Final Draft is a screenwriting software program that formats your script for you. Like many people who write the occasional screenplay, I had been advised many times by friends that Final Draft would make my life easier. I resisted for several years, saying Final Draft would take more time to learn than it was worth, and plus, at over two hundred dollars, it didn’t seem like a good investment. Well, I think you can guess where this is going: I have Final Draft now and I agree it’s worth the investment and it does make my screenwriting life easier both in the writing and marketing stages.
Final Draft Software (www.finaldraft.com) is a program that allows screenwriters to write their stories without having to worry about formatting. Basically, it formats your script for you, automatically, as you write, by guessing what element of the script you’re writing and then putting your words in the right slot for that element. The elements Final Draft can “guess” and place for you include: character, dialogue, action (scene description), scene headings, parentheticals, transitions, and shots (for those screenwriters who also like directing…). Basically, everything you need to do in a screenplay, this software can do for you. If the software guesses wrong, you can go to the tool bar scroll menu and pick the element you really want.
But the guessing and placing doesn’t end with elements. Like a well-trained pet, Final Draft also anticipates specific words you’re about to use. With a feature called SmartType, Final Draft stores your character names so you can hit just the first letters and the name shoots onto the page. If you have two character in a scene, and one just spoke, once you go to dialogue again, the next character’s name will pop up. If that name is wrong, you can hit delete and type in the right name. If it’s a character who was just talking, Final Draft will even throw in the parenthetical for you (CONT’D).
Final Draft also allows you to do more tracking than you may ever want to do with “reports” features. For instance, you can track the dialogue of individual characters or your whole cast, track revisions, select whole scenes for copy and pasting or cutting purposes. And Final Draft even collaborate with other writers online.
But wait, there’s more. You might not use it, but there’s more. Final Draft has a database of character names if you just can’t come up with one yourself. It also has a database of TV formats if you’re writing a sample for a specific show and want to know the layout. Final Draft also gives you an index card/note option, for when you’re in the planning stages.
As a long-time MS Word user, I thought it would be difficult to let Final Draft do the tabbing for me. It has been an incredibly easy transition – mainly because Final Draft is very easy to use. And for Word users, Final Draft encompasses many similar features. Your top toolbar has the normal components: bold, italicize, underline, copy, cut, paste, do and undo. There’s also a very cool function that allows you to save scripts as PDFs.
My only complaints are that the “save” prompt pops up too often and makes you re-name your screenplay each time. And the SmartType unfortunately picks up every name you type – including the misspellings and the names with too many spaces after them. So if you have a character Maria, and you mistype it Mariaaa, you’ll have to keep selecting which one you really want to use or go in and delete it from your Smarttype list. And I’m not even sure that always works. A last complaint would be the extra features you probably don’t need like all those TV templates and
But for the professional look that Final Draft gives me and the time it ultimately saves me in post-drafting clean-up (no more going through 100 pages and making sure all the character names are lined up right…) I think Final Draft is a worthwhile screenwriting tool. As for whether it’s worth the two hundred plus bucks? Well, I already spent it, so I’m trying not to cry over spilled milk.