Final Draft 9 vs Fade In – Screenwriting Software Deathmatch

FD9Final Draft 9 has been so long in coming, that it created the vacuum for its competition to exist in. In my opinion, foremost among the competition is Fade In,  so I thought I’d do a side-by side comparison. You can do the same, both pieces of software have demo versions available.

Fade In LogoFirst off, installation. An install program is an install program, but Final Draft picks up early points for country-specific setup. All it does is set a default for paper size and dictionary, but it’s something that Fade In needs me to adjust for every new project.

The next step was importing an existing project. Final Draft is still content to sit at the top of the tree and demand everyone plays with its file format, now updated. The only import functions are TXT and FDX. This in comparison to Fade In: Fade In Import

So, what’s new? Well, on the Mac version, Final Draft can finally go fullscreen. Hardly innovative, every other Mac screenwriting software has had it since it was an option. But finally Final Draft has caught up. I’ve not tried it myself, but apparently the Windows version still doesn’t have full-screen editing.

One useful new feature in Final Draft 9 is Script Notes. This can be used to add specific, script specific notes, edits and comments, but also more general script notes, which could be used for references, loglines, synopses, treatments etc. This is very useful, and currently missing from Fade In.

While not new, Final Draft’s index card and scene navigator are both currently superior to that of Fade In. The ability to directly edit and manipulate the index cards just seems slicker on FD (if not up to Scrivener’s standards) and the scene navigator has the option of scene synopses display.

Another new addition to Final Draft is the character navigator, which now facilitates tracking of characters and changing their names throughout. Fade In has had this for some time, though doesn’t have any additional data, like arc beats, available. It does, though, have the same facility for locations, not present in Final Draft. Personally, this scene/script meta data is something I’d like to see expanded out substantially, taking a leaf from Adobe Story’s book:

Adobe Story's scene meta-dataRuntime, editable, characters, including non-speaking parts, tags, synopses, budget, camera shots… This is the level of metadata I’d like to see. Useful for everyone? No. But you don’t have to use it.

Finally, there are the non-software related elements, the first of which is response. I’ve never had to wait long for the Fade In team to respond to a message, regardless of medium. I’ve never had a member of the Final Draft team reply. Fade In is constantly being updated, while Final Draft has kept us waiting for years for next to no substantial improvements. And price? Fade In costs as much as the upgrade from FD8 to FD9.

So, in summary, for my money I’m going to be staying with Fade In.

18 thoughts on “Final Draft 9 vs Fade In – Screenwriting Software Deathmatch

  1. Good choice. Fade In Pro is clearly a superior program to anyone who has used it. Spread the word! We need not suffer under the tyranny of FD any longer.

  2. Well, you sold me. I’ll take the demo for a spin when I’m in Wi-Fi zone, but by having character navigator is major selling point. Thanks!

    If it’s useful to your readers, the Fade In iPad app is only $4.99. Compare that to the $29.99 Final Draft wants to charge. Obviously I cannot see the £ equivalent, but I would assume the price difference is just as substantial.

      • Finally got around to downloading the Fade In demo. So far, I like it. I’m using it to finish my short. I’m loving the aesthetics, with the dark background easier on my eyes. Staring at the all-white of Final Draft was making me batty.

        I do miss using my Enter key to navigate the elements like I did in Final Draft (i.e. pressing “Enter” twice to select what I’m writing, be it action or character or parenthetical). It’s the Tab key in Fade In, and I will just have to retrain my brain. Old dog, new tricks, etc.

        Thanks for all the info!


  3. I’m friends with about 8 script coordinators and not one of them has heard of FadeIn. Enjoyed the review, but I’ll stick with Final Draft.

    • why on earth would the opinion of script ‘coordinators’ matter? Look at the ever growing list of actual writers who have binned the awful clunky FD for FadeIn – Craig Mazin, Rian Johnson, Gary Whitta are three big names who champion fadein. It is leagues better than FD – Final Draft cannot batch-watermark, can’t even put an accent on a foreign word. FadeIn can import a pdf, open it and you can work on it – no such luxury on FD. Final Draft does not even guarantee it can open documents created in earlier versions of Final Draft!!! almost 200 dollars. It’s a joke.

  4. “Fade In” costs around $49. Upgrading from Final Draft 8 to 9 costs $99. Fade In can import Celtx and FDX files, to my knowledge. Final Draft can not import Celtx. I look at that cost differential and I’m leaning towards “Fade In” despite the fact that I own Final Draft 8. I could use that $40 on a few plug-in’s for Adobe, etc. It’s a great price.

  5. I refuse to be under the monopoly of Final Draft any longer. I am a writer/filmmaker living in Los Angeles and unfortunately you must be able to hand over a script that is FDX. Ultimately, I refuse to pay these inflated prices any longer and all the button pushing Final Draft makes you do is annoying. I knew there had to be something better and I spent all day finding it.

    I have tried demos of Slugline (very nice – but can’t convert to FDX) and Scrivener (seemed all over the place). You can’t use a demo of Highland (stupid on their part) but it seems it is Slugline with the ability to convert to FDX, which is what I need. But it doesn’t look as pretty at Slugline. With Highland, you have to use a preview mode to see it in script format. Also they use Fountain which I am currently in LOVE with using.

    I was going to go with Highland until someone pointed me this way and Fade In is perfect. I love the ability to see the running characters and locations on the side as I’m writing. I see in this review that it lacks the notecard abilities of Final Draft but I never used that anyway. It’s so simple and using the tab key instead of the enter key is not big deal at all.

    I’m so excited and telling everyone I know. BE FREE OF FINAL DRAFT!

  6. There’s a fairly new screenplay template for Apple Pages that works on the Mac as well as iOS devices, and it formats the text almost identically to Final Draft’s Cole & Haag variant, which IMO features the best pagination – definitely better than Slugline, Celtx and Fade In Pro. You can download the template here
    It’s free and there’s an easy workflow to migrating to a professional screenwriting application, should you later need it.

  7. Unless I misunderstand what you mean by script notes, you can indeed put them into FadeIn Pro—I leave notes to myself all the time to remind me of ideas, why I’ve written something in a certain way, why something doesn’t work… etc.

    Also, for those who work with people who still insist on using it, FadeIn lets you import and export Final Draft files.

    Plus the people who work on the software are really very nice—I had it on my PC and switched to a Mac, and they were willing to let me transfer my licence. (!) However, in the end, I decided to pay again—I believe anyone who creates software this good at such a reasonable price should be supported as much as possible.

  8. Final Draft became buggy on my mac – backwards writing, graphics messed up. No one at Final Draft responded to my desperate messages – complete with screen shots – and at Apple they tried, but ultimately couldn’t help. I even bought a new mac to stop the madness – and it didn’t stop. Bought Fade In, and I absolutely love it. I wish it had an actual full-screen mode, as I use small macs (11″ Air and now 12″ macbook) and am not used to having apps on the desk top, but it does take up the full screen while I work, to avoid distractions. It’s gorgeous, it’s functional, it’s easy to use. LOVE!

  9. Just for Unicode input, FadeIn works leagues above FD. People like myself who work in multiple languages on their screenplays will indeed spit at FD for not having this for the ages they have been around. The vast majority of the world’s movies aren’t made in English! Duh! Speak about being aware!

  10. OK, so today, after years of writing on spec or for free based on promises that never happened, I finally got some PAID scriptwriting work.


    Until now, I have been using a, ahem, “friends” copy of FD. Because I could never afford it. But I always swore I’d buy my own legit copy when someone actually paid me for the screenwriting. I’ve just been to the FD website.

    £205 freaking quid.

    That is about 10% of what I’ll get paid.

    I’m going to try the Fade In demo. If it’s decent, I don’t mind paying the price asked. But £205 is obscene.

    • Final Draft is a joke – for years I used the faultless ‘Sophocles’ but when this no longer worked on new operating systems I was forced to get FD and it was rubbish. I’ve been on Fade In for three years now and nothing would drag me back to FD.

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