Final Draft 8 Review

29 Comments

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If you’ve ever harbored the desire to write for the silver screen and tried to do something about it, you’ll already know about Final Draft, the showbiz industry’s favorite scriptwriting software.

Everyone in Hollywood uses it; Studio Execs, beleaguered Producers, hot-shot directors… even Michael Bay uses it, but don’t let that last one put you off. If you use Final Draft, you’ll be in the company of James Cameron, Guillermo del Toro and Richard Donner. JJ Abrams is quoted saying, “Even if you don’t own a computer, I recommend buying Final Draft.”

The company behind Final Draft — also called Final Draft — has crammed an impressive array of tools and functionality into version eight. In fact, there’s so much functionality that for novice users it can seem daunting getting to grips with it.

The good news is that it’s really quite easy to get started with Final Draft, particularly if you have some idea of how movie or TV scripts are constructed. And even if you don’t, Final Draft makes the learning process so smooth it’s really just part of your work flow. The software keeps your work in order, properly formatted, properly structured, yet never gets “in the way.”

A typical script workspace

There is a mountain of goodness packed into this release. So much, in fact, it’s beyond the scope of this review, but here’s a quick rundown of the highlights.

Templates

If you’re unsure of how to structure your script, you can use one of over 50 television and movie templates bundled with the application. There are dozens more available on the Final Draft website, too, though the assumption is that you are a naughty software thief so you must provide a valid customer number before you can download them.

Templates comes in lots of flavours, including movie scripts...

Templates come in many of flavors, including movie scripts...

...TV shows...

...TV shows...

...Graphic Novels...

...Graphic Novels...

...and even good old fashioned manuscripts.

...and even good old fashioned manuscripts.

Smart Element Formatting

The single greatest feature in Final Draft is its intelligent and intuitive element formatting. The software watches what you type and anticipates what you are doing next. With only the tiniest bit of learning, you’ll find yourself zooming through scripts faster than Stephen King can knock-out novels.

Smart Elements pop-up works a lot like IntelliType

Smart Elements pop-up works a lot like IntelliType

Speech

Final Draft lets you assign the Mac OS X system voices to the characters in your script, and have them read-aloud. Ask any writer — there is enormous value in hearing another voice read your dialogue back at you!

Choose which character gets which voice...

Choose which character gets which voice...

...then hit play!

...then hit play!

Scene Tools

Brand new Scene Navigator and Scene View tools provide handy ways to view, structure and manage your script without scrolling through a hundred or so pages every time you need to check scene order, or remind yourself exactly when it was your characters fell into that trash compacter… Was it before or after your hero blasted the controls to extend the bridge?

Scene Navigator Scene view Scene properties

File Format

A new file XML-based file format improves compatibility with modern productivity software and other script-writing tools.

And more…

Also packed-in to version eight is improved page formatting and counting, workspace management, powerful production features for preparing a finished script for distribution or revision, a neat new toolbar and an apology from Final Draft for selling a copy to Michael Bay. (OK, that last one is a lie. But if you’ve cringed at the dialogue in Tranformers, you know that man owes us all. Big time.)

Just as a professional graphic artist can’t get far without learning Photoshop, anyone who’s serious about screenwriting should have a copy of Final Draft.

29 Comments

Brad

I gotta agree with some of the sentiment here. I’ve been using FD since FD 5 and they all have been buggy as hell. Pages sometimes skipping 20-30 pages down for no reason, screens cut in half, where scrolling down then up is the only thing that will help, etc. I agree that FD knows they’re top dog and so don’t innovate or bother to clean up their code. It is disheartening to say the least. CeltX is a cool alternative, but like others have said here, producers expect to receive files in fdr(x) format now. Try to send a CeltX file and be taken seriously. In this way FD has become kinda like Microsoft–fat and lazy.

Reesa Guerra

Acting and Script writing is my full-time job. (I have the latest file draft 8) and I am currently working on a series. I was working on the 4th script-when I noticed everything was very, very slow. I got out of final draft, went back in-same thing very, very slow. I restarted my computer and when I did that particular file I was working on, no longer opened. I received an error message that said, “File not compatible with this verison of final draft” Final Draft has also been exiting out lately-for no apparent reason. Its frustrating. I am not sure how to get back the work I just slaved over. I keep restarting with my fingers crossed…no luck so far.

Clearsky54

I was just about to download my FD8 upgrade, but after reading these comments, I will not. I can easily save my script as a PDF in FD7, with the title page; I cannot imagine that they’ve made that obsolete or more difficult in FD8; that wouldn’t make any sense. However; if people are saying that things are lagging or that there are other issues, then I’m not going to download it. FD7 isn’t perfect, but it is better than FD6. I also, years ago, used Scriptware (or Scriptwriter, can’t remember which); I used it on a PC. It was brilliantly simple and did everything it was supposed to do. I only switched over to FD because “that’s what everybody uses.” I have never, ever been happy with it, but FD7 IS better than FD6. And yes, you can use it on a Mac. I will also say that I personally figured out certain printing issues with FD (which I’m still having) by myself, despite paying for support. I also found that FD support can be (not always) a little uppity and the staff do not like it if FD is criticized or if negative comments are made. I am severely disappointed that I am reading the negative comments on this site about this new release, and so, I’m just going to eat the $79 upgrade and wait till they get to the next level (if ever) or try something else. How disappointing!

Henry

ANYBODY KNOW, IF COULD BE USED WITH FLASH MEMORY PEN-STICK (FD 8) SWITCHING FROM PC TO PC, OR IN MY CASE DIFFERENT NOTEBOOK, TRAVEL ONE ETC., TO HOME-NOTEBOOK?

Thanks,
Henry

J

I just purchased the FD8 upgrade and already I’m having type lag. I mean, isn’t this basically just a word processor? Unreal. I used to use Scriptware back in college and it did EVERYTHING FD does and MORE and operated smoothly every time (on a much slower, less sophisticated computer back then). Celtx works better than Final Draft. They’ve got somewhat of a monopoly on this and if my previous screenplays had not been in FD format and I didn’t need to be compatible with writing partners who’ve been suckered into FD as well, I’d have been just fine writing everything on Celtx in the future. Want to stick it to the man, but I AM the man. ARRRGGGG. Who writes the FD program code anyway, Syd Field? Ultra lame.

Peter

I’d be interested the faker template as I need to convert a novel into a screenplay for an upcoming workshop in a month and FD might not be worth the investment… feel free to send to peter.sibley@world-television.com
Thanks
Peter

spacemonkey

Hi Marie – FD does actually have a half-way decent importing feature from Word and suchlike. If the script is laid out in a way it will understand – with names in capitals, and sluglines for scenes beginning with INT or EXT – you can save your Word file as either a plain text or a rich text file (the subsequent layout is sometimes iffy depending which one you use, so maybe plump for rtf). Make sure you take out all the scene numberings – FD numbers things itself and gets cranky if you already have them in.

Then you import the file and tell Final Draft it’s a script, and it does a pretty good job of putting everything into the right places. It will get the formatting wrong on a few bits and pieces, so you have to check through it and manually tell it when it’s mistaken a scene direction for a scene heading or whatever – but it’s certainly way less time-consuming than re-versioning it all by hand.

If anyone wants a copy of my above-mentioned Final Draft Faker template for Word, which lays things out more-or-less exaclty how FD would, with similar automated features, I’d be happy to supply gratis (though not quite sure where/how).

Marie

Is there a program that can take word docs (mac) and transfer them into FD or other formatting program? I just optioned two scripts, but both were done in MS Word and there are formatting issues…so I thought about transferring them into a program like FD that would “clean them up.” Any ideas? Or should I stick with Word and saving as PDFs?

Paul

I really wish there was another option than Final Draft. It’s laggy & buggy and sucks up memory; there doesn’t seem to be any specific way to export your scripts as pdf’s, which is a HUGE oversight (since many, many of the people you’ll want to read the script don’t have Final Draft).

It’s also loaded with useless features that I’ve never even touched, and that I can’t imagine any screenwriter actually finding useful (Location report? Script Note report? Scene navigator? Script Compare?) The “Revision Mode” set of tools is baffling and hard to use, it really should be a lot more simple.

The title page function: why isn’t it just a set of simple formatting you can apply to the first page of the script document, instead of some sort of stand alone mini-document that needs to be opened and closed by itself?

And don’t get me started on the spell-checker… what screenplay dictionary on earth doesn’t have words like “damn,” “sh-t,” “fu-k”, and so on? Is this only for G-rated scripts? And even if one doesn’t object to telling the dictionary to “learn” these words, couldn’t it at least remember them for your next script?

The icing on this unappealing cake: the speech control / read-out-loud tool, which lets you assign awful robotic voices to “read your script out loud.” It’s a ridiculous joke that at least has offered some hilarity in various production offices in which I’ve worked.

A good screenwriting program should provide auto-formatting, a decent spell-checker, an easy title page, good file export options — and nothing else. Final Draft is indeed more or less the industry standard; unfortunately that doesn’t make it a good product.

Ed

Hi. I’ve been using the new version of Movie Outline 3 since it was released in 2007. I’m really surprised nobody else here mentioned it. I used to use Word for outlining and FD for formatting but now I can do it all in the same program and also develop characters and my structure. I’d be interested to hear other writers’ views on the software. I believe they offer a free trial on their website. Just google it!

Sharks

I am confused now…I was looking for some software for a birthday present for a friend who is doing an MA in Writing for the Media (she is currently using Celtx) I thought Final Draft would be the best but maybe she is better off using the free download.

Any advice greatly appreciated I don’t to buy a present that is not fit for purpose.

Thanks

Andrew

I work in the entertainment industry, and I have used just about every script writing software out there, from Scriptware, Celtx and Sophocles to Final Draft, MM, and Montage. For 99 percent of writers’ needs, they all work the same, do exactly the same thing, and each has their odd bugs and quirks. Yes, FD is pretty much the standard, with MM being a close second, but honestly, most scripts I see get passed around as PDF’s anyway, so the software really doesn’t matter. If you’re working near a professional level, close to a sale, or have the cash, then sure, demo FD and MM and pick your preference. If you’re a student, or ultra low budget indie, work with one of the free or cheaper options, and just focus on polishing your writing. Everything else is just hype.

Spacemonkey

You can make a template in Word that does pretty much exactly what Final Draft does, in terms of automated script layout, short-cut keys etc, in about 20 minutes. And it doesn’t cost you £200.

I recently had to purchase Final Draft 8 for work reasons, and as far as I can see, it’s a dog. Seems buggy as hell, and when I page up and page down the cursor plonks itself mid-way between lines of text, so you have no idea where things are going to appear when you start typing again.

Something this basic for a program that is essentially an overpriced uni-tasker seems insane. Many of my colleagues also cannot open my “new, improved” Final Draft format files, so I’m having to export as PDFs anyway.

But as long as it’s protected from criticism by virtue of being seen as the “industry-standard” software, are they likely to fix anything?

Brandon

Hi,
I am an entrepreneur/investor. I came across this forum looking for info about screenwriting software for a young friend of mine who is just starting to develop his screenwriting talents. After reading these comments I am curious if you screenwriters would agree that there is a need for a software that can be developed to better meet your needs as writers? I am not educated in what those needs would be; however, if a new software was developed that did meet those needs, would you buy it and implement it?…..assuming it was awesome to use. I know that this is hypothetical but i am just curious to see if this would be worth my time investment to look into more thoroughly.

Steve Hill

I have been using FD7 since 06. It had it’s problems, no question about it. You can read reviews from a boat load of unhappy customers floating all over the web. Collaborator wouldn’t work and worst of all, the Tagger would not allow script revisions imports without wiping out many of the previous Tagged elements. If you don’t produce, you probably would never need the Tagger so you would never know it didn’t work.

FD8 is buggy. They got the Tagger working properly but no two ways about it… Final Draft 8 is a pain in the butt. It lags, when you import a fdr file it screws up some of the import, the PDF file won’t save the title page and if you delete an ending dialogue line, the delete will suck the following Action line into the deleted dialogue field.

Sure, FD8 has a few more unneeded bells and whistles but WTF… it still doesn’t flawlessly perform the basic task it was designed for. You guys who claim FD8 is great must not spend much time using it or you promote it because you sell it. I would not recommend anyone with FD7 upgrading to FD8 unless you need a working Tagger. In my opinion, the only reason there is a FD8 is to generate sales. They only want our money. Every version of Final Draft has been filled with bugs. Each new version comes with new bugs. If software developers like Final Draft had to provide a product that works as advertised or refund the purchase price they would go broke.

Steve Hill – United Filmways

Jbone67

Do FD and Movie Magic run on Mac as well as PC? Can the install be transferred from a PC to MAC? Thanks.

Emon

Not to mention a template comes with Mac-based Pages app. I myself am a big fan of Celtx. It does all I need, minus voices that read back lines to you. I personally see no justification for using FD or MMS paying hundreds of dollars.

This is similar to having a really expensive DSLR and sucking at taking photos. Doesn’t matter what you write with if you write well. I wouldn’t compare working on FD with graphic designers and Photoshop though.

Jim

I would second the suggestion for Movie Magic Screenwriter. It has worked fantastic for me for years now.

Ken Burns Effect

Try Montage, its on third the price of FD!

Or Storyist wich is half once more, and as others already suggested free Celtx.

Writer's Assistant

Come on guys … can’t you be a little critical? I’m a writer’s assistant on a television series and know a lot of writers and writer’s assistants… and EVERYONE is EXTREMELY disappointed in this release. They still use their own proprietary spell checker that lags like crazy rather than just using the system-wide spell checker. There’s still no way to have it automatically letter your scenes (even though that’s standard industry practice for sit coms and Movie Magic has done it for years). For the number of years they had to improve their software, they really didn’t fix nearly enough. If you’re gonna review Final Draft, please be honest and let people know it’s a drain on the industry.

Liam Cassidy

Hi Writer’s Assistant, I just recently finished working (for ten years) as an executive in the television and film industry, and never once heard these sorts of complaints about Final Draft.

Perhaps it’s because I’m based in the UK, where, for reasons that baffle me, ScriptWriter is still fairly dominant (as well as a proprietary app from one of this country’s biggest broadcasters).

In any case – this article was meant to be a brief overview of FD, not a deeply-detailed critical analysis set against similar applications. Such an article is somewhat beyond the scope of The Apple Blog.

Thanks for reading and commenting, much appreciated :-)

jason

I can share Writer’s Assistant’s take. Also a working screenwriter and TV writer in LA, as well has having been a writer’s assistant. People use Final Draft because they have to. Despite it being buggy as hell, the FD folks are totally resting on their laurels as being the standard. I have been using version 8 and will say it seems more stable to me, but for the money, there really should be more features and customization options. I have tried Celtx and Screenwriter, too, but they paled to FD in many areas. Sadly, we continue to be stuck with a lacking piece of software.

Caskey

I’m going to have to second the comment about celtx. Celtx has a very active developer group and they have been updating pretty regularly. It really has become a viable competitor to FD and Screenwriter and there are professionals who now use it. As a free program, it’s really great for newbies who can’t invest $250 on the other software.

Ronaldinho

I wish this review had compared Final draft with its primary competition, Movie Magic Screenwriter.

I’m a professional screenwriter, and I switched from FD to MMS a few years ago because I was unhappy with a variety of technical issues I was having with an older version of FD.

I must correct a couple of statements in this review, however. While Final Draft is the most popular screenwriting software in the industry, Screenwriter is a close second. You will run into a lot of people who use both, and most professionals end up having both on their computers. This review makes it sound like everybody and their brother uses FD, when in fact there are two reasonable choices used in Hollywood.

Liam Cassidy

Hi Ronaldinho, Thanks for reading. Yes, I’m also a professional in that industry :-)

In my years of experience, though, I’ve used MMS and found it lacking. Perhaps it has improved recently? I will have to take your advice on that.

I’ve always found that, on most occasions, fellow writers and producers have assumed they will receive scripts in FD native files. Perhaps that’s just the circles I’ve moved in inside LA and London, I don’t know. But that’s my personal experience.

Bob

Nice overview. I think its worth mentioning Celtx as an alternative, free option. Obviously, if meeting the industry standard is crucial then Final Draft 8 is necessary. If not, Celtx seems to have the same features, and it is really easy to use. I used it for a script I had to write, and I could use it like a pro within 10 minutes of playing around.

Liam Cassidy

Hi Bob, thanks for your comment.

Yes, the article’s aim is to provide a brief overview of the dominant screenwriting software in Hollywood, and the established favorite in the industry. And thatis, by a wide *wide* margin, Final Draft. I know there are plenty of alternative cheaper or free writing apps (some of which I use every day) but they’re outside the scope of this article.

If you can recommend any more, please do comment again, I’d be really interested to see what else is out there.

Comments are closed.