Final Draft 5.0 is a word processing program that is specifically designed for screenwriting. While it contains the common formatting tools of an average word processing program such as a thesaurus and spell checker, its real power is in its ability to save the writer time by saving him keystrokes when formatting a screenplay.
The real strength of Final Draft over a normal word processor is its ability to aid the writer in formatting their script as they write it. To create a characters name, simply push tab once. The cursor will immediately be indented the perfect amount for a character and capitalized. Type the character's name and push return, and the cursor will be indented for dialogue. Type the dialogue and push return again, the cursor will be back to the left ready for action. It is very effective and extremely time saving.
Final Draft automatically recognizes "int." and "ext." as slug lines and auto-completes the line as you type in the scene location. In addition to auto-completing and saving scene lists, it does the same for character names. Final Draft is a very useful tool because it helps the writer focus on writing instead of thinking about formatting.
Navigation and bookmarks.
Scripts can get very big. Final Draft helps the writer his way by offering three navigation tools: Index Card Tool, Outline Tool, and Bookmarks. Selecting the Index Card Tool opens up a new window and divides it into scene sections allowing you to get the big picture in a small view. The second tool is an Outline tool, which basically shows the slug line of each scene and the first sentence. Both tools also allow you to jump through the script by clicking on a specific index card or the slug line when using the outline tool.
One of the many helpful features of Final Draft are the downloadable Final Draft templates. The templates include 50 specifically formatted examples of television shows and are downloadable from the Final Draft website. The templates are extremely useful and intuitive to someone who is wishing to become involved in the screenwriting industry. In addition to being individually formatted for each show, each template comes with show specific notes that educate the user on the number of pages/scenes the script will generally run.
The bottom line.
Final Draft has long been considered the industry standard among industry professionals. Consequently, this program probably has the largest installed base. Only recently in the last couple of years have other competitors made a serious attempt. One of its competitors is Screenwriter 2000.
Final Draft and its main competitor (Screenwriter 2000) are essentially the same. The way they differentiate themselves is in their execution of certain extras. Both have auto formatting, reporting, Internet collaboration, and overview navigation tools. While the competition may allow more control over adjusting some formatting options, Final Draft achieves all the control that is necessary.
While both Final Draft and the competition come with specific television script templates, Final Draft has gone the extra mile by including even more additional written tips to help you emulate the show you wish to write a script for. In the end, it just comes down to personal preference, feel and what your screenwriting friends are already using. -B.M.