A new version of the screenwriting software Final Draft for Mac and Windows has just been released. I was on the beta test program but still I’m going to call this a first peek: call it a full and frank review of the price rather than of the program itself.
The quick summary is that this is definitely the nicest version of Final Draft we’ve had and it does add new features but nothing that would make you pause with your mug of tea halfway to your open mouth. I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss the new features but we’ll come to know whether they’re good or just gimmicks when we’ve been writing scripts in the app.
Script formatting hasn’t changed since time began and the ways in which Final Draft speeds up that part of the job can only go so far. They’ve gone so far. It’s unlikely that there will be some enormous new feature that you must have but there is something that I want. I want Final Draft to stop betraying the fact that it’s written for both Windows and Mac: it has always felt lowest-common denominator, it has always felt like an ancient PC app.
Of course it’s great that the app is on both platforms, the problem is that doesn’t feel as if it’s on either: it previously hasn’t kept up with Microsoft or Apple’s operating system.
Final Draft 10… still can’t quite shake that. Oddly, although the Mac version does still look like a Windows app, it’s still not as ugly as the actual Windows version.
It’s better. It’s getting there. And the reason for buying Final Draft at all remains how great it is at helping you zoom through a scene: forget writing out each character’s name in a fight, just write their line, trade their blow, hit return and give the other guy some words. This is the key part of the software, it is the key reason why it’s used: it means you can write down scenes just about as fast as you can hear them in your head.
If you don’t already have Final Draft, that would be the reason to get it. There are these new features, though. It is features, plural, as it really comes down to two. I’m being harsh: the makers would point to more but then they are obsessed with how Final Draft paginates and every time they boast about that, I think of how it is substantially less important than it was.
The two features that are worth examining begin with the story map. Sorry, Story Map(TM). They must be serious about it, they’ve trademarked it. Click on this and along the top of your screen where you might usually see a ruler, you get a timeline. Every scene has a mark on that time line and significant ones get bigger blobs. Click anywhere to go that screen. Or just look at the spacing between what you’ve said are the bigger blobby scenes.
Then there’s the Beat Board (also trademarked) which is to modern screenwriting what the cork board was to it before. If the cork board is for a single writer to plan out a single project, the beat board is more for a room of writers breaking a TV series.
That said, Final Draft still feels like an app for an individual, not a group. But there is now a collaborative feature: I’ve yet to test it out in anger or even really at all so I can’t tell yet whether it’s Google Docs-level collaboration. It’s certainly a way for many people to see the same script and exchange instant messages about it.
If you’re new to Final Draft then note that it retails for £188.40 ($249) but is temporarily on sale for £127.37 ($169. Education or military people can get some reduced price and upgrades can get version 10 for £75.36 ($99.99), temporarily reduced to £59.54 ($79.99). The reason for the odd Sterling price is Brexit. It will vary every time you look at it, but the trend ain’t going down.
You can buy the software from the official website where there is also a trial edition of both the Windows and Mac versions.
You can’t get a trial of the iPad and iPhone versions of either Final Draft Writer or Final Draft Reader. Never bother with Final Draft Reader. Just don’t. The Writer iOS app has been updated to work with Final Draft 10 features and if you already had it lurking away on your iPad or iPhone, you’ve just got the update for free. If you haven’t, then you need to buy and it costs approximately £23 ($29.99) temporarily discounted to £7.99 ($9.99). You can get this iPad and iPhone version here.