Final Draft Review: Is it Worth it? [Insider Review]

By Steph Fraser | Posted on September 6th, 2019

The Final Draft software is one of the highest-rated and most popular screenplay writing programs on the market. It also comes with one of the highest price tags, causing many to turn to a Final Draft review and other resources to determine if the software is worth the money.

Many high-level writers/directors/producers use the Final Draft software, including Doug Ellin and Guillermo Del Toro. They have found that it works for them. This Final Draft review should help you decide if it will work for you. 

Final Draft: Overview

Final Draft has been around for nearly 30 years. It began when co-founders Marc Madnick and Ben Cahan decided to address the need for a dedicated screenplay software. They knew the industry needed something that could keep up with the rigorous Hollywood standards. 

The software has been perfected and improved many times over the last 30 years. It is currently on its 11th official version, with new and improved features being released each update. 

final draft review

It is touted as the most professional screenplay writing software in the industry. However, some struggle because of the price. In this Final Draft review, I will go over all the main features of the software as well as look at the improvements and additions that come with Final Draft 11. 

Before you begin your screenwriting adventure though, it’s important to go over the basics and ensure you know what you’re doing. Check out this detailed and comprehensive guide on how to write a screenplay. This will arm you with the appropriate knowledge before diving into the software. 

Final Draft Software Main Features

Final Draft has an incredible amount of features, tools, and abilities, all catered to helping you write that screenplay with ease and efficiency. The amount of small, helpful details is vast. But, there are several key features that act as the main selling point. 

The following features are some of the Final Draft staples that remain the same from Final Draft 10 to Final Draft 11. 

Formatting

Final Draft makes it easy to format your script according to industry standards. It has the same tab and enter functionality that much screenplay writing software has. Using tab and enter you can easily follow the correct format as you go. 

Or, you can make a quick selection from the format menu and choose which type of line you need to enter next. 

final draft review

In addition to this, Final Draft also includes a formatting assistant for advanced formatting checks and help. It will look for several things: 

  • Missing dialogue.
  • Carriage returns.
  • Blank elements. 
  • Extra spaces.
  • Other common formatting mistakes.
final draft review

You can run it manually at any time, or you can set it to run automatically each time you print. This can save you from having to go back and print again if you forget to run it. 

Templates

Final Draft comes with a few standard templates for you to choose from. Many like to work with a template as it keeps them moving in the right direction. 

In addition to the templates included, you can download from a library of over 100 classic TV show, movie, stage play, and graphic novel templates. 

These templates can be useful when you’ve already chosen the direction of your script. Specific templates will help you write exactly what you’ve set out to write. However, some writers don’t like feeling too confined when they’re writing. 

If you’re looking for a helpful but straightforward template designed for more general screenplay writing, this one is a fantastic choice: 

screenplay writing template

This template will help you structure your story and it will make sure you include all elements required of a screenplay. 

Index Cards

The index cards are a pretty universal feature when it comes to writing software. There are different versions, but they all serve the same purpose. Virtual note cards can be arranged on the screen, in a similar fashion to a corkboard. 

What’s special about the Final Draft index cards is the fact that they’re double-sided. On one side you can write or outline the scene itself. 

The other side contains a summary. You can flip them around depending on what you’re trying to do – create an outline, work on the plot, rearrange some parts, etc. 

You can also print these notes onto standard 3×5 or 4×6 cards if you like to visualize your story in a more physical or “real-life” way. 

Character Features

Your characters are a huge part of your story, meaning they appear many, many times throughout your script. There are two key character features that allow you to keep character development organized and efficient. 

First, you can change the character names globally. This means you can change the name in every location – dialogue, action, parentheticals, etc – all at the same time. The name will retain its proper casing throughout. This will save you a lot of time if you decide to change a character’s name. 

Second, is the character highlight feature. This allows you to highlight each character’s dialogue with a different color. This is perfect if you’re planning a table reading. It can also let you see if one character is talking too much, or perhaps not enough. 

Writing Management

The writing management tool tracks your progress and lets you check it whenever you want with the statistics report. 

You can also track specific things like how much one character interacts with another. This helps you create and maintain balance in your story.

Final Draft Student

If you’re a student you can get Final Draft 11 at a significant discount. Final Draft student access will require you to prove your affiliation with an academic organization of some sort. There are some documents that must be filled out. 

Once you do this, you can gain access to the program in its entirety for much less than the average customer. 

Final Draft 11 New and Improved

The above features have stayed the same, but there are many that have been improved from their Final Draft 10 versions, and some brand new ones that were added to Final Draft 11. 

Final Draft 10 Improved Features

Three key features have been improved in the new update. They existed in Final Draft 10 but they’ve made some adjustments for Final Draft 11. 

Collaboration

The collaboration is one of the most useful features of this software for those that want to work together. There are many tools that make collaboration easy and effective. The ability to collaborate is a dealbreaker for some. 

final draft review

For Final Draft 11, they added a chat room option. So, you can converse with your team and work on the project simultaneously.  

Beat Board

The beat board is a board where you can layout anything you need. Beats can be anything from characters to plot points. 

final draft review

For Final Draft 11, they added a few features to the beat board to make it even better: 

  • Add images by dragging and dropping.
  • Drag content to and from your script and retain the format. 
  • Color code beats with new custom colors. 
  • Export beats to PDF. 

Story Map 

The story map is a fantastic tool that lets you plan your story in both a linear and visual way. In Final Draft 11, they added the ability to put images in the story map. 

final draft review

This makes the story map that much more dynamic and helpful when plotting, or even just getting a quick overview of what you’ve already done. 

Final Draft 11 New Features 

With the Final Draft 11 update, they added a series of brand new features. They will make the experience even more comprehensive and productive: 

Image Support

Image support was added to the beat board, title page, and general script.

final draft software

Visualizing the story is helpful for all types of writers. Now, you can do it in multiple places within the software.

Tagging

Tagging is a powerful way to organize and sort everything within your project. You can use the tags to track and then report on story elements that you choose and customize.

final draft software

You can also break down your script for budgeting and scheduling. 

Night Mode

This is a simple but handy addition. 

final draft software

If you prefer to work with a dark background and light text, you can make the switch quickly and work in night mode. 

Speech to Script (Mac Only) 

This new feature is only available on Mac as it utilizes Mac’s built-in dictation feature. Final Draft uses this to help you write your script through speech if you wish. 

This makes it easy to give yourself a hands-free experience if that works better for you. It also means you can keep working through aches or injury if you’re experiencing any. 

Multi-Language Support

Another simple but amazing feature.

final draft software

You can now write in over 95 different languages. This is incredible for those who struggle with English or who are native to another language and would prefer to write their script with that one. 

A Simple Alternative

Final Draft is a cutting edge software that is constantly evolving and improving. Some of the biggest names in Hollywood swear by it, and for good reason. It’s robust and comprehensive, with such a long list of features that all have their place and purpose. 

It works well for high-level writers and/or groups that need to work together. For the price tag though, you better be sure you’re going to use all the features and get your money’s worth. 

If you think you aren’t going to fully utilize the software, look into a simpler option. I suggest going with Squibler

Squibler is fantastic writing software for those who are looking for a more simple and streamlined experience. The interface is organized and easy to understand while covering all the bases of completing your project: 

  1. Create an outline. 
  2. Store and organize your research. 
  3. Take notes and filter them with tags. 
  4. Break your writing up into chapters/scenes/sections – whatever you need. 
  5. Drag and drop sections to rearrange with ease. 
  6. Use the built-in text editor to help you catch mistakes

Squibler has a lot to offer a writer who is flying solo. It’s not ideal if you need to collaborate with many others, but it works immensely well when you’re on your own. 

Final Draft Software Pricing

Final Draft can be bought for a one-time price. Once you pay this fee, you have access to the software for life. However, it only applies to the version you bought. Upgrades to new versions will cost additional money. 

Final Draft has a few different levels of pricing, depending on what exactly you’re looking for: 

Pricing Options 
Final Draft 11 Software$249 for full individual license.
Final Draft Upgrade$99 upgrade fee if you already own the program and want to upgrade to a newer version.
Final Draft Student License $129 with proof of academic affiliation.
Final Draft for iPhone and iPad$9.99. A useful extra tool for jotting down notes or adding to the project on the go.

Is Final Draft Worth it? 

For a prolific, regular writer who wants to get projects done fast and needs to work with many others – yes, it is worth every penny. It has helped craft the success of many world-renowned directors, producers, screenwriters, etc. 

Make sure you do your research though and ensure its list of features are things that you need. It will not be worth your money if you’re not going to put at least most, if not all, of the program to good use. 

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