I’ve used a number of tools to write scripts on computers, using word processor add-ons to format the content for submission, to dedicated script writing products that have tools that are specific to the tasks performed by script writers. One product that I enjoy using was Final Draft – I wrote a review of version 7.13 when it was released and was satisfied with the product features. When I heard about version 8.0, I was curious to learn what the developers added to this already power industry-standard tool, so I contacted Software Editorial’s editor and he gave the go-ahead to do a review of the software. Final Draft sent me a copy and I immediately got to work testing the software – let’s get going with the assessment.
System Requirements - Final Draft 8 system requirements are:
Windows: XP; Vista, Pentium III or faster microprocessor, 512 MB RAM, 50 MB hard drive space, CD-ROM
Mac OS: 10.4.11 or later, 512MB RAM, 50 MB hard drive space, CD-ROM
Installing Final Draft 8
I installed the software from a disk and ran it on a Toshiba laptop running Windows Vista with SP 1 installed, a 1.9GB dual-core CPU, 2 GB RAM, a 120 GB hard drive, and a DVD-ROM. By default the software installs in C:\Program Files\Final Draft 8. No problems during installation, but a minor surprise when I first launched the product. I was doing research so I had multiple IE browser windows open, and during registration each open IE browser had a 2nd tab opened for me to use to register the product. I should add I didn’t see this with FireFox, so this seems like an IE-specific issue.
Getting Started Using Final Draft
The startup screen has separate areas for the script, navigation, and scene properties.
There are a lot of script templates included with the product (and a bunch more available online at Final Draft’s website), so I decided to start testing by creating a script from one of the version 8 templates. I chose a personal favorite: the Simpsons.
I started with a title ‘Krispy Krunchy, We Barely Knew Ye’, which would focus on Homer and Chief Wiggins desperate attempt to keep a failing donut chain open to satisfy their need for greasy donuts (Ummm, donuts). It was simple to modify the existing content to put my title and dialogue into print starting at scene 1 (the Simpson kitchen), where Homer learns his favorite donut shop will close very soon. And, as he does often, Homer leaps into action to prevent this catastrophe by recruiting anyone that shares his views – in this case, Police Chief Wiggins.
This was fun. The Final Draft 8 multi-window format helped keep track of all of the scenes in my script while I worked on the script. After finishing my Simpsons episode, I decided to create another script, but one where I used a template downloaded from Final Draft. At their website I found quite a list of templates.
I downloaded a Star Trek Voyager template and copied it to the c:\Program Files\Final Draft 8\TV Templates directory. It was in the list when I select File–New from Stationary
The Voyager template was Final Draft version 6 compatible and I had no errors when I used it to create a test script. The characters and scenes were the same as I’d remembered from the series, and I found it as useful as the version 8 templates.
My next test involved bringing in a script written in Final Draft 7 and testing for errors. No problems encountered and the software didn’t act up, although the script I used was not a large one. I would be interested in hearing any of our readers that from use this product if they experience any issues opening and editing scripts written in versions 6 or 7. I did contact Final Draft’s technical support with a couple of questions and they were fast, accurate, and helpful. For support, see http://www.finaldraft.com/support/ .
Let’s now look at the new and improved features of Final Draft.
New Features in Final Draft 8
1. Scene Navigator – A nice way to see the scenes by title and location and order. This is on the main workspace just like Scene View (see the first two screenshots in the Getting Started section of this review).
2. Page Count Management – anyone with desktop publishing experience is familiar with tweaking leading, which is the way to adjust the space between the lines in a document. Final Draft now offers this support, and the options are Very Tight, Tight, Regular, and Loose. I wouldn’t recommend newcomers use this feature, as page length is one way to determine the time necessary for that script. Still, this is a nice addition.
3. File Format (XML) – XML is the abbreviation for Extensible Markup Language. In essence, it lets someone define mark-up elements in something, so the data can be used by other products. What does this mean? It means someone can write a script with Final Draft and save it as XML and other applications can access the materials without needing to do a lot of reformatting. A product I reviewed and still enjoy using is Scrivner and it is one of the supported products. For a list of companies and products that work well with Final Draft, go to: http://www.finaldraft.com/company/technology-partners.php
4. Scene Properties Inspector – An easy way to have scene specific information on hand. I like using color codes for red (problem) and green (finished) to help easily keep track of my progress. This is on the main workspace just like Scene Navigator (see the first two screenshots in the Getting Started section of this review).
5. Scene View - very nice and convenient way to rearrange entire scenes via drag-and-drop. This feature is found in the View menu and it replaces the actual script, so you need to select View – Script-Normal View to continue editing your script.
6. Remember Workspace – Final Draft 8 now includes a feature I’d view as a must: being able to remember and restore previous workspaces for a script. It can be a hassle to try to remember everything you used when switching between scripts when working on more than one at a time, so this feature alleviates that problem. Nice addition.
1. Index Cards – One of the first things I learned about writing scripts is to use index cards to keep track of scenes – it helps keep multiple story arcs going as well as helps arrange the scenes for the best effect. This has been enhanced in version 8.
2. Templates - There are four types of stationary that can be used to start a new Final Draft 8 document: Graphic Novels, Scripts, Text Documents, and TV Templates.
The list by stationary type is:
Dark Horse, Graphic Novel, Image Comics
BBC Screenplay for TV, BBC Screenplay, BBC Taped Sitcom, BBC Three-Camera Show, Broadway Musical, Dramatists Guild Modern Stageplay, Dramatists Guidl Musical, Dramatists Guild Traditional Stageplay, Half-Hour Sitcom, Index Cards for Outlining, One-Hour TV Drama, Screenplay (Cole and Haag), Screenplay (Warner Brothers), Screenplay, Stageplay, US Screenplay (French), US Screenplay (German), US Screenplay (Spanish)
Manuscript, Novel, Outline, Query Letter, Text Document, Treatment
24, 30 Rock, 90210, According to Jim, Bones, Boston Legal, Breaking Bad, Burn Notice, Casualty (UK), Cold Case, Coronation Street (UK), Criminal Minds, CSI Miami, CSI NY, CSI, Days of our Lives, Desperate Housewives, Doctors (UK), Eastenders (UK), Emmerdale (UK), Entourage, Everyone Hates Chris, Family Guy, Fringe, Gary Unmarried, General Hospital, Ghost Whisperer, Grey's Anatomy, Guiding Light, Hannah Montana, Heroes, Holby City (UK), House, How I Met Your Mother, Jam and Jerusalem aka Clatterford (UK), Law and Order CI, Law and Order SVU, Law and Order, Life on Mars, Lost, Mad Men, Mad TV, Medium, My Name is Earl, NCIS, Nip Tuck, NUMB3RS, One Tree Hill, Prison Break, Rescue Me, Rita Rocks, Samantha Who, Smallville, South Park, Terminator Sarah Connor Chronicles, The Bil (UK), The Cleaner, The Closer, The Mentalist, The Office, The Shield, The Simpsons, The Suite Life on Deck, The Unit, The Young and the Restless, True Blood, Two and a Half Men, Ugly Betty, Without a Trace
3. Final Draft Courier Font – An enhancement to insure accurate page counts, whether viewing a script on a Mac or on a PC. I have experienced this before and like this improvement.
4. Revisions/Page Locking – This feature enhancement is intended for scripts going to production, allowing the ability to omit scenes, lock pages, etc. Nice to have when that piece is finally bought by a studio.
5. The Panels System – This keeps multiple windows in sync on the screen, which makes it far easier to keep track of the script without needing to switch screens (see the first two screenshots in the Getting Started section of this review). Very nice.
6. Built-in Spell-Checking and Thesaurus – No, this isn’t the first time Final Draft provided spell checking and a thesaurus. The version 8 enhancement allows selecting a different language than English to spell check a script. This is useful when multiple writers using different languages work on a script.
7. Final Draft Tagger 2 – This is another feature useful during production. This is a standalone program that provides a way to tag script elements for other areas like casting, costumes, makeup, etc. Like enhancement 4, this is nice to have once that script was bought by the studio.
8. Title Page, Cast Pages, and Location Pages - This is a feature associated with the templates (see number 2 under the Improvements section of this review). The templates include preformatted title pages, cast lists, and locations for that television show. This is the main reason I was able to quickly generate a couple of scripts – I didn’t need to get a list of cast member or typical scenes. One thing I read about script writing: no matter how good the script, if it is too expensive to shoot it won’t be used.. Having typical locations means that you, the writer, can create stories using known locations that are more probably available that new ones you conceive of on your own. Extremely nice enhancement.
The new product package is smaller than version 7, following the latest packaging trend, and I appreciate it as desk storage space is always at a premium. The printed manual is more than adequate and thankfully it is written in more languages than English and bad English. Very good online and e-mail-based technical support, which should not be overlooked.
The modest hardware and software requirements are a welcome relief from products requiring 9 to 25 GB of drive storage space and 2 GHz+ CPUs to properly function. While I didn’t test Final Draft 8 on a Netbook, the modest hardware requirements lead me to believe it will perform well on those laptops as well as full-blown laptops.
Final Draft 8 is backwards compatible with earlier versions of Final Draft and it supports long filenames in Windows and Mac OS X. Final Draft version 6 and 7 worked on earlier versions of Mac OS (pre-OSX), so those versions limited script filenames to those supported by the OS. I found this out when testing a script I composed on my Vista laptop and then tried to open it using Final Draft 7.13 on my Mac Mini running OS X 10.4 – renaming my script addressed the issue. I should say that I do not see that this is a problem with version 8, but you should be aware of it if you plan on working with other writers that still use versions 6 or 7 on a Mac. I did not see this filename length limitation when I opened the script with a long filename using Final Draft 7.13 on a XP laptop.
One thing I really like about Final Draft is the ability to install the software on two computers. I like to take my laptop along on a trip, yet prefer the larger screen of a desktop when writing at home, so this is far better than either buying another copy of the product or restricting oneself to a single computer. Since computer hardware is prone to fail at the worst possible time, having the software on another computer could be a life-saver.
Huge variety of TV templates included with the product, plus many more available for downloading from Final Draft’s website. It was easy to locate a template from an existing or old show and then add it to the TV Template folder so that it shows up in the list. One minor caveat – while they had a template for Star Trek Voyager, there was a surprising and disappointing lack of templates for Babylon 5 or Battlestar Galactica or Doctor Who. Hopefully this slight oversight will be addressed in the future, if I’m not the only one lamenting their absence.
Only two minor things.
I was doing research when I installed the software, and the first time Final Draft runs it asks if you wanted to register the product. I had one FireFox browser window plus seven IE8 browser windows open when I wanted to register Final Draft, and Final Draft opened two registration tabs on each IE8 window. I used one of the tabs and it worked fine, but it was a minor inconvenience to need to close the extra tabs on the other seven IE browser windows. FireFox did not have this same problem, so this appears to be IE-specific.
When I opened a Final Draft version 6 TV template for Star Trek Voyage, the text area took up the entire screen of the workspace. I was able to resize that screen but I would prefer the software do it for me using either preferences or the existing script parameters. Yes, I admit I’m lazy, and no, this isn’t a problem with the software.
I was impressed how fast I could create new episodes for the television shows using the included template. It wasn’t useful just because it had the basic structure and characters of most episodes I’ve seen. The sample dialogue really nailed the characters, so I could start my own story without needing to watch an episode to get into the proper mood.
While I’d be hesitant to use a word processor to write a script, I would consider using Final Draft to write a novel (something it can do). Not that I’d submit it as a Final Draft file, but because the organizational aspects of Final Draft are convenient.
My favorite new features were the Scene Navigator and the Scene Properties Inspector. As for improvements, I really like the vast number of templates available with the product as well as online. I also like the improvements in the panel system where they keep the script in sync with index cards and scene view windows. My favorite enhancement was the Title Page, Cast Pages and Location Pages – this is a winner.
Buy it or upgrade to version 8.0. This is an excellent product and while Final Draft 7 remains a viable product that shouldn’t be discarded, this new update is well-worth the minor costs to upgrade from Final Draft version 6 or 7. I enjoy using this software and intend to spend as much time as possible with it on my own projects in the future. If you’re working as a professional or are taking a scriptwriting class at university, this is the scriptwriting software to own.