Final Draft Writer, Worth The Wait? – An App Review

By Jeremiah Hall (doddleNEWS)

I need to come clean about something upfront – I’ve been waiting for this for over two years. When I first got my iPad, I immediately thought, “Final Draft needs to be on this.” And so I and other writers with iPads waited.

We learned from Final Draft that they were working on an iPad version, and we patiently waited. Then an announcement that it was being pushed back, and a longer wait. Along the way I tried several different apps for screenwriting; some worked, others were a pain. Then along came the Final Draft Reader for iPad which was met with cries of, “Why can’t I write with it, which is what I want to do?”

So when Final Draft Writer was introduced, I couldn’t wait to finally give it a spin.

Registration

I downloaded it from the app store with no problems. It opened and asked me to register the software. Registering gives me unlimited email and chat support, using the email address I gave during registration. If you need phone support, you have to pay by the minute. Final Draft also offered a 20% discount on Final Draft, ScriptXpert coverage services or the webinar series Insider View to those who register. So if you are still on Final Draft 7 or below and want to upgrade to Final Draft 8, that would knock the download upgrade price to around $64.00, instead of $79.95.

When you open it, the document library pops up first.

Documents.

Final Draft Writer gives you four different screenplay formats to work with: screenplay, stageplay, TV-hour drama, or TV-sitcom. This screen feels like most of the writing and database apps I’ve used on the iPad – plus button to make documents or files, edit button to arm and delete files. I created a new screenplay, and called it “Test screenplay.”

I know some people are good with touchscreen typing. I am not. I have yet to meet someone who can quickly and accurately type on a touchscreen. It’s been my experience that it’s one or the other. I type anywhere from 50 to 90 words-per-minute, depending what I’m doing. I also learned to type on a manual typewriter, one where you have to press down HARD. As the years have passed, I’m still brutal to keyboards. I’m already on my second keyboard on my two-year-old desktop. This is one of the reasons I use a bluetooth keyboard with my iPad, so I don’t break the iPad itself. The other reason is screen real estate; using the onscreen keyboard eats screen space. I like to see as much of what I’ve written as possible as I work.  A wireless keyboard with Final Draft Writer let’s me type on a physical keyboard at speeds I’m comfortable with. It also let’s me keep a full script page on screen, which I prefer when working in Final Draft.

Keyboard onscreen in portrait screen mode.

I prefer day-to-day to use the iPad screen in landscape (horizontal) position rather than portrait (vertical). Using Final Draft Writer in landscape mode makes the type a little larger at the expense of being able to see the whole page at once. This is one of the few apps I’ve used that I truly like working with the screen in portrait orientation instead of landscape.

Writing in Final Draft Writer

Working with Final Draft Writer feels like working with Final Draft desktop. The familiar tab to the next element is still there. There are also quick keys at the bottom of the screen to change your last line into a different element. Fade in, Fade out and Cut to are still there. Everything you need to properly format a screenplay is there. CONTS are still there. Final Draft Writer gives you some control over font-style and paragraph style if you want it.

Scripts are saved to the iPad. You can email scripts out or import them in from email. You can also use a Dropbox account to save and load scripts. You can also use iTunes file sharing to load scripts onto your iPad.

I knocked out a page as an example with some errors for testing purposes. Holding down on the screen does what any iPad app would do with text – it let’s you do the regular select, select all, paste, insert or move the cursor. Lightly touching a misspelled word brings up spelling suggestions, ignore once, ignore all, and learn functions.

Tools

There are still SmartType lists. If you make a mistake in one – I purposefully typed “CHEF – V.O.” instead of “CHEF (V.O.)” to have something to test this with – you can correct it and then have Final Draft Writer rebuild all the SmartType lists. You can make a title page. You have some control over headers and footers on pages. You can find and replace. You have the option of scene numbers. You can lock pages.

Revision colors.

You can turn on revision mode, and choose between showing the active revision set, collated script or all revision sets. I like that you can turn page colors for revisions on and off, choosing the color you want the page for the revision.

You can choose to highlight the lines of a particular character, handy when dealing with rewriting dialogue or reading sides. You can email reports, from cast reports to statistics reports, which also generates said reports.

You can add ScriptNotes by holding down on a character, like you would do with a selection, but instead of touching select, you would touch insert.  This gives you the option of adding a ScriptNote or a page break.

There are some things missing in Final Draft Writer that you can do with Final Draft. I can’t figure out how to do dual dialogue in the script. There is no notecard view. There is no online script registration with the WGAw. There is no panels system or scene properties inspector. There is no Format Assistant. There is no text-to-speech with assignable voices. You are limited to only working with .FDX files, no importing .TXT or .RTF. You can work with only four script formats. You won’t be writing a novel on Final Draft Writer anytime soon. I’ll be interested to see what future Final Draft Writer updates hold.

In other words, this will not replace the desktop/laptop version of Final Draft. But I think it will compliment it. I noticed in the shooting script example that comes with the app there is dual dialogue, so I know it’s possible to read it. Something tells me an update may fix this.

Some of the production features of Final Draft are missing, such as Tagger 2 – but I wouldn’t discount a Tagger app built-in with a future update, or a separate version of Final Draft for producers and assistant directors breaking down scripts.

I’ve tried several different screenwriting apps. Some I’ve enjoyed, others not so much. But writers are creatures of habit. Final Draft was, and is, my go-to writing program for screenplays. Looks like it will be on my iPad as well. The wait is over. It was worth it.

Final Draft Writer’s regular price is $49.99.  It’s introductory price is $29.99 until Sept. 30, 2012. It’s on the Apple iOS App Store.

Check it out.

About Jeremiah Hall

I am a videographer living in the Cincinnati, OH area. I have over fifteen years experience, with my name on a couple of Emmys and a Murrow or two. When I'm not in front of After Effects or teaching editing techniques, I like to play with camera equipment and as much tech as I can find the time for.

Comments

  1. simon fairhead says:

    Writing a screenplay on an iPad? Isn’t that like shooting a feature film on an iPhone – possible but not ideal.

    • Heath McKnight says:

      With a wireless keyboard, it’s possible.

      • simon fairhead says:

        Sort of like a…laptop?

        • Jeremiah Hall says:

          Well, yes and no. I never liked the form factor of laptops in the first place. Tablets, be they IOS-based or android, let me set up my screen where I want it and, via bluetooth keyboard, type the way I want – all without having to lug around a laptop and a bluetooth keyboard. The iPad / apple bluetooth keyboard combo takes up less space in my backpack then my old macbook did. It also weighs less than my old macbook.

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