288 of 296 people found the following review helpful
A necessary semi-evil
, February 11, 2012
This review is from: Final Draft Version 8 (Software)
I see that reviews for this program fall into two categories: (1) Wow, so this is how screenplays are supposed to look! This program automatically formats them. Awesome! I can write screenplays now and make movies! (2) I have to use this program for a living and this program is no more glamorous to me than a plow is to a farmer.
I fall into the latter category.
(Although I envy beginners their enthusiasm for formatting and begrudge them none of their excitement at entering the world of screenwriting -- that phase doesn't last more than a few months.)
If you're a professional screenwriter, especially for TV, then you pretty much have to use this program until someone comes out with something better that fulfills all the professional requirements needed by TV and film production companies. Sad, but true. Sad because, since this is a business of art, it would be nice to have a really elegant program upon which to ply said art. But FD gets the job done.
Final Draft support has been spotty over the last fifteen years I've been using it. Sometimes good, frequently not. They are quite a small company, and management has not always been... "people-oriented," shall we say? Many a show (I work mostly in TV) has suffered through innumerable glitches and crashes over the years, and there are still -- even at version 8 -- some oddly persistent problems:
-- nonstandard Mac interface (for example, pressing the Command and the , keys simultaneously should select Preferences like every other Mac program. It does not.)
-- still has many pagination bugs.
-- still has display issues that corrupt the display of the script occasionally.
-- nonintuitive interface that feels rather Windows 95 instead of Mac OS X.
-- bugs in the Revision Mode presets.
-- inability to set certain defaults in a new script, such as making Character Name follow Dialogue automatically. Instead, you must reset this every time you make a new script. For some reason, the programmers think an action line follows every piece of dialogue in every script.
-- company resources spent making useless features like speaking your script out loud and using index cards instead of fixing bugs.
-- thesaurus is barebones.
-- the "feature" called CollaboWriter that supposedly lets you collaborate online with a distant partner is nonfunctional. It has never worked in the real world. BTW, it doesn't work on Movie Magic Screenwriter, either. Do a google search and you will find that not one single reviewer or user has ever managed to get this "feature" to work. So, how they can advertise that their program has this function is beyond me. (I would LOVE to be proven wrong on this, as it would be extremely useful.)
EDIT: A colleague just showed me how to collaborate over the internet: use Skype! Do a video call, and then check the little box that says "share screen," and your partner can see your entire screen as you type! This is awesome and works very well.
-- since many writers are still using version 6 (or if they're unlucky, 7, which you should avoid at all costs) it would be nice to make a default "save" so that you could automatically save as an .fdr file instead of .fdx. It would also be nice to have a default zoom level and window positioning on the screen.
They are a small company, and they don't sell millions of copies of this software, so I think they make the bulk of their money by selling upgrades to new versions. They're not making enough to have a big customer service department, and the quality of that service has gone up and down over the years.
I pointed out a few bugs in the latest version (8x), and the head of the company told me, and I quote: "Yeah, we're not fixing those." He didn't even have the decency to lie to me and say he'd address in in a future incremental upgrade! You know, in Hollywood, when you don't care enough to lie -- that's bad news. He also made on odd confession to me. He said "You know, we don't sell nearly as many copies of this as people think we do." Hmmm...that explains a lot.
Anyway, version 8 for Mac works pretty well these days and I've had none of the fatal crashes and bugs of yesteryear.
I wish they would fix the online collaboration feature, but I don't know if they can since it would require resources they probably don't have. It seems oddly primitive that the only way to collaborate long distance is to save a file, email it, then repeat that process over and over. In these days of facebook and online chatting, we've gotten quite spoiled and you can't blame us wretched writers for wanting to see remotely what a writing partner is typing on the screen. But this is hardly an essential feature.
And you also can't blame us for holding residual grudges for all the times we've gotten burned in the past by this program. Writing is damned difficult, and when the actual software gets in the way, it's a ready target for our frustrations that may be stemming from the writing process itself.
Anyway, if you're a professional, you have to use this and you already know it. No matter what any review says. (Unless you don't need compatibility with a production company). If you're not a professional yet, but you really want to be someday, you may as well learn its quirks now. That way you can suffer along with the rest of us.
Bottom line: it works. It ain't elegant, but it works and it's solid these days -- I haven't had a crash in several years. (I've had pagination bugs and corrupted scripts but no crashes. Which reminds me -- SAVE your script after every few lines. Command-S on the Mac. I do it like breathing now because otherwise sadness will occur when files are damaged. Which is rare -- but it happens.) When they update the interface and address current bugs, I'll upgrade my review to 5 stars. But for now, they get 3. They lose stars for 10 years of frustration and failing to address current bugs. But they gain some for finally being stable, otherwise I'd give them a one.
Footnote: I'm writing this review as a professional screenwriter, for better or worse. For those just starting or contemplating starting a writing career, software is the least of your concerns. Don't obsess about it. No software in the world is going to make you a writer. No book is going to make you a writer. Go get celtx, a free screenwriting program and see how you like this writing thing. If you love writing and like your work, then go buy FD. It's a decent enough plow. Here's the best screenwriting advice I can give you: find your own voice. Don't try to fit in. Be original. You'll feel better and get hired more and be rewarded by the industry. (Unless you want to be a TV hack and turn out CSI episodes, then please suppress any originality. On the upside, the check from CSI will always clear and you'll have a very nice car.)
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