Giving up on Final Draft

February 1st, 2011 | by | screenwriting


If there’s one thing screenwriters do more than writing, it seems like it’s complaining about Final Draft. Some pros have just given up and jumped ship despite Final Draft being, for whatever it’s worth, the “industry standard” of screenwriting software.

(And actually, the notion of any sort of “industry standard” just isn’t as convincing today, if it ever was.1)

Final Draft has always been a bit like writing in a funhouse mirror by strobe light. Glitchy text rendering, big chunks of the page not getting redrawn properly, traces of (non-)blinking caret left behind all over the place like breadcrumbs. Final Draft 7 in particular was a bit of a fiasco.2 Getting back to some writing projects after finishing up a feature, part of me hoped that Final Draft 8 would heal the litany of ailments suffered by its predecessors. But firing up the latest and brand-newest Final Draft on a brand new computer proved that would not be the case.

Final Draft 8 reveals that the non-intuitive scene numbering/locking hasn’t been changed, and the myriad of menu items used to manage page numbers hasn’t been streamlined. There are still far many non-undoable actions for an application in 2011, and undoing a single Replace All command with fifty words matched requires hitting Undo fifty times. Instead of, say, once. And aside of some cosmetic changes, the display/update behaviour of the editing interface is still glitchy.

(Using a Final Draft 8 on a Mac? For fun, try this: open a Terminal and type "/Applications/Final Draft 8/Final Draft" — including the quotes — to launch FD8 from the command line. You’ll see:

“Warning once: This application, or a library it uses, is using NSQuickDrawView, which has been deprecated. Apps should cease use of QuickDraw and move to Quartz.”

People may joke about how Final Draft feels like an old Mac app running in an emulator, but that warning is basically telling you that FD8 is still using the display technology from the 1980s that Apple told developers to stop using the better part of a decade ago.3)

The long list of things that life is just too frighteningly short for includes fighting with bad software. Especially at $250 a copy.

So what a industrious screenwriter should do is write his or her own. But that would be, you know, just crazy.

  1. Is anyone ever going to ask to see your .fdx file? No, you’re going to send them a PDF. No one’s going to care what program you typed it in.
  2. Final Draft 7 was a notoriously buggy release. To be fair, eventually Final Draft did fix a number of problems with version 7 — in the form of a paid upgrade to Final Draft 8. For $80. To fix the bugs that users paid for last time around. But hey, new toolbars.
  3. Final Draft did help cement, for better or for worse, much of what is expected of screenwriting software, so credit where credit is due: Final Draft 8 is the best screenwriting software that 2003 has to offer.

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