It's time for another Final Draft upgrade review.
Final Draft 11 was recently released and it's got some nice new features.
Let me start by saying that I have tried virtually all of the top screenplay writing software and I find Final Draft the best for three reasons:
First, after using FD to write nearly a dozen screenplays and hundreds of TV scripts, I have found it to be the most intuitive and easiest to use.
Second, it is the most comprehensive program, with virtually every useful and necessary tool a writer could need. This is especially true if you are a professional and do revisions, reports or collaborate with a writing partner.
Third, and perhaps the most important for pros: It is the industry standard. Trust me, if you write professionally and you don't use FD the day will come when you receive an email asking for the original FD file from which you generated the PDF you sent in.
Now let's take a look under the hood of the shiny new 2018 Final Draft 11.
I'm not going to go over what was available in previous versions. You can check my earlier reviews for that. And I'm not going to go into the new features in depth. The best way to learn a program is to buy it, read the instructions and use it. I'm just going to give you my overall thoughts on the additions and how they are useful (or not) to me.
Here are some of the best new feaures in FD 11:
Although it is by no means of major importance to most screenwriters, I am actually most excited about the new INSERT IMAGES feature. You can put a picture anywhere in your script with a few simple strokes. For example, if you use the Windows snipping tool you can just copy any image on your computer or internet and simply paste it into the script.
Having written primarily animation scripts I have often found the need to add images. When you write a really weird character or prop it can require a lot of description. But, as they say, "A picture is worth a thousand words." This is especially true if you want what you write to be what appears in the storyboard and subsequent animation, and extra especially true if your script goes overseas to be animated. Here's an example of one of the images I created and inserted in a script:
Just try to describe that in a few words and imagine what it might look like after the description is translated into another language by one person, storyboarded by another, designed by another, then animated by still others.
To put images in scripts in the past (including my above burgermobile) I had to first leave room in the script for the image. Then I had to save the script as a PDF. Then I had to open the script in a PDF editor, insert the image and resave it. But then, if I did a revision, I'd have to repeat the entire process. I wrote an epic live-action sci-fi screenplay that required two dozen images. I've done a dozen drafts. It took me over an hour to re-insert the images in every draft. Now all I have to do insert them once and FD will automatically format the text around them so that if I add or delete text the images remain where I put them.
I love this tool!
The Tagging Tool allows you to track characters, story elements and more. You can tag scenes as character development, or as action scenes, or tag characters with colors so you can track them easily.
With this tool you can get a bird's-eye view of your script so you can see who is in what scene, where action versus character scenes are, follow subplots, etc. You can also tag scenes as in progress or complete or in need of editing. And if you're a production manager you can use this tool to help breakdown the script for production.
This can get as complex as you want, so I won't go any deeper into it here.
IMPROVED BEAT BOARD
Final Draft has had a Beat Board to help block out stories for the last few versions. FD 11 has upgraded this feature so you can now add color to differentiate characters, scenes, etc. You can also now add images for location or casting ideas. And you can put your research here as well, such as web links.
The Beat Board allows you to keep all of your story material in one place so you don't have to switch from FD to Word to Chrome, etc. while you're developing your outline and script.
SPEECH TO SCRIP
Speech to Script is another new FD 11 feature. But it's only for Mac. And as I am a Windows guy I wasn't able to test it. But if it's as useful as the speech-to-text app in my smart phone text messaging then I can't wait for Final Draft to put it in FD 12.
Do you write with a partner? Then you might like to know that FD 11 has realtime collaboration that allows multiple writers to edit text and chat simultaneously, similar to Google docs.
Night Mode is a simple feature that turns FD 11's normally bright white screen a dark gray, with lighter gray text. I write in my home office, so this feature isn't of use to me. But if you write in bed at night next to your not-so-deep-sleeping partner you might find it VERY handy.
SHOULD YOU UPGRADE?
When programs are upgraded the first question a user asks is, Should I upgrade? Here are the short answers:
If you have FD 10 and you're new to writing you probably don't need to upgrade. You need to focus on writing not cool software tools.
If you've got some writing experience you'll need to evaluate your skills and needs to determine if an upgrade will help.
If you're a professional writer, to paraphrase Nike, Just upgrade it! Pros should always use state-of-the-art tech. It's an attitude. BE a pro!