After two years of development, Final Draft’s iOS offering is finally here. Many have criticized Final Draft for being late to the game, and their recent Final Draft Reader flop just about started riots in the streets.
Final Draft says they didn’t want to release Writer till it was just right, so now that they have, is the app ready for prime time, or is it too soon to delete the iOS screenplay writing apps you’ve been using?
Using the App
Familiarity is the key word here. If you’re use to working in Final Draft, you’ll have no trouble migrating to the iPad version. Everything works they way you’d expect; the title page, headers, and footers are edited separately from the main body of the script; scenes can be numbered automatically; it’s all there.
Writing, Writing, Writing
Start typing a scene header and Final Draft Writer whips up a handy scene header box, listing all the usual options as well as any locations you’ve previously typed.
A generously proportioned tab button works as expected, but you’re also presented with all the section types as handy-dandy icons. Need to start some dialogue, or a transition? Just tap that button!
Locked Pages and Revision Mode
What separates FInal Draft Writer from the current pack of writing apps, however, are the slew of professional and industry standard features. Lock your script and any further changes are noted with an asterisk, pagination occurs, and page colors are cycled accordingly.
You can also export Scene Reports, Location Reports, Cast and Character Reports, and more.
That’s all good and well, but a seasoned filmmaker will tell you that making a film (even writing one) is a collaborative effort. I’ve laid out the criteria by which I judge apps already, so let’s see how Final Draft Writer stacks up:
Without a native file system on iOS devices, Dropbox can serve as the perfect bridge between apps and devices. Final Draft Writer allows you to import from, and export to Dropbox. But that’s it. You cannot chose where in your Dropbox folder to save scripts, nor can you name them. Working out of a shared project folder is impossible.
It gets worse.
Say you and a writing partner are swapping your screenplay “The Sailor” back and forth. Every time you import your partner’s revisions, the app creates a new document rather than just updating the version you already have in the app. When this happens, the app tacks on a “-1” to the end of the script’s name, as if to indicate “this is revision number one.” So, now you have “The Sailor” and “The Sailor-1.” Annoying, but guess what happens after the next round of revisions: instead of upping the version number to “The Sailor-2,” Final Draft Writer tacks on another “-1” leaving you with “The Sailor-1-1.”
This has got to be the most half-assed Dropbox implementation I’ve ever seen.
Universal File Formats?
Final Draft Writer swaps the native FDX formatted screenplays back and forth with ease, so writing teams can easily trade revisions between iPads and desktops without fuss. I did notice that Writer does not play nice with FDX files created in other screenplay writing apps (like Scripts Pro). No surprises there.
What is missing entirely is PDF support, which frankly shocks me. What if I need to send a copy of the script to my production designer, or to an actor? They’re not likely to have Final Draft, and I can’t expect them to shell out money for a special app to read a proprietary file. I seriously hope this is planned for a future update.
Nope. And based on the fact that Final Draft refers to the app as “Final Draft Writer for iPad,” I’d assume it’s not in the books. I can’t say I’m chomping at the bit to write a 120 page screenplay on my iPhone, but if Final Draft does come out with an iPhone version, there’s no way I’m paying another $30-$50. At that price Universal Apps should be a given.
The Final Word
Every time I try writing a screenplay on my iPad, I can’t help but think “why am I using this app when I could just get on my computer and write in Final Draft?” What are the advantages of writing on my iPad versus writing on my laptop?
I’m not sure that there are any. Portability? Maybe. The lower cost ($50 against the full app’s $250)? Maybe. But the iPad’s touch interface makes editing text cumbersome and there are few import/export options, so why bother?
I’m not sold yet, but I really want this app to win me over. Hopefully some serious updates are on the way and we’ll soon see these issues resolved. Till then, you may be better off with one of the cheaper, existing options.
What do you think? Are my criticisms too harsh or have they really sold themselves short? Leave a comment!