By Tim Haddock Macworld.com | on July 07, 2009
Price When Reviewed: 155 . 49
Pros: Cross-platform compatibility; industry standard; improved Index Cards and Scene Navigator; full production rewrite support.
Cons: New file format not backwards compatible; pagination can vary when exporting to different formats.
Hollywood may love remakes, but ticket buyers beware: it's often tough to tell whether you're about to see a modern reinvention of a tried-and true tale, or a timeless classic ruined. Thankfully, Final Draft 8 is a solid sequel to what has become the industry-standard screenwriting application, offering an updated interface, a handful of feature enhancements, and a new file format.
As a 15-year user of Final Draft, I'm fairly accustomed to the program's quirks and subtleties. I wasn't really looking for an upgrade. But even I appreciated some of version 8's feature refurbs and flourishes. For example, users who take advantage of Final Draft's ScriptNote feature to give and get feedback from other writers will appreciate the readily accessible ScriptNote navigation controls, transplanted to the toolbar at the top of the main screen.
Similarly, newbies no longer have to search the drop-down menus to update their title pages; a button on the toolbar makes it quick and easy. Likewise, the Split Panels controls, which make it easier to view your Index Card outline and actual script pages simultaneously in parallel panels, have been relocated to this same prime real estate.
Final Draft 8 is also a lot easier on the eyes -- literally. The once frail and marginally legible onscreen Courier font has gotten a collagen injection, making it plumper and easier to read. And the Zoom feature now boasts twice the range (75 per cent to 300 per cent) of its predecessor, facilitating a better user experience with today's large widescreen monitors.
Final Draft's Index Card feature also gets a usability boost in version 8. The virtual index cards that are used for outlining and notes are now double-sided -- one side displays scene notes and the other displays corresponding scene dialogue and description. Unfortunately, flipping the cards is a little clunky, as you have to select the appropriate Index Cards state in the View menu, which then flips all cards simultaneously. Though I really enjoyed the double-sided interface, I found myself wishing that I could just flip individual cards with a mouse click.
Also useful for story planning and evaluation is the newly added Scene View feature, which strips your script to its bare bones, displaying only slug lines, a little description, and page numbers. Most importantly, it lets you add a title to each scene, like 'Hero Finds Amulet'. The resulting view essentially becomes a high-level skeletal outline of your story -- very handy.