Why you should use Fade In instead of Final Draft

December 29th, 2013 | by | screenwriting

Dec
29

I made Fade In because I just didn’t think Final Draft was good enough anymore. And so Fade In, as part of striving to be the best possible screenwriting software, takes what Final Draft is doing wrong and does it right. Here are just a few things from that list.

[Of course this is my opinion, and of course I’m biased toward Fade In and against Final Draft — I mean, I did feel the situation to be dire enough as to require me to write my own, better software — but if I’m actually wrong about anything, please let me know.]

Text rendering

If you’re a screenwriter, there are times when you’re going to be spending a lot of time staring at your computer. Sometimes all day. And you really need your screenwriting software to not actively wear your eyes out. Screenplays are text. Screenwriting software works with text. It has to do a good job of making text readable. No, scratch that: it has to do a great job of making text readable.

Fade In features a custom-designed layout and rendering engine built from the ground up to do the highest quality, most consistent text rendering possible on modern operating systems. Final Draft is built on an old foundation that can’t keep up with today’s (or even last year’s, or the year before that’s) technology; and even then it’s traditionally received a lot of criticism for its substandard, glitchy rendering.

Try this in Final Draft: Type something with the latest version 8 of Final Draft on a year and a half old Retina MacBook Pro. The text will look like this:

finaldraft_retina



when you really want it to look like this:

fadein_retina



That’s just not okay for someone to be looking at for hours on end. (And it’s really unfortunate that Final Draft users have had to continue to suffer with it for years — adding Retina high-resolution text support to Fade In took, if I remember right, two whole evenings.)

(And for added text-related fun, try to use something like the popular  Courier Prime with Final Draft on Windows and watch your line spacing go right out the window.)

Unicode

Ever since, like, the mid-1990s it’s become increasingly essential for applications to have support for Unicode, or international text. In fact, it’s pretty darned rare today to find a professional, commercial application that doesn’t have a substantial level of Unicode support. Unfortunately though, you don’t need to look too hard to find a screenwriting program that doesn’t.

Which is problematic. Because increasingly screenplays are making use of anything from phrases in a different language to full-scale, in-script translation for co-productions, subtitling and dubbing, etc. Not to mention screenplays actually written in a language other than English.

Fade In supports Unicode. Screenwriters around the world have been using it to write scripts in Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Greek, Thai, Hindi and a host of other languages. Final Draft, on the other hand, has what’s called “8-bit” support, meaning it supports ASCII — basically English or anything that uses the same alphabet — and whatever other limited accent characters a font provides, as long as there aren’t too many of them.1

Try this in Final Draft: Copy and paste something in, for example, Chinese (例证) or Russian (пример) to Final Draft. Or, for that matter, the Euro currency symbol (€). Instead of this:

fadein_unicode



you’ll get something like this:

finaldraft_unicode



(Those garbage characters are symptomatic of a legacy application that cannot handle Unicode text.)

Dual dialogue

Showing two characters speaking at the same time is an infrequent but sometimes-useful thing. Both Fade In and Final Draft allow you to format so-called “dual dialogue” with two dialogue elements side-by-side. Fade In does this as elegantly as possible, rendering the dual dialogue properly and allowing you to edit either side/column, with the page text reflowing as you’d expect.

In Final Draft it’s a little more…complicated.2

Try this in Final Draft: Select two consecutive pieces of dialogue then, from the menu, Format > Dual Dialogue. The selection gets turned into dual dialogue and everything looks fine until you realize…you can’t edit it. You have to change it back to regular, non-dual dialogue, edit it, and then make it dual dialogue again. And if you should happen to accidentally backspace over one of those non-editable blocks of dual dialogue? The whole thing gets deleted. With one stray key press.

(Just for reference, Microsoft Word has had easily editable, multiple columns since sometime in the mid-1990s. And it’s another thing that only took a couple of days to add to Fade In, so I have no idea why it’s still so rough in Final Draft.)

Find and replace and undo

At this point it almost feels unfair to pick on Final Draft’s poor implementation of find and replace and undo, but those are such fundamentally important things for a word processing program to get right that a broken implementation has a huge impact on usability.

Fade In has seen a concerted push to make every possible editing action undoable, with the goal being that any change can be easily and seamlessly undone. The same cannot be said for Final Draft, which still has many undoable actions that affect the state of the document, and even those that are undoable are…well, take a look at this:

Try this in Final Draft: Change the name of one of your major characters, say from “Charlie” to “Michael”, using Edit > Find. Let’s suppose there are 100 occurrences of “Charlie” that are replaced with “Michael”. But then imagine you realize, oh, wait, I already have a Michael character. So you can’t just find-and-replace “Michael” back to “Charlie” without incorrectly changing the existing Michael. No problem, you think, I’ll just hit Edit > Undo to undo what I just did. Except Final Draft is going to make you hit undo —

— 100 times. Once for each replacement. Undoing one at a time. We’re two days from 2014 and Final Draft is going to make you hit undo 100 times.

Oh, and if one of those words to be replaced happens to be in one of those aforementioned blocks of dual dialogue? Final Draft won’t find it, but you’ll never know that unless you go back and proofread again and happen to find the missed word.

Fade In, on the other hand, undoes all 100 replacements at once. Like any program made in the last twenty years should. In fact, it even has a “change character name” function for this particular situation, which is smart enough to get capitalization right. And it works (obviously) in dual dialogue, too.

iPhone and Android support

Final Draft has a fifty dollar iPad-only app that provides some limited editing functionality of their desktop version. But what happens if you only have your iPhone with you and want to get in a few words? Or if you’re not an iOS user at all and have an Android phone and/or tablet?

Fade In Mobile is available for iPhone, iPad and Android, and provides round-trip syncing capabilities between your device(s)  and the desktop version of Fade In Professional Screenwriting Software. And it costs five bucks vs. Final Draft’s $50.

Try this in Final Draft: You can’t.

Free updates

Fade In Professional Screenwriting Software has been updated dozens of times in 2013, adding new features and improving or enhancing existing ones. And every one of those updates has been free. Final Draft, on the other hands, hasn’t seen a significant update for years. And Final Draft updates have recently ranged from $79 (on sale) to $99 to upgrade from a previous version (i.e., up to twice as much for a single upgrade as the full version of Fade In, with free updates, costs).

Try this in Final Draft:  Well, first get out your credit card…


  1. So you can get away with using Final Draft for writing in French, Spanish, etc. Depending on the font.
  2. The inability of other programs to do dual dialogue properly is something I’ve gone into detail about before. In fact I wrote a whole other post about it.

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