Final Draft’s response to my article on alternatives

Last week, I wrote an article titled 3 Great Alternatives to Final Draft that Are Either Free or Cheap, and posted a few free or cheap programs that I feel really give the screenwriting program Final Draft a run for its money.

My criticism of the ever-ubiquitous Final Draft could’ve been received with disdain or a harsh, indignant defense.  Not just by Final Draft, but by its legions of loyal users.

But quite the opposite happened. Within a few days, I received a great response from Joe Jarvis, Final Draft’s Product Manager.   Here it is:

Hey Brian,

I enjoyed your article.

I’m the product manager at Final Draft and wanted to reach out and introduce myself. We care deeply what our loyal users think of our brand, our products, and we try to keep our finger on the pulse of our users’ experience. Reviews like yours are appreciated for this reason. Let me just take a moment of your time to address a few of the concerns you raised.

First, let’s jump into the “Penchant for crashing” you mentioned. In my world a “crash” is a priority ticket. We have a dedicated live support team and a QA department who’s sole purpose is to ensure the integrity of our applications. While random crashes can happen in any software, I’m not aware of anyone who is experiencing a consistent crashing of Final Draft. It’s my experience that certain files, if they have become corrupt, can crash. This certainly could lead a user to think the software might have a problem, but in fact it’s normally a particular file (or files) that is the offender. I tell you this because if you (or someone you know) is getting a lot of crashes, we may be able to help! I’d encourage you to contact our support department and troubleshoot this. It can most likely be fixed. (

With regard to the interface, you will get no argument from me! We are, at this very moment improving the UI on both Mac and Windows. We are switching out mac libraries which will lend itself to a more up to date look and feel in version 9, and on the Windows side we are now using the Ribbon bar class in development to bring us up to the current 2013 look. While it was an awesome year for movies, with titles like Pulp Fiction and Forrest Gump, we certainly don’t want to be trapped in 1994.

Price. Yes, 249 is a premium price. That is the full retail price. But we do have all sorts of sales, discounts and promotions going on constantly. We discount for students, guild members, and a whole range of other folks. Our returning customers only pay 79 bucks for an upgrade, for example. Resellers like Amazon will discount our products at their discretion as well. Also, please understand that we are small company serving a niche market. Final Draft is a Hollywood based company that was started at the grass roots level by real screenwriters. To this day, our primary focus is on the working writer. It’s said that if you are serious about screenwriting, you use Final Draft. We’ve earned that reputation one loyal writer at a time. Our software a very feature rich product, but one that serves a specialized user. Because we don’t build general purpose business solutions our market is of a particular size. We don’t have the luxury of making up dev cost over a mass distribution model. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to employ a team of software engineers, but they normally have huge student loans to pay off and don’t work cheap! In order to offset the high ongoing cost of development, we are forced to price our product as a specialized solution. I hope you understand.

Lastly I just wanted to touch on the Final Draft Writer for iPad. We envisioned it as a companion to the desktop, but it has much of the core functionality that you will find in Final Draft. I know writers that can live only on their iPads now. While $49 seems like a little when compared to the desktop cost – it’s a lot against the backdrop of .99 cent apps. The Writer is a fully featured productivity app that we’re very proud of. It was built in-house on the same engine that paginates your desktop software. Very few of our competitors can say that they paginate the same across desktop and mobile platforms like we do. The writer in it’s first generation was meant to live up to that pagination standard. The updates to it are free, and we are building more Final Draft functionality into it every day. While my mobile customers still express things on their wish list, I don’t think anyone is disappointed in the Writer’s current feature set.

Thanks for listening. If you ever want a copy of our iPad app to check out – just let me know. Also, if you care to be a beta tester for Final Draft 9 or other apps, we should talk. And if you have any further issues, questions or comments, I’m all ears!

Respectfully yours,

Joe Jarvis – Product Manager

I immediately tried the Final Draft app for iPad, and it’s great. For me, it’ll be one of those on-set things that will quickly become helpful for making quick revisions, printing, sending to Dropbox, etc. As for the main bulk of my writing, I can’t imagine doing it on an iPad myself, but I know that that’s the way hundreds of screenwriters like to write, and the way thousands more who are getting into the industry are going to learn how to use a screenwriting program.

Also, I’ve just opened up the Final Draft 9 beta and am cranking away on a new script, and am digging it.  I’ll have a full update once I really get my teeth into this puppy.


22 thoughts on “Final Draft’s response to my article on alternatives”

  1. So… what’s the verdict on FD 9? Are there any details you can share not protected by NDA? Have they hinted on when it might become available? (They haven’t responded to my inquiry.)

  2. With a bluetooth keyboard writing on the iPad can work for most informal writing sessions. I had to create my own novel writing app because the plain text apps all suck for one or more keys reasons. But with screenwriting, you can’t beat Final Draft on the iPad.

  3. How would you rank the TV script writing functionality of Final Draft (specifically for sitcom writing)? Is it user friendly for beginners compared to other writing software? Are there any pros and cons you can list comparing Final Draft compared to other TV writing software programs? Any help would be appreciated.

  4. I really liked your last article, too! I found it while searching “I hate final draft” to get emotional support. I’ve had version 6,7 &8 of FD and it crashes ALL THE TIME!!! 3x a day when I’m on my best behavior. I use movie magic and much prefer it, but must use FD when collaborating. I really appreciate the comments from the company, but to say it doesn’t crash more than normal is just unfair to like, every other program in the universe. That said, I will call. Thanks for posting that resource. Hopefully it’s just me.

  5. It’s not only that FD8 was crash-prone, it seems like it was poorly coded, and not well maintained, if at. I found working for more that a short time it quickly became sluggish… and I mean sluggish, unusably so. I’m I’ve used it on everything from an Atom netbook to a Mac Pro–i’ts equally show everywhere which suggests it was written for computers from the 90s and never updated to support multi-core, hyperthreading and other improvements released in over the last 15 years or so.

    It is also very unimaginative in its design. I don’t just mean the UI. Why, for example, are scenes still tied to the scene heading element? With proper metadata support you could put scene makers wherever new scenes actually start; not arbitrarily whenever a new location or sub-location is entered, making it actually useful as a production tool (especially with NLE interoperability a la Adobe Story). For the price one expects more, IMO.

  6. Final Draft crashes once a day. Or, it has for me at least, since back in the 90’s. Crashed through multiply iterations, revisions and updates. I continue to use FD chiefly because there’s nothing much better around, and their marketing and promotion have given them something close to a monopoly in the filmed entertainment business. An American success story. Public relations, advertising and promotion push a mediocre product to market dominance.

  7. Yeah, new user of Final Draft 9 on a new(er) Windows 8 laptop… crashes a whole lot… like once every working hour or so. I can’t really predict how or when either. That said, I haven’t called the support line yet.

    If you use it, SAVE OFTEN!

  8. The so-called updated UI–is it in Final Draft 9? Because Final Draft 9 looks like the 1994 version — it’s ugly, it’s awkward to navigate, it’s simply horrible. I can’t believe this is the program that all of Hollywood is using and that is supposedly the “industry standard.” I don’t know what says more about the horrible state of filmmaking in Hollywood than FD9 is used without complaint or improvement. FD9 is the “Winter’s Tale” of software — it looks as good as Colin Farrell’s ridiculous haircut in that movie, for a start.

  9. Just purchased the Final Draft 9 upgrade for $99 and am hugely disappointed. The new features are hard to figure out and the double sided index card feature is non-existent. I’ve spent the last hour trying to figure out how to use the script notes and character notes portion with no luck. What a waste!

  10. Well, I’m one of those who’s just had an hour’s creative writing destroyed by Final Draft which just crashed right in the middle of writing. I curse myself for not setting the ‘auto save’ every 5 minutes or so, I just saved manually every so often, blissfully unaware than a product I had to pay for, where there are many free on the market, would crash so abruptly, eradicating my previous hour’s work. In fact the program itself didn’t crash, it just came up suddenly with a blank document!

    So I feel crushed and saddened by my loss and I’m off to cry myself to sleep. Haven’t felt like this since software programs *used* to crash fairly regularly and were an expected thing – Never did I believe it would be apparent today.

  11. Ok, so I have 3 screenplays I’ve been writing in a modified short story format, in MS word. If I type these rudimentary versions into Trelby, and later have the money to buy Final Draft, will FD handle T? I have read too many heartbreaking stories of FD losing people’s work. I am not keen on risking it until after I have multiple copies of my completed project printed off from a safer program.

  12. And is it even necessary to get the FD version, if Trelby saves in FD format? I mean, other than to “look serious” about screenwriting.” (Would hope the writing itself would be the primary indicator of that, but perhaps judging books and screenplays by their covers and software would explain a lot.)

    • Hey Angelle – Trelby does export to Final Draft (XML), but from what I can tell, Trelby is no longer being updated by its creators. You’re probably fine with Trelby, or even sticking with Word (although typing in Word, in any sort of template capacity even, drives me crazy.)

  13. I bought a original copy of final draft and I damned myself. With WINDOWS 10 it’s a disaster! It not works well, and when I told the issue to customer service…they ansewered me that it was a “windows problem” and they had nothing to do about it. I think this is shame, two hundred dollars for buy a software that don’t work! I ask for a refund and i’m waiting it. But i want to advice you: stay away from Final Draft if you have a windows 10 machine. The specific problem is that the software see all the files like “read-only” and you can’t save your work. Every time you have to change the name of the file! With Fade In (that I bought yesterday) there isn’t this problem… so… it’s not a windows problem, dear customer service mac-addicted guy! Shame on you! Total waste of money! Cheers from Italy and good writing to everyones.

  14. No search function for script notes. No spell check for script notes. Incredibly frustrating. Do the coders even test this program? Almost useless for structuring, you’ll have to rely on your memory for what you’ve written in script notes.

  15. Newbie here. A well known and successful series producer wants a screenplay adaption of a chapter from a book currently in process of being printed by Texas A&M.

    Never done a screenplay but have thoroughly researched the “does” and “donts.”

    I’m not ready to spend $250 for what might turn out to be a single effort on my MacBook, especially when so many people say it crashes regularly.

    Celtix looks like the best answer.

  16. Well, all of these opinions have saved me $250.00. I have Movie Magic Screenwriter 6, which, I’m happy to say, has NEVER crashed. Well, Final Draft may not be long for Hollywood if things continue as they are. I remember a time when Word Perfect was the industry standard for professionals in the medical and legal offices, but they couldn’t keep up with the trend of moving offices over from typewriters and file cabinets to computers and databases and Microsoft recognized the potential so Word is now the standard in most offices, replacing Word Perfect practically everywhere. I love my Movie Magic Screenwriter which I got during one of their many sales they regularly have for $59.00. Thanks for the testimonials! For those of you interested in one of the free packages, I can say, My son has used CelTx for an Austin Film Festival entry and been quite happy with the results.

  17. Question based on my first impression of Final Draft. I was disappointed to find out that, if I wanted input from other writers to populate the character list pages, there was no collaboration process…Final Draft tech support said I would have to just print the pages and email them around …even cutting and pasting the example answer suggestions. WHAT? Is there a screenwriting program that does allow for easy collaboration between writers or do I have to rely on sharing files on microsoft/ icloud?

    Thanks for any suggestions

  18. If you’re running Sierra on a Mac Ilene, nothing can’t touch Moviemagic Screenwriter 6.5. There’s also a version 6 for WIndows too, but 6.5 is a thing of beauty and has real collaboration built in if you stick to their mmsw format . The only thing FD does better is index cards since you cannot shut off automatic scene renumbering in MMS. It’s the only bad thing about it. I have my old copy of FD 9 just to print index cards and keep them straight. Also, Final Draft phone support is now staffed by snotty, no-nothing millennials. Not so with MMS.


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