Final Draft: an Overview
If you want to write scripts for movies or TV shows, you really need the right kind of software so you can easily conform to industry standards. Scriptwriting, more than any other type of writing, requires a very specific format. If you show anyone, such as a producer, agent, actor, or any industry professional a script that’s not perfectly formatted, it will instantly brand you as an amateur.
Trying to format screenplays (or other types of scripts) manually is a tedious process that will distract you from focusing on the creative aspects of writing. The best thing about Final Draft is that it lets you easily write your scripts in the correct format. Here are some of the features that make this such a useful tool for scriptwriting.
- Title page formatting. Final Draft automatically creates a correctly formatted title page, which instantly gives your script a professional look.
- Tab and enter using the menu. You simply choose the appropriate selection such as Dialogue, Action, Character, Transition, New Act, etc. and start typing. The software automatically formats it correctly so you can focus on the actual writing.
- Import files. You can import different types of files into Final Draft and reformat them for your script. For example, if you want to convert a story you’ve saved as a .text or .doc file, you can rewrite it as a screenplay in Final Draft. This is useful if you prefer to start your script in a free-flowing form and format it later.
- Automatic backups. You don’t have to worry about losing your work with automatic backups.
- Your pages will be automatically numbered according to industry standards. Pagination is another element you don’t have to think about as Final Draft handles it for you.
- Speech to Script (only for Mac). If you prefer to dictate your script, you can do this and have it automatically formatted into script format. For Windows users, we recommend the Dragon Naturally Speaking speech recognition software.
New Features in Final Draft 11
Final Draft is always evolving and adding features. Here are some of the latest features that are either new or upgraded from the previous edition.
- Real-Time Collaboration. If you have partners for your screenwriting projects, you can easily work with them using Final Draft. You can work with others anywhere in the world, adding and editing each other’s work instantly.
- Beat Boards. Scriptwriting is a highly creative process that isn’t just typing your action and dialogue but playing with ideas, adding and discarding ideas and characters, and moving scenes around. Final Draft 11 gives you a Beat Board where you can brainstorm “beats” which can be characters, settings, plot points, location ideas, or anything else. You can create, delete, and drag around beats to clarify your ideas.
- New Story Map. Scriptwriting requires you to organize many elements and plan ahead. With the latest Story Map features, you can connect elements from your Beat Board to your script. You can view beats while writing so you can bring them into the script at the right time. You can also plan ahead, such as introducing a character or plot point in a later scene.
- Revision Mode. Screenwriting is just as much about rewriting as writing. Final Draft makes it simple to revise and edit. You can add and omit scenes, lock page numbers (so changes don’t affect page numbering), and add, edit, or remove scene numbers.
- Tag Mode lets you tag elements such as locations, costumes, props, and more for production. Prepare your script for budgeting and scheduling.
Final Draft 11: Systems Requirements, and Cost
Final Draft 11 is available as a digital download for $249.99 for Mac (OS 10.12 and above) and Windows (OS 10). You can upgrade from earlier editions for $99.99.
Students and teachers can get a special discount and obtain Final Draft for $129.99. In order to purchase Final Draft 11 Educational, you’ll need to provide proof of academic status.
There are no Final Draft discount codes available at the moment, but you can get it for 20%-25% off on Amazon.
You can also get a discount if you’re in the military, a veteran, or a first responder. If you provide proof of your status, you can get Final Draft for $129.99.
Final Draft App for iPad and iPhone
Final Draft is available for the iPad and iPhone so you can write, edit, and send files from your mobile devices. This gives you all the powerful features of the desktop version, letting you instantly format your scripts. You can save your files to your device or store them on the Cloud with Dropbox or iCloud. You can get the Final Draft Mobile App for $9.99 on the App Store.
The app is especially useful if you also have the desktop version of the software. If you want to save money and only use the mobile version, your best option is probably to use it on an iPad and work with a dedicated keyboard.
Tips for Succeeding With Final Draft
Like many advanced software programs, there’s a certain learning curve with Final Draft. It’s not realistic to expect to start using it perfectly right out of the box. At the same time, it’s designed to be writer-friendly and most users get comfortable with it fairly quickly. There are quite a few resources to help you succeed.
- Consult the Quick Start Guide as well as the blog and articles provided on the website.
- Before you start cranking out your 110-page masterpiece, experiment with some sample pages as you get accustomed to the software.
- If you’re new to screenwriting (or even if you’re experienced), it’s helpful to get your hands on an actual screenplay and read it. Try watching one of your favorite movies and then reading the script.
- Read some good books on screenwriting. While Final Draft does make it as easy as possible to write and format your screenplays, it also helps to get as familiar as possible with the craft.
- Consult ProWritingAid, which fully supports Final Draft for grammar-checking and style-editing.
Final Draft vs. Scrivener
When considering any type of software, it’s always helpful to compare it to a competitor. There are many scriptwriting and more general writing tools on the market, none is more widely used than Scrivener. Scrivener, of course, is for all types of writing. It does, however, provide features for scriptwriting. How does it compare to Final Draft?
In addition to helping you write stories, novels, term papers, and anything else, Scrivener lets you format screenplays correctly. Its Corkboard feature is similar to Final Draft’s Beat Boards, helping you keep track of characters, scenes, locations, and other elements. Scrivener has some useful tools that are helpful for anyone, including anyone writing a script.
- Distraction-free writing. You can set up Scrivener in distraction-free mode to block out the many potential diversions that stop you from focusing on your writing.
- Goal-setting. Setting goals for writing sessions helps you stay on track.
- While Final Draft also has storyboard functions, some people prefer the Corkboard on Scrivener.
Here are some of the pros and cons of using Scrivener for screenwriting.
- Lets you write in any format. The main advantage of Scrivener over Final Draft is that it’s not merely for screenwriting but a comprehensive writing tool. You may want something that helps you write in other formats. Many people write novels and then turn them into screenplays. If you prefer starting out in the novel (or novella or short story) format, Scrivener is useful for this. You could then convert the manuscript into a screenplay right on Scrivener or use another software such as Final Draft.
- Low cost. Scrivener is only $49 compared to $250 for Final Draft. (Get an additional 20%-50% off of Scrivener here).
- Scrivener’s versatility can also be seen as a disadvantage if you want to focus on screenwriting. It’s a fairly complex program so you might get distracted by all the features that aren’t screenplay-specific.
- Takes time to learn. Scrivener is a fairly complex program, with even more features than Final Draft. You should expect to invest at least a few hours learning how it works.
Scrivener and Final Draft are two distinct tools. They have overlapping features but both have distinctive benefits. If you want to be able to write in multiple formats and still use dedicated software for screenplays, you may want to use both.
Is Final Draft a Good Investment?
If you’re serious about writing screenplays, Final Draft is the choice of most professionals in Hollywood. You can, of course, use other programs or even format your scripts manually. However, Final Draft lets you focus on the creative aspects of your work by automating the formatting tasks. It’s also quite useful for organizing your ideas.
If you’re looking for a cheaper solution, you can use Scrivener or another lower-cost scriptwriting program. However, Final Draft is a solid investment for anyone who wants to use the industry-standard screenwriting software.