Final Draft 8 – Product Review

You’ve come a long way baby!

It doesn’t feel like I’ve been writing all that long.  That is, until I looked back over all the different tools I’ve used over the years to write screenplays.  I started off on a word processor that only allowed me to see a few words at a time.  I’ve written in Word, Celtix, Zahura, Screenwriting Pro, Movie Outline, Movie Magic Screenwriter, and Final Draft.  Not to mentions countless outlining programs.  It’s safe to say I’ve been around the block.  I’ve been happily writing in Final Draft for a few screenplays now.  This past week Final Draft released the first update to their Final Draft 8, which has been on the shelves since late April, 2009.  I figured that now is the best time to truly rate this product.

First, I find the art on the cover ugly.  Maybe that’s just me.  I’m here to rate the program, not the cover art.  The first thing you’ll notice when you launch Final Draft 8 is that the Navigator is now a separate window.  Not contained in the panels like it was in version 7.  Below that is a brand new feature called the Scene Properties.  Here you can type notes that are specific to each individual scene.  You can also type a scene title and color code it.  All this information automatically reads into the Navigator, making it much easier to organize you script.

While Windows users won’t notice much of change to the toolbar areas, Mac users may be surprised to find that the toolbar is now connected to the script.  This is much better than the floating toolbar in version 7 that could get lost or hidden.  Also, much of the toolbar information, like zoom percentage and the element box, have moved to the bottom of the script.  The panels still exist in version 8 and there’s a new feature called Scene View.  Scene View allows you to see your script as a list of stacked scenes.  You can move them around with a simple drag and drop.  Also the color coding and other information you added in the Scene Properties translates into the Scene View.

Creating a PDF is a hugely important feature to have.  64-bit Windows systems like Vista 64-bit and Windows 7 prohibited the PDF function in version 7.  Final Draft version 8 has corrected for these new operating systems.  Not only can you once again save PDFs easily, you also have more options.  You can save page ranges, revisions, or sides to PDF.  In previous version you could not save text document files to PDF.  That has been added in version 8.  Now can save your script, treatments, outline, or anything you write in the program as a PDF.

Most noticeably the recent update to version 8 corrected a few small things that annoyed me in the initial release of version 8.  The Save as PDF button has returned.  There’s a Save button on the title page.  There’s a Send to Script button on the Index Cards so you can send notes directly into the script.  These were all necessary improvements, and Final Draft listened.

The program retails for about $249 on their website.  But the upgrade price is only $79.  That’s a huge discount for loyal Final Draft users.

My official grade for this product:  A