November 10, 2010
Screenwriting Software Review
Final Draft is the industry leader of screenwriting software, used by many in show business and across the world. It's easy to use, and has powerful features to help format the script for you, giving you more time to focus on the story. It's a very popular screenwriting software program with excellent features and superb technical support, beating out Movie Magic Screenwriter and Movie Outline. Final Draft earns our TopTenREVIEWS Gold Award.
Ease of Use:
Great screenwriting software needs to essentially get out of the way as you write your script. It needs to be easy to use, but you shouldn't need to think too much about the formatting, since the writing software is doing it for you.
Final Draft is an easy-to-use screenwriting software app, and it's also easy to learn. Basically, the software will handle the Hollywood standard formatting for you through a series of keyboard commands.
For example, after typing in "Fade In" at the very beginning of your script, you will hit the return key. Hit it again and you're given options of what you'd like to do next, including the corresponding keyboard shortcut. We take a look at these functions and options below.
Writing & Rewriting Features:
As we mentioned above, Final Draft makes it easy to just focus on your story while the screenwriting software takes care of the formatting. It uses basic keyboard shortcuts, such as the Return key, Tab and so on. When you're writing the script, if you hit Return, you'll be given a list of options, which include:
This may seem a bit much, but really, you're mostly just hitting the Return key and either typing the keyboard shortcut ("A" for Action, etc.), or using other keyboard combinations, such as the Tab key to put in parentheticals for dialogue description. You'll mostly be using the Scene Heading, Action, Character, Parenthetical and Dialogue options when writing.
- [G] General: Just a generalized formatting option; honestly, we never use it.
- [S] Scene Heading (or slug line): This is where you'll put the location and general time of day, such as EXT. DOCTOR'S HOUSE - MORNING. This means it's exterior, or outside, of the doctor's house in the morning.
- [A] Action: This is where you'll type out brief descriptions of what's happening.
- [C] Character: Formats the character name for dialogue; Final Draft screenwriting software remembers them as you type them out, making it easy to just hit Enter after typing the first letter of a character's name.
- [P] Parenthetical: This lets you add extra instructions for actors, such as (yelling) or (with a coy smile), in the dialogue.
- [D] Dialogue: Will adjust to the proper format for writing dialogue.
- [T] Transition: Final Draft will allow the proper format for writing in transitions, which are occasional ways to move from scene to scene quickly when great lengths of time pass. For example, you can use the transition to move a scene involving a man going to sleep to waking up the next morning in a new scene, by using "Dissolve To"; this will tell the video editor to put a dissolve in between both scenes.
- [H] Shot: Will properly format where you'd put a brief camera description.
- [ ] Cast List: You can put this list of characters at the beginning of the script for casting purposes, so potential actors can see who to audition for. It's not recommended you do this, unless the movie is actively casting actors for the roles.
These keyboard commands (tab and return) are common and universal with pretty much every screenwriting software on the market.
Not only that, but Final Draft screenwriting software expertly anticipates what you'll want to do next. If you just type in a scene heading and hit Return, the default option will be Action, to write a description of what's going on in the scene. From there, it will anticipate that you'll want to type in a character's name then dialogue and will give you those respective options.
The screenwriting software's SmartType feature will also remember the names of characters' locations, shots and more. This is yet another great feature that keeps you focused on writing the script, thus saving you plenty of time.
Trust us, this application really makes formatting a script to Hollywood's strict standards easy. You won't even have think about your keyboard shortcuts as you focus on your story. You also won't be trying to remember how many times you need to hit the Tab button or the spacebar to format the scene headings, action, character's names and dialogue.
Other writing features include ScriptNotes, to write down ideas or give feedback; CollaboWriter, which allows writers to work together online and in real time; Writing Management, to see if you're meeting your screenwriting time goals; a spell-checker and thesaurus; and Panels System, which will put the script into either a Scene View (just the scene headings) or Index Cards (breaks down the script into index cards that can be printed) for easier viewing of the screenplay.
When the script is done, you can easily register it with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) to protect your story in case the idea is stolen. Other features include "Reports", which creates a cast list, the locations and more. "Text to Speech" allows your computer to read back the script, so users can hear how the dialogue and action sound out loud.
Do you ever have a bunch of different saved drafts, and you're not sure which is the latest one? We recommend using Script Compare to inspect the latest drafts to see which one has the most changes.
If your script is going into production as a film, you will likely have to do some rewrites. Final Draft screenwriting software has you covered. You can lock pages that don't need to be revised and change the color to the corresponding revision. During filming, the movie's cast and crew need to use color coding to keep track of new and revised script pages.
Now you probably won't use every feature we listed, but it's great to know they're there if you do need them.
Multiple Format Export:
This category is more for competing screenwriting software. Because Final Draft is such an industry standard, and used worldwide for scriptwriting, competing software apps need to be able to export and import a script as a Final Draft document (.fdr or .fdx).
While Final Draft screenwriting software users don't need to worry about this, the app does support importing several non-screenwriting software formats, such as Word, Rich Text and more. You can also select File, "Save As", and save the file in Rich Text, Plain Text, HTML and others.
When it comes to exporting, this screenwriting software is designed to work seamlessly with other apps. For example, you can export the script into compatible formats that can be imported and used to schedule the movie's shoot, and also with Avid professional video editing software, which makes it easier to edit and reference the script.
Final Draft screenwriting software offers several different templates that can be used not just for writing a movie script, but also multiple for television shows, stage plays, and even comic books and graphic novels. This is especially great if producers hire you to write a script for a show like "The Simpsons"; you can download script templates from the Template Library at Final Draft's website. The graphic novel templates are even formatted by company, such as Dark Horse Comics and Image Comics.
There are also templates for writing "treatments" (a short, narrative summary of your screenplay), character biographies and more, to help you develop the story and characters. It's a well-rounded screenwriting software app.
If you're writing television commercials, corporate videos, training videos and the like, we recommend checking out Final Draft A/V, which is aimed at that style of writing.
Help & Support:
Final Draft offers great support for registered users of the screenwriting software, including installation and general technical support. You can get free phone activation, 24/7 phone support (free for 90 days for up to 20 minutes, then $2.50 per minute), email support, a FAQs/knowledgebase page, an interactive trouble shooter and live chat during business hours.
The live chat is the best bet, since it's completely free, and if the problem can't be solved via chat, they'll call you for free to work it out.
Final Draft is the industry standard screenwriting software for a reason, thanks to its breakthrough features that speed up your screenwriting by doing the script formatting for you. Many professional and budding screenwriters in Hollywood and across the world use the software to write their scripts because it's so powerful and easy to use.