PROS / Nearly everyone in the film industry uses Final Draft, and its document format is compatible with nearly all production software, which makes for an easy transition when it comes time to begin filming.
CONS / Even with this newest version, the interface feels antiquated.
VERDICT / When everyone in an industry uses the same software, it's usually for a reason. In Final Draft's case, the reason is that it provides the tools and features necessary to not only produce a stellar screenplay, but also to produce an excellent movie, which is the whole point of screenwriting software.
In the world of screenwriting software, there's Final Draft, and then there's everything else. This is not because Final Draft is dramatically better than the rest of the best screenwriting software, but because it is ubiquitous. It's the one constant across the entire movie-making world. Any writer, producer, director, agent or other professional who deals with screenplays is intimately familiar with both the Final Draft software and the files it creates. This is what "industry standard" means.
But simple ubiquity doesn't make Final Draft the best screenwriting software. Nor does its widespread use earn it our TopTenREVIEWS Gold Award. Final Draft earns these distinctions because it is simple, powerful and effective screenwriting software that is accessible to beginners and a valuable tool for professionals.
When you start a new screenplay in Final Draft, you're greeted by a blank page that looks remarkably similar to most popular word processors. The difference is that when you begin to type, Final Draft formats your words into the correct screenplay format. While normal word processors have so-called screenplay templates, they lack the ability to format things such as margins, orientation and page breaks according to the rigid demands of Hollywood's screenplay standards. It's true that you can manually set up these elements in a word processing application, but Final Draft takes care of all that for you.
Final Draft pioneered the so-called Return/Tab system. What this means is that the software can anticipate what element you're going to use next depending on weather you hit Return or Tab. For example, if you're writing a scene header or slug line, when you hit Return, Final Draft will automatically format the next line as an action element because that's the most common element that follows a slug line. If you're in the action element and you hit Tab, Final Draft will format the line you're writing as the character name element above dialogue, and then when you hit Return, you'll be in the dialogue element. This anticipation of what writer will do next is an example of what Final Draft does best – it keeps writers writing.
This screenwriting software's SmartType feature will remember the names of characters, locations, shots and more. This is yet another great feature that keeps you focused on writing the script, thus saving you time and brainpower.
Other writing features include ScriptNotes, to write down ideas or give feedback; CollaboWriter, which allows writers to work together online and in real time; Writing Management, to keep track of your screenwriting time goals; a spell-checker and thesaurus; and a Panels System, which will put the script into either a Scene View (with just the scene headings) or Index Cards (that you can print) for easy viewing of your screenplay.
Final Draft screenwriting software offers several templates that you can use for not only writing a movie script, but also to write scripts for multiple for television shows, stage plays, and even comic books and graphic novels. This is especially great if producers hire you to write a script for a show like "The Simpsons." You can easily download the correct script template from the Template Library on Final Draft's website. The graphic novel templates are even formatted by company, such as Dark Horse Comics and Image Comics.
There are also templates for writing "treatments," which are short, narrative summaries of your screenplay, as well as character biographies and more, to help you develop your story and characters. Final Draft is a well-rounded screenwriting software app.
When it comes to exporting documents, this screenwriting software is designed to work seamlessly with other apps. For example, you can export a script into file formats that can be imported into a variety of production software and used to schedule the movie's shoot, and also to Avid professional video-editing software, which makes it easy to reference the script while you edit the film.
A well-written screenplay is one thing. Getting that screenplay ready to be made into a movie is something that seems worlds apart. Final Draft has all the tools you need to bridge those worlds. Because the software is so widely used by writers, producers, directors and crewmembers, nearly all software that deals with an aspect of production accepts documents produced by Final Draft. So no matter what software you use to breakdown your screenplay, schedule your filming days or creating sides for specific scenes, Final Draft documents will always work.
That said, Final Draft does come with a great deal of features oriented toward native production. Arguably, the most powerful of these is Tagger 2. This standalone application breaks down your screenplay for a number of production departments. Casting, props, makeup, art, location, transportation, costume, camera and grip and electric departments all benefit from the breakdowns Tagger 2 creates, and it's exclusive to Final Draft. No other screenwriting software has a similar tool that functions nearly as well as Tagger 2.
No matter how well you plan your screenplay, there will always be rewrites. When rewrites are needed after a screenplay has been "locked" for production, new content is added as special colored pages. Final Draft is fully equipped for this, and even if you use another screenwriting application to write your screenplay, when on-set rewrites are needed, Final Draft will almost certainly be the application you use for those revisions.
We've already mentioned how Final Draft documents are compatible with nearly all other software used in filmmaking, so it makes perfect sense that this screenwriting software has offerings for Windows, Mac and iOS devices. The software for iOS devices is up and coming and doesn't have all the functionality of the desktop editions, but it works well enough for you to work on screenplays when you're away from your desk.
Help & Support
Final Draft offers all the technical and customer support we looked for when we rated and ranked the best screenwriting software. You can contact the company via telephone and email. If you want a quicker response, the company has live chat support on its website. Final Draft also offers free video tutorials and has an extensive FAQ section if you have trouble learning to use the software.
From "Fade In" to "Roll Credits," no screenwriting software beats Final Draft, thanks to its breakthrough features that speed up screenwriting by formatting scripts for you. Many professional and budding screenwriters in Hollywood and across the world use this software to write their scripts because it's so powerful, easy to use and widely compatible.