Screenwriting Secrets » Final Draft
Final Draft, perhaps the most immediately recognizable screenwriting program, premiered originally as a straight Macintosh program in 1991.
While the rest of the world went predominantly toward IBM-based PCs with their Microsoft Windows operating systems, Hollywood remained largely Mac-based. Macintosh computers' OS and colorful ad campaigns seem to generate a calming ease of use aura that Hollywood readily bought into. So, Final Draft remained Mac exclusive until a few years ago when the PC version premiered.
Final Draft automatically formats scripts into standard Hollywood dimensions. Through the use of Smarttype Lists, it knows to center a character's name on a page, and then to jump to dialogue after the character's name is entered. The program even guesses a character's name for you. Type in "J" and the software will automatically finish the "-ohn" for you.
Final Draft also keeps track of your sluglines and transitions, guessing those for you as well.
The program offers templates that match standard film, sitcom and stage plays formats, allowing you to use Final Draft for many of your creative outlets.
The program's main window looks like a standard word processor with pull down menus and a ruler. But, all of Final Draft's specific features center on screenwriting. These features include:
Scriptnotes: Final Draft allows you to insert notes or story bits into pop-up documents that "hide" in your script. Inert the note and it disappears into the text -- leaving just a pop-up icon for you to click when you wish to review the note. The Scriptnotes do not print with the script, and they remain in place until you delete them.
Bookmarks: This feature easily lets you earmark important areas of your scripts (such as plot points or act breaks) that you may wish to return to and review often.
Scene Navigator: Perhaps Final Draft's most impressive feature, Scene Navigator allows the writer to review his or her script scene by scene in outline form or in index card format. you can even write your script first in outline form using this index card function and watch as Final Draft turns those cards into a script. Also, you can mix and match and rearrange the scenes in a script by interactively playing with your outline or index cards.
Revision Mode: By simply selecting a single command in the pull down menus, a writer can activate revision mode. From that point until the writer deactivates the mode, every line that receives any sort of a change will be marked with a "*". Also, all text entered from that point changes color (from black to red, blue, yellow, etc.). It easily allows a writer or reader to locate any revisions quickly and efficiently.
Final Draft includes many of the standard word processor bangs and whistles to match its script-specific tricks. The program comes with a dictionary, thesaurus, multi-level undo and redo, and extensive ability to import and export text files into scripts.
The program also allows you to take your script from first draft through revisions to shooting script. It numbers scenes, locks page breaks, and creates A or B revision pages. And, if your script runs a little under 90 pages or too far over 120, you can cheat the length by adjusting the "tightness" of the elements on the page!
In the brief bug department, writing dual column dialogue (i.e. two characters speaking at once) is difficult in Final Draft as the program can apparently only takes dialogue written in single column (standard format) and then rearranges to parallel columns.
In review, Final Draft is easy to use, powerful and effective. If you have the $200 and change to add it to your screenwriting arsenal, it pays for itself soon afterward in fewer headaches and more rapidly written scripts.
To purchase the latest edition of Final Draft (Win/Mac), click here.
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