a central location separate from the project, for example if you share model templates with your colleagues.

When you create new cases, it is also possible to specify the model template as an absolute path.

Parametrization of files and scripts

Parsim uses the Python library pyexpander to process parameterized text files in a model template. The syntax for parameters is a valid Python variable name, enclosed in $(). For example, to introduce a parameter DENSITY in an input file, you would replace all occurencies of the nominal value by the string $(DENSITY).

You must add the extension .macro to the name of all files containing parameters or macros; the extension is removed when a case is created and the file is processed for macro expansion.

The pyexpander library allows you to do very advanced operations in your input files, for example working with loops and conditionals; see the pyexpander documentation for details.


The syntax for the pyexpander library can in principle be used to redefine the value of a model parameter inside a parameterized text files. NEVER DO THIS, as it breaks the link between the values you define when you created the case and the actual values in your input files!

Default parameters

It is very important that all parameters of a model have well-defined values. Each model template should therefor define default values for all parameters in the model template. The default values usually represent a well documented and validated reference case.

Default parameter values are defined in a parameter file named default.parameters, located in the root of the model template directory.

Ignoring files in templates

When you define model templates, you may have files in the template directory that you do not want copied or processed when you create cases. You can tell Parsim to ignore these files by specifying a matching ignore pattern in a file named .psmignore, placed in the same directory.

For example, you may keep detailed model documentation in a subdirectory docs in the model template, and you have som include files with extension .inc, which are included by macro expresssions in other files. To avoid having these files copied into every case you create, you could but these ignore patterns into a file .psmignore in the template directory:


The following patterns are ignored by default:


These standard patterns prevent copying of the default parameters file and version control system files (in case your model template is under version control).

Cases and Studies

Your simulations take place in Parsim cases. When a simulation case is created, a model template directory is recursively replicated to create a case directory. Parsim operations can also be carried out on a study, containing multiple cases. A study is a directory containing multiple case directories.

Parsim cases and studies are created using the commands psm case and psm study, respectively. With the psm study command, multiple cases are defined in a caselist file; see Section Caselist files below. Studies are also created by the psm doe command, which offers support for common Design of Experiments (DOE) methods like full factorial and central composite designs, or random sampling schemes like Monte Carlo or Latin Hypercube. The psm dakota command allows parsim to be used as a front-end to the versatile Dakota library; cases of a study are spawned dynamically by Dakota, based on the methods defined in a Dakota input file.

To run your simulation, you would use the command psm run to execute a script on the case, or on all cases of a study, see Section Running scripts and executables. All events and operations are logged in event logs for the case, study and/or project. This provides tracebaility and helps documentation of your simulation project.

When creating a case or a study, custom parameter values can be defined using several sources, which are listed here, in order of precedence:

  1. Parameter definitions on the command-line (see the command-line reference, Sections psm case or psm study),

  2. For studies only: Parameters defined case-by-case in a caselist file (see Section Caselist files below),

  3. In a separate parameter file, which is named on the command-line (see Section Parameter files below),

  4. In a default parameters file located in the model template directory (this file has the same format as other parameter files; see Section Parameter files below).

Parsim also defines a set of parameters containing parsim-related case information, as defined in the table Automatically defined parameters with parsim-related case information below. The names of these parameters all start with PARSIM_.

Automatically defined parameters with parsim-related case information




Name of the parsim project.


Path to directory of the parsim project.


Path to template directory used to create the case.


Name of Study, if any (otherwise empty string).


Name of Case.


Case ID, which can be used as “target” with some parsim commands. Uses colon notation, for example A:1 for a case “1” of a study named “A”.


Version of parsim used to create the case.

When you create cases and studies from model templates, the default values are often used for many of the model parameters, for example solver settings. The command-line option --define can be used to set custom values for a small number of parameters. Otherwise it is more practical to prepare a parameter file, especially if this parameter combination will be used several times. When you create a study with multiple cases, a parameter file is often used to define parameter values shared by all cases in the study. The caselist file is then used to define only the parameter values that vary between cases.

The properties and formats of parameter files and caselist files are described in the following sections.

Parameter files

Parameter files assign real values for parameters in your model. Paraeter files are used when you create individual cases. When creating studies, a parameter file is often used to define all parameters that have the same values for all cases. The default parameter file default.parameters, located in the root of every model template, is also written in the same format.

In its simplest form, a parameter file is a text file with two columns separated by white-space. The first column contains parameter names and the second column defines their values. Parameter values can be numbers or text strings. Strings should be enclosed in single or double quotes.

The complete syntax of parameter files are described by the following rules:

  • Rows starting with characters “#” or “;” will be treated as comments and skipped.

  • Parameter name and value columns can be separated by white-space and/or by a single colon “:”.

  • Values may be numbers or text strings. Strings should be enclosed in single or double quotes.

  • If the value column (column two) is followed by one of the chracters “#” or “;”, everything that follows is treated as a description of the parameter. This may be used in later Parsim versions, to provide help to the user of a model template.

The following is an example of a parameter file, where we have used all valid format options:

#  This is a sample parameter file (these comment lines are skipped...)
; This is also a comment line. They can start with both "#" and ";".
; The blank line below is also skipped...

# Geometry parameters
length = 12.0
width: 8
height      24      # [m] Height of our object.
# It's practical to describe parameters this way (see above)!
# Especially in a default parameter file, where all parameters
# of a model template occur.

# Strings are quoted:
color:  'blue'

In practice, you would use consistent formatting of your choice, to improve readability.

Caselist files

A caselist is mandatory when you create a study. The caselist has one row for each case in the study and it defines the parameter values that differ between cases in the study.

The first row is a header row, starting with the string CASENAME as the first field, followed by names of the parameter to define. Then follows one row for each case of the study. The first field defines the name of case, followed by values for the parameters in the header row. Fields in a row are white-space or comma-delimited. Extra white-space is ignored.

The following example is a valid caselist file:

# Comment lines are skipped. (They start with "#" or ";")
CASENAME  length    width    height  color
A1        12.0      3.1      2       'blue'
A2        12.0      3.1      4       'blue'
B1        8.22      3.1      2       'red'
B2        8.22      3.1      4       'red'

Running scripts and executables

The command psm run is used to run scripts or executables; for an individual case, or for all cases in a study.

The first positional argument to this command is an identifier of the target case or study. This could be a single case or a study. It could also be a single case within a study; if so, both study and case names are provided, separated by a colon “:”. For example, s2:c1 identifies the case “c1” of study “s2”.

The second positional argument is the name of the script or executable to run. The remainder of the command line is forwarded as arguments to the script/executable. Unless the script or executable is given as an absolute path, it is looked for in the following locations (in order of precedence):

  1. The current working directory (where psm run is executed),

  2. The bin subdirectory of the project directory (if it exists),

  3. The root of the case directory,

  4. The bin subdirectory of the case directory (if it exists),

  5. In a subdirectory of the case directory, as specified by the option --sub_dir.

The script or executable executes in the root of the case directory, or in a subdirectory specified by the --sub_dir option. The subprocess running the script or executable inherits the environment of the calling process (the terminal in which psm run was called), augmented with a set of environment variables with parsim-related case information. These extra variables correspond with the parameters in the table Automatically defined parameters with parsim-related case information.


Parsim uses the subprocess python module to execute scripts and executables. Sometimes a script or executable will not run, unless the subprocess is started through a shell interpreter (corresponds to using the shell option of the subprocess.Popen constructor). This behavior can be forced with the --shell option of the psm run command.

Collecting results

Results from parsim studies may be collected conveniently in tabular format using the psm collect command. This assumes that the execution of a case produces a text file with output scalars in JSON format; see the tutorial examples.