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Review: Final Draft 10

The newest version of the industry’s best screenwriting program adds a nice set of welcome, though not must-have new features.

When it comes to screenwriting for the entertainment business, few software programs can compete with Final Draft. This industry leading screenwriting program, endorsed by James Cameron and Aaron Sorkin, is used by nearly 300,000 screenwriters. Each iteration of Final Draft improves upon the previous version, often adding new and exciting features. The latest Final Draft, version 10, has some nice new features, though they’re not all must-haves - with a $99.99 USD upgrade fee or a $249.99 new version price, Final Draft is a bit pricey when compared to less expensive or free contemporaries.

In previous versions, one of Final Draft’s weaknesses was its lack of outline aids that help a writer see the “big picture” of their script. Other writing software such as Scrivener used to best Final Draft in this regard. But that has been remedied in the new version, as each script now includes a story map that allows the writer to custom tailor their work to whatever type of script they’re writing: TV show pilot or feature film to name two. You can even color code the beats you want to hit so that you can stay on track while you write your script. Some may argue that it’s not a ground-breaking feature but, as the old adage goes, “a good idea is a good idea.” Anything that helps writers with their stories and scripts certainly does no harm.

Another new feature is the Beat Board, which functions as a digital corkboard, allowing you to write out your story beats and align them how you want them to play out in the story. You can drag these beats into the story map and even create acts that are visually represented by a square with a line under it. This feature may not take you away from your real corkboard with its hundreds of note cards, but you might opt to use it for your next script and even save a tree or two in the process.

Collaboration is a new feature in Final Draft 10 and it’s certainly helpful for anyone who wants to work on a script online with other writers. All you need is to give your co-writer a code that provides them access and you’ll both have simultaneous control over the script without needing to hang at the same coffee shop. Collaboration is certainly useful for writers not working in the same location but both of you will need to upgrade to Final Draft 10 to take advantage of the new feature.

Alternative dialogue has also made its way into Final Draft 10, and it’s a welcome addition. When you hover over a line of dialogue, you have the option to add a line and switch back and forth between those lines. It also keeps track of how many alternate lines of dialogue you have. This way, you don’t have to keep remembering the lines that might best suit your script.  

With the previous version, when switching from a Mac to a Dell Computer, I encountered a peculiar issue: whenever I scrolled up or down, the script would become jumbled and illegible. It made navigating the script a living nightmare. You had to fix by manually moving up and down on the directional pad. When I contacted Final Draft 10 support, they assured me that the issue was being looked into and I was not alone in my plight. As promised, Final Draft 10 fixes the problem.

One feature that is missing from the Final Draft 10 update is support for Microsoft’s Surface Pro styluses. When I asked Final Draft support about this omitted feature, their response was, “Unfortunately, support for Surface Pro styluses, while announced previously, was not in high demand, and we decided to not proceed with support for it.”  It seems like a superficial reason for not including a feature but that seems to be the way things work these days.

Final Draft 10 is not a must have update, though the new features are certainly welcome. However, it’s hard to improve on fantastic writing software and your previous version might serve you just fine. It really comes down to how invested you already are with your current Final Draft release. And if you’re just learning about screenwriting and looking for a piece of software, consider that Final Draft is the industry standard. There are less expensive screenwriting programs which may suit you fine, but there’s something to be said for getting yourself the best tool available for the job at hand. 

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