I’ve been writing so long now I started on a typewriter. Seems mad now; you can’t delete typos, you don’t get multiple copies (can’t store them either) and maybe it was just me, but I always used to get my eight year old fingers stuck between the “s” and the “z”, taking the skin off them. Ouch!

I never came across Final Draft until I became a script reader; at university I always used MS Word and manually formatted as I went along. God it was dull! And time consuming. Final Draft’s price tag put me off at first; I thought, what could screenwriting software do that I couldn’t?? Then I had a go on it and loved it, so had to eat my words: it really did take the stress out of formatting. But I didn’t have a computer at this time and besides, I was a single Mum and had other stuff to buy, like food.

Anyway. Fast forward to 2005 and I had some spare money and I was gonna buy me Final Draft. Being a canny shopper I tried all the others as well, even the free ones, but they just didn’t do it for me. There was something so much simpler to Final Draft; I could write on it without reading the instructions and it didn’t explode or turn my scripts into gobbledy-gook. Naturally, being a technohoper not reading the instructions meant it took me most of the last four years to figure it out – I only found the “script notes” function about three months ago, lol – but basically: I was a Final Draft user and very happy generally with my lot. So when Final Draft revealed the much-anticipated Final Draft 8 and kindly offered me a copy to try, I have to admit I didn’t see *how* they could improve it. Whilst Final Draft was by no means perfect, it had everything I wanted… Or thought I wanted.

First off, it looks different: in addition to the top tool bar “Final Draft/ File/ Edit/ View” etc, there’s another tool bar directly underneath with picture icons to click on, making navigating to many functions A LOT easier and quicker. The title page is now one of those icons on the top tool bar as you write which I think is a great idea, since it took me AGES as a Final Draft newbie to figure out how to change it. What’s more, the spelling/thesaurus function is easily on hand too, which is great cos I often access the latter and find it really irritating to keep having to select it from the Tools drop-down menu. Script Notes too are on there now and it’s suddenly a function I use, unlike before when it was hidden away.

But the real advantage to Final Draft 8 over Final Draft 7 is the new “scene properties” button on the icon toolbar. Click it and a little window comes up where you can name or number the scene, make any notes on it that you want – or perhaps you want to “sum up” the scene or break it down – and you can colour code it too, one of seven colours including red, purple and grey. To help you do this there’s a Navigator so you can find all the stuff you need at a glance.

Whilst this multi-coloured function might seem superfluous to some, I think it’s a brilliant idea for those writers in need of help diagnosing structural issues in particular or other elements going “wrong” in their early drafts who don’t respond to more manual methods like index cards. I read a lot about other writers using corkboards, whiteboards, coloured pens and whatnot and the whole thing leaves me cold; I like it just me and my Macbook, so the opportunity to do the multi-coloured thing in the actual software is brilliant for me. Just imagine how much easier it will be now to flag up those “gut feelings” on problematic scenes – you can write a note to yourself, highlight it, come back to it later… I had essentially been doing this manually myself on Final Draft 7 using the highlighter from the “Format/Elements” function, but this is a waaay easier and more time-efficient way of doing it, plus there’s the room to make as many notes as you like without actually infringing on the text of your script like I was before.

I had just two criticisms: the “Assign Voices” function sounds as robotic as ever and they’ve put “save as pdf” under PRINT rather than FILE, which I think is a mistake as I’ve had several Twitter and email conversations with stressed writers believing there is no PDF function anymore when there most definitely is.

Overall however, Final Draft 8 has enough about it to feel like a much-improved Final Draft 7. I think if you’re wondering about taking the plunge and buying some screenwriting software, Final Draft 8 is the way to go as you’ll have a much easier time of it getting started. Final Draft 7 users can buy an upgrade to 8 which is considerably less than buying the whole thing; I’d recommend it if you feel like you’re not getting *enough* from Final Draft, especially in the way of navigation and ease of use diagnosing issues, etc. If you can’t decide, get them to send you a demo disc [visit site below].


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12 Responses to Final Draft 8 – Review

  1. Sofluid says:

    Oh I love the colours!!!

    However, as I only need my screenwriting software for writing scripts (as opposed to shooting scripts and other more advanced things)I still feel comfortable with Celtx.

    Like FD for you, I found I could use Celtx straight off without even reading instructions. It’s so user-friendly and, well, free…

    I would definitely consider FD if I found myself moving into more technical areas of script-writing/organising, but I think for now I’ll stick with what I’m using :)

    Thanks for the review – I wondered what all the excitement was about FD! :)

  2. Lucy says:

    Welcome Michelle. I like CeltX the best of the free ones, I get scripts from clients ever so often in CeltX and have the software on my old PC. Interestingly, though I get lots of enquiries asking me if I can accept .fdr files, hardly anyone ever asks if they can send me scripts written in Movie Magic. I don’t know why that is. I love Final Draft and it seems to me as if Final Draft is the most widely used in the industry – they have a *slightly* different, slightly smaller courier typeface “Courier Final Draft” and of the scripts I see, I would venture at least 75% have CFD.

  3. Jill R says:

    I've tried Final Draft and I love it, I might even think about buying it (and I never buy software) but I do most of my writing on my Netbook which doesn't have Windows on it. So to the makers of Final Draft: Please create a version that works on Linux. Until they do its Celtx for me.

  4. Wolf films says:

    I’ve found Celtx is fine for me – but I’m still at school and so writing scripts is a lot more of a hobby than anything else, though it’s user friendly I’m still slightly intimmidated by all the text opitons and generally stick to either scene headings, actions or dialogue – its great fun though!

  5. Antonia says:

    I’ve just used Scriptsmart up to now, though have downloaded Celtex ready for use. Final Draft does sound good, but I’m not very techie, so would probably frustrate myself for a while until I got the hang of it.

  6. John says:

    Hi Lucy, thanks for the review. Been wondering about whether to upgrade and that's given a really useful overview. One thing which would clinch it for me. Have they got round to putting a template for radio plays on there?

  7. Lucy says:

    Can't see a radio template John, just looked — there is a very nice shiny graphic novel template though! Could be I'm looking in the wrong place though…

  8. John says:

    mmm… bit of an oversight, methinks… I bought Final Draft 7, then decided to write a radio play and was mightily miffed to discover no radio template. And I'm really not enough of a techie to make my own templates, so I had to go back to the BBC Script Smart software. Again, fine. At least it's there. Just a bit annoying when you've just forked out all that money. Anyone know how to get a radio template on Final Draft? Or can we all bombard their helpdesk on the same day with a request for one? That'll get them!!!

  9. Eleanor says:

    Ooh, pretty colours! :)

    I may need to buy it….

  10. Wonderbarn says:

    The print to PDF function is a byproduct of OSX, not Final Draft. In past versions FD had the option to save a PDF version, but Apple incorporated that ability into their Print Menu (in other words, you can turn ANY document into a PDF file via the OSX Print Menu). Keeping the "Save As PDF" option would have been redundant, and taken up more lines of code, likewise eating up more of your system's resources. I have a love/hate relationship with FD, but it does the job admirably for the most part. I'll likely upgrade once any Version 8 bugs are reported and addressed as FD is notorious for releasing versions that aren't quite ready to go. (V7 anyone?) Thanks for the review!

  11. tkep203 says:

    Same case with Jill R, I've tried Final Draft and like it, may be even better than what I am currently using but i am not ready to trade-in my Netbook, I'm sticking it out with Linux.

    Kimberly Harris
    Atlanta, GA
    Webmaster of ImagineConsultation
    (SEO Company)

  12. Lumines Laser e Estética says:

    Hi Lucy!

    I think it's so cool you have a QR Code in your blog. I love those things!!
    I took a picture from your QR Code and it took me to a movie poster… very cool!

    My Blog – Clínica de Estética

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