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Screenwriting Product Review: Final Draft 8

By Forris Day, Jr.

Over 10 years ago I purchased a copy of Final Draft 7 through the mail on a CD, and I was pretty excited the day the package came in the mail. I bought it because I worked at a public access television studio and Final Draft 7 had a program called Final Draft AV. It had a split screen mode to write your audio on one side and your video on the other. AV was designed strictly for video and television. Pretty cutting edge stuff for its time, and it certainly simplified the organization of a TV script. I loved it. As time went on though, my computer crashed. I got a new one, but I had “misplaced” (the word “lost” seems so permanent) my CD of FD-7, so I just used one of the free online screenwriting programs. I didn't mind because I wasn't writing much anyhow at that time.

Final Draft 7 was around for years without an update, then a few years ago, it got a facelift. Final Draft 8 (software and upgrade both on sale until September 30, 2013) was released with some new bells and whistles. The good folks at Final Draft let me test drive the newer version, Final Draft 8, and here are some of my observations.

Right out of the gate I like how simple the user interface is. There aren't dozens of tools and buttons to confuse you. Just a couple simple buttons such as View, Print, and Screen Setup. I don't know about you, but clutter-free environments are good for me because I'm easily distracted. There are tons of features packed in the program but they are not crammed in your face. They are easily accessed in the menu bar whenever you need them.

A important feature in Final Draft 8 is the index card view. It's nice because you can view all your scenes on color coded index cards, with or without dialogue, and you can easily drop and drag the scenes for effortless reordering. Use split-view mode with index cards on one side and your script on the other to move around the story quickly and efficiently.

Another feature I really like is Scriptnotes. Think of Scriptnotes as little sticky notes that can be place all over the script but they remain somewhat hidden. Put a note anywhere you would like. Use them to save ideas. Perhaps you have some dialogue you are not sure about but do not want to just throw out. Just make a note. As nice as the notes are, I feel they may be a little too hidden. All you see on the script is a small box with an exclamation mark in it which represents a note. There is a button on the interface to find them one at a time, or you can generate a report with just the notes. I'd love to see a color-coded box to make them more visual, but still, what a great feature.

When a script is finished it can be printed, saved as a PDF, exported to scheduling software and even registered with The Writers Guild. You can also have it read to you using it's text to speech capabilities. There are different voices you can program for each character, and you can adjust them. But in all honesty, they are so electronic sounding they are hard to understand and tell apart. I like where this technology is going, but I hope it gets improved in the future.

I have to give a shout out to the auto-save settings. How many times have you heard the story of people not saving their work? Dozens I'll bet. The auto-save can be set on or off, and the time between saves can be set to whatever you'd like. Even the prompt window can be turned on and off to make it run quietly in the background. Saving your work has never been this easy.

These are just some of the main features but there are many more in Final Draft 8. I recommend downloading the trial version and see for yourself how simple and clutter free this powerful software is.

Pros – Clean interface to keep distractions to a minimum. Lots of export options. Ability to lock scripts for production. Dozens of templates for TV shows, scripts and graphic novels.

Cons – As mentioned earlier, the notes are tricky to spot, and the voices still have a long way to go to be practical to use.

Bottom-line – A top choice in scriptwriting software that makes industry standard formating easy. Final Draft 8 is designed to bring your story from concept to production in a very streamline way.

See a video of Forris using Final Draft 8 on Vimeo.

Final Draft 8 Overview from Writers Store on Vimeo.


Get Final Draft 8 ON SALE until September 30, 2013

Download Edition Platinum Package
ON SALE! $169.00 (ends 09/30/2013) Compare to $441.85

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