Final Draft

This may not be the right section of the forum for this so apologies but…

I am just intrigued why the cost of Scrivener or say “Story Mill” is so way out of sync with “Final Draft”. What is so good about Final Draft that makes it so expensive and the industry standard - or is it so expensive because it is the standard?

I am just messing around with scripts/screenplay stuff so this question may be naive but I read Keith’s link to FD and had a look at the web site just out of interest and yes it looks great but…I know format is everything but what is so extra special about FD to need to export from Scrivener to FD for the finished product.

If truth be told I will probably never have a finished product to worry about so this question is just purely from an “interested” point of view.

Scrivener is, in some people’s opinions, underpriced, although this has been raised before.

The price of any given piece of software is set by the people who own it. FinalDraft is specifically geared towards scriptwriting and has become something of an industry standard. The people who wrote it decided to charge $250. Scrivener is specifically geared towards generic textual creativity (with some scriptwriting inclusions). Keith decided to charge $45.

The thing about Scrivener is, as L&L have publicly stated, it’s a piece of software written to be something that Keith wanted to see in a piece of software. He never intended to conquer the world with it. The fact that his vision of the perfect writing software was in line with many others is probably indicative of the fact that he is primarily a writer at heart, not a coder (although he’s done a damn fine job of being the latter and I suspect has considerably broadened his horizons in doing so).

L&L have also stated that they didn’t want to price Scrivener to be out of the reach of struggling/aspiring writers with little cash to spare. Hence the price :slight_smile:


Final Draft is $249 because people will pay $249 for it, and have paid since the early 1990s.

I have been quite critical of FD in the past, but I’d like to clear up one thing: Final Draft isn’t something of an industry standard. It is the industry standard. I know quite a few working screenwriters, and I know exactly none who don’t own and use FD. (And for the record, FD8 is rock solid.)

That said, if you’re just getting into screenwriting, I don’t think there’s a reason to buy FD right off the bat. There are a number of fine word processing programs that format very nicely – the best of them (by a long shot) being Scrivener. Reasons:

  • Because you’re not submitting anything for production, you can show people your work as a PDF (or, with increasing rarity these days, a printed document). So there’s no need for FD’s production functionality.

  • When you do get FD, your scripts written in Scrivener will export to .fdx flawlessly.

  • Typing in Scrivener and typing in FD are similar enough now that there’s little or no learning curve from one to another. My fingers move the same writing in Scriv as they do in FD.

  • Scrivener’s “productivity” tools are all about being a working writer. There are other applications out there that give you all kinds of non-useful doodads – “You can register your script right within the app!” – that seem more for suckers than writers.

Until recently, I was writing everyday in FD8, then importing the day’s work into Scrivener for organizing and cleaning up. With 2.0, I’m back in Scrivener full time, and I’m happy. (I’ve even abandoned Curio for notecarding, as Keith’s new corkboard is the best effing index card software since the old Three By Five program.*)

Get Scrivener, get writing, and buy FD when you need it. You don’t right now.

[size=85]*Keith: I do have some corkboard thoughts, but I’m waiting til your life slows down. Bet you can’t wait. [/size]

Oh god. I hate it when someone tells me they have “thoughts” that they are “saving”. :slight_smile:

Thanks for your replies guys.

I am not thinking of buying - that would, in my case, be like buying the set of clubs, trolley, checked jumper and Rupert Trousers when you take up golf!

I was just, really, interested at the price difference and the reason for it. Scrivener is brilliant - so what makes FD worth 6 times as much?? I suspected it might be a matter of “industry standard” pricing but was just curious and this is probably the best place to ask people who would know.

Yikes, best keep my ‘the corkboard needs an optional Dr. Pepper dispenser’ idea quiet then. :unamused:


Sean, just to make clear, I am a Scrivener user and have already upgraded to 2.0. It’s FD I am not buying.

My view is that it’s one of those things where there really is no mystery. If Scrivener was the product of A. N. Other Company Ltd. then it might cost 100ukp, 150ukp or any other figure some guy in a suit pulled out of his optimism and presented to the world at large. As it happens, Keith decided on a figure and it’s relatively low. L&L is also a small company (albeit with a big presence) and doesn’t have massive overheads in terms of offices, teams of sales people and the lease of expensive coffee machines to consider so he settled on a reasonable figure.

Just my view of course - could be completely wrong :wink:


I don’t think Final Draft is the industry standard because of its word processing/formatting features. Certainly, it was one of the first programs to do screenplay formatting easily (which gave it a big head start), but for composing a professionally-formatted screenplay, there are now plenty of options besides Final Draft.

However, once a screenplay moves towards production, having a Final Draft script has a lot of very helpful advantages. Final Draft has a lot of production-oriented features that a basic word processing program (like Scrivener) does not. The ability to tag elements, to run reports on characters and locations, to export script information to high-end film budgeting & scheduling software, to mark revisions, to lock page and scene numbers for production, etc. – these are things that Scrivener doesn’t (and shouldn’t) offer. Scrivener (and programs like it) are an incredibly useful tool for writing, but they are not useful tools for producing, and so they won’t ever be “industry standard” for screenwriters. That’s not to say that there aren’t useful things we can do with Scrivener. Personally, I love using Scrivener to compose early drafts- drafts where it’s just me the writer working with the material. But if I’ve got a script going into production (for me, it’s stage plays mostly- not screenplays), the Final Draft page locking and revision tracking features are a must.

That’s exactly right. FD is at the creative end of the production line. FD is at the “industrial” end. (Hence industry standard.)


Er … shouldn’t that be Scrivener in the first place?

The Creative Standard. I like that. If that is what you meant. :slight_smile:

The price of software is what it is (as with many things). It’s a mistake to seek a particular logic in terms of value in the cost differential between one application and another.

In the case of FD, I suspect the reason FD is able to charge quite a lot has to do with several things:

  • it’s good at what it does;
  • it had what’s called “first-mover advantage” (i.e. it was available before just about anything else that is similar)*
  • once having established that it costs quite a lot and persuaded people to pay that price, the expense is now bound into the perception of it by potential purchasers.

Of these reasons, I suspect first-mover advantage is probably close to the top of the list.


*I’m only able to deliver this opinion because I spent a year at business school. :wink:

Oops yes that’s what I meant, Mark, and yes, Ioa, Scrivener is definitely the creative standard! :mrgreen:

Hello again, all. Just to clarify what I meant on a couple of points.

By “industry standard,” I meant that FD is the thing pretty much every professional film student, screenwriter and producer uses – not that it’s of a quality to which all others should aspire.**

To be clear, you don’t need FD to make a movie. If they can make Apocalypse Now from a script generated in a hut in the Philippines on a portable Olivetti, you can make whatever you want with whatever you want. I’m just telling you what people who get paid to do what you want to do use.

The enormously gratifying news to anyone on a limited budget: if all you want to do is write a screenplay (and worry about FD later), Scrivener 2.0 is — pardon my French — fucking brilliant. I don’t see why anyone would use anything else at the initial*** writing stage.

I don’t have time to go into all of my thoughts on this now, but suffice to say that Scrivener conforms to virtually every “best practice” screenwriting approach you can think of. If you’re into Save The Cat Beat Sheets or Syd Field’s dramatic paradigm worksheet thingy or Robert McKee’s (insufferable) Story recommendations or just regular old Aristotle, Scrivener is an almost perfect tool. Because when it comes down to it, all of those approaches are about structure, and Scrivener is a structuring tool. But unlike software that guides you through a template, Scrivener lets you make your own, and lets you change it if it’s not working for you. Scrivener still requires you to do all the hard work of writing — it just puts everything in front of you and removes all the annoying stuff.

As for price differences, I liken it to Photoshop. There are lots of other applications that mimic some of PS’s core functionality – I use Acorn all the time – but if you’re working at an ad agency or design firm, you’re likely using Photoshop. It’s made to do the little things an amateur would never need to do, and it’s priced accordingly. I will tell you this: if the dread day comes when Final Draft makes Keith an offer he can’t refuse for Scrivener, they’re going to charge $300 for the functionality we’re enjoying today. And I’d probably pay it.

Edit to summarize: It occurs to me that, as a rule of thumb, buy Scrivener and worry about FD later. If you need to shell out $250, then you’re in a screenwriting program or on a production – a good problem to have.

[size=85]**Which is not to say that FD8 is not a high quality product; it is. After the train… wreck is not the right word. After the non-fatal derailment of 7.0, Final Draft has come back nicely.

***You don’t even need FD to properly format a spec — just be aware that there are margins and conventions people expect. Make sure that your compiled draft looks like it should. [/size]

The price-of-Final-Draft thing is interesting. I wonder whether it’s not also partly the halo effect of the “industry standard” boast.

$250 for a rather modestly-endowed word processor is of course ridiculous. But $250 to be a screenwriter… that’s a different matter. You might even say that it’s a small price to pay for someone to feel professionally tooled-up, no different from a weekend tennis-payer springing a small fortune on a carbon-fibre racquet which will make absolutely no difference to his game, or a pale old fat guy shelling out for a bottle of Davidoff Cool Water which will certainly not make him look like the young stubble-bound Muscle Mary in the ads. Or so much else in modern branding. I used to think people were stupid to fall for it. I’ve changed my tune. I don’t think they do. I think they enjoy, and spend money to indulge, the fantasy. We’re all in one way or another like Snoopy on the kennel roof: “Here’s the World War One fighter pilot…” I like conducting along to recordings. And I bought a proper baton – goddamn it, an INDUSTRY STANDARD baton – to do it with. It gives me great delight (“Here’s the world-famous maestro…”) and harms nobody.

FD’s the same, I think. Some of us might sit here thinking “If only Scrivener talked properly to MM Screenwriter instead” or “I can’t bear rewriting this damn scene yet again, I think I’ll go post some stuff on the tubes” but there are plenty of people sitting at their desks enjoying the fantasy of being a Coen Brother or Tom Stoppard just as much as I enjoy waving my £15 stick at the loudspeakers.

So to make Keith rich, we must identify another fantasy and attach it firmly to Scrivener. I just can’t think of one.


I think you’re exactly right. While FD is an invaluable tool for professional writers, it’s also a pretty calculated Fantasy Machine. FD came of age in the spec boom of the 90s, when writing a screenplay was akin to buying a lottery ticket. I used to bristle at the way the developers loaded up the thing with “fake” features — register your script menus, and endless templates for specific TV show scripts not suited for specs (but great for fan fic!) I’m over it now, as FD’s performance has stabilized, and computers have become so powerful that bloat isn’t as big a deal.

When FD and MM were the only games in town, the fantasy element seemed like a pretty savvy way to get their money. Now, with Scrivener and Celtx et al, I wonder if they’ll need to change.

As for the specific fantasy pegged to Scrivener, I think there is one. It’s just that these days, BEING A NOVELIST or FINISHING MY DISSERTATION are pretty much $45 fantasies.

Candidates for Scrivener Fantasies:

  • This, or

  • Being the person who said the following:

“At least once a week I went back to Nicolsons, the cafe… where I wrote much of my first novel… I did most of my press interviews in the cafe, partly out of gratitude for all the times they let me sit over one cold espresso for two hours.”