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.
Final Draft 8's Scene Navigator is a big improvement over previous versions' Navigator function. First off, it's now a floating palette, so you can leave it open all the time when you're writing and use it to quickly navigate to portions of your script in progress. In addition, it now provides a variety of scene information in table format, including scene start pages, scene page count, and colour coding.
How is this useful? Well, one might colour-code scenes according to whether they represent the adventure A-story, the romance B-story, or the humorous C-story. Thanks to colour coding in the Scene Navigator, a single glance helps you identify improperly interwoven stretches of story.
Also new to Final Draft 8 is the Scene Properties Inspector floating palette. Here you can add and edit additional scene information, including notes and scene titles, as well as more color coding. Personally, I use it as a mini "grocery list" to make sure that I don't forget any key ingredients of the scene when I'm writing.
Perhaps Final Draft 8's most substantial change is its new XML-based .fdx file format, which allows Final Draft scripts to work seamlessly with a variety of third-party story planning, budgeting, scheduling, and storyboarding applications. The bad news: Previous versions of Final Draft are unable to open this new format. This could make it a little more complicated to script-swap with others who have not yet made the upgrade -- which might irritate some users whose main reason for purchasing Final Draft was its universal, cross-platform compatibility.
The good news: Saving a script in the legacy .fdr format couldn't be easier. But be forewarned that page count and pagination can vary when bouncing between Final Draft 7 and Final Draft 8 formats, and that can be irksome when your lean 110-page comedy puts on a few pages.
Overall, I was very impressed by the stability and formatting consistency of Final Draft 8. It does what it's supposed to do, and it does it well. Veteran Final Draft users contemplating an upgrade can rest assured that all the bugs that plagued the release of version 7 didn't show up for the picnic this time around. During 10 days of testing, I experienced nary a crash or freeze.
Final Draft 8 is simpler than ever for beginning users; subtle feature fixes, bountiful script templates, and top-notch support for the production rewrite process ensure that an aspiring A-list writer won't quickly outgrow the software. But for existing users, the decision to upgrade may have less to do with new features than an increasing pressure to switch to the .fdx file format, which may follow in the footsteps of the .fdr format to become a new de facto industry standard.