Scripped, Online Screenwriting and Backups

Some screenwriters, whether for reasons of cost or convenience, prefer online software solutions for their script work, whether Adobe Story, Celtx, or newcomer WriterDuet. However, last week the risk of those primarily online services came to public attention with the dramatic implosion of Scripped.

Scripped was an online-only screenwriting and script storage solution, a web-based alternative to using Final Draft or Fade In. The ScreenCraft owned community was languishing somewhat, apparently on the verge of rejuvenation when a total database calamity occurred. All scripts, including all backups, were irrevocably wiped with no hope of restoring them. Due to the diminishing nature of the community, the damage wasn’t as widespread as might have been feared, but for those people still deeply embedded in the ecosystem, it was catastrophic. Those who had not maintained offline backups had lost potentially years of work.

Now, the idea of not taking backups sends shivers of fear up my spine. It’s this kind of terror, combined with poor or non-existent offline solutions, that has kept me from web-based screenwriting software. I know that Adobe Story and WriterDuet have both an offline solution and backup options, but then so did Scripped. Adobe may have more resilient infrastructure than Scripped owners Screencraft, but nothing can really protect you totally from that kind of disaster.

Personally, I write using offline tools, I use Dropbox for day-to-day synching, TimeMachine for frequent backups, and also store timestamped archives of my writing folder on an FTP site. I considered myself slightly over-paranoid in this regard until I started speaking to other people. Additional options included saving timestamped archives onto DVDs, and printing and filing all drafts of all scripts. Those might be going a bit far for me, especially physical copies. Paper is anathema to me, and if I fall out of love with a script, the temptation to shred it might just be too great.

So, what can we learn from the Scripped fiasco? By all means use online solutions, especially if budgets are a concern. But make sure they have decent internal backup solutions, and also store editable copies of all your scripts elsewhere, with as many additional storage iterations as your paranoia demands. Because it’s only paranoia until the unthinkable happens.

Addendum

Craig Mazin and John August go into some detail about the Scripped aftermath in their Scriptnotes podcast.

Also, if you need to recover scripts from PDF backups, this can be done with most files directly in Fade In, but also in Highland.

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.

Final Draft 9 to be released in 2014

FD9There has been a lot of speculation as to the release date of Final Draft 9, but I have the definitive answer now: Public demos will begin at the end of this month, and the release date will be early 2014, specifically January 6th. The new features are listed here.

There are a number of worldwide user groups at the end of the month to this effect, but the first worldwide demo of Final Draft 9 will be at London Screenwriter’s Festival 2013. I will of course report back from there.

Can’t wait for 2014 for new screenwriting features? Check out Fade In, which will have eclipsed even FD9 if they implement a few features.

Updated with specific release date and link to new features.

Further Update: Check out the side-by-side review of FD9 vs Fade In Pro.

Final Draft 9

Final Draft Logo

Final Draft is the venerable, respected, industry standard script writing software. It’s getting a little dated now though, version 8 was released in 2009 and was last updated to version 8.03 in 2011. Since then we have had a press release in 2010 telling us that Final Draft 9 was imminent and that it would be rolled out together with Final Draft Connect. The latter was to be their cloud-based integrated collaboration tool, a very useful feature and which would have looked innovative in 2010, rather than following in the footsteps of CeltX, its pseudo-open source rival. Instead we’ve had a launch of Final Draft’s iPad apps, the Reader and the Writer, to mixed reviews.

This just in! Final Draft 9 to be released in 2014. More details at that link.

It could well be though that version 9 is finally imminent, judging from this message on the official Facebook page:

Final Draft Facebook May

 

 

So there you go: not before July, but definitely in 2013. Furthermore, Final Draft 8 is on sale for $50 off until the end of September 2013, pointing at an Autumn 2013 release for Final Draft 9.

From updates elsewhere, Final Draft 9 will include Full Screen and Retina support for the Mac, and Ribbon support for Windows, as well as Final Draft Connect cloud features. Also, the FDX file format will be updated to FDX v2, which will apparently be backwards compatible. Hopefully they’ll also include some of the slick features of the excellent Fade In, such as their extensive, if inconsistent and error-prone, import options:

Fade In Import

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of some interest to me would be if FD9 were to implement some of the wonderful cross-media planning features of Scrivener, or the excellent scene meta-data features of Adobe Story, both features that are apparently present in the beta of Final Draft 9. Loglines, scene meta-data, a character arc tracker, synopses, all of these things are due to be a part of the new, and backwards compatible, FDX file format.

Personally, I do all of my planning, plotting and writing of ‘draft zero’ in Scrivener, regardless of whether it’s prose or screenplay or a comic script. But screenplay formats need to be that much tighter if they’re to be sent out to anyone else, so I export the draft script from Scrivener as an FDX, import it into Final Draft 8 and let it correct and verify the format. The page counts are generally pretty close though, as I use Courier Final Draft as my font for all scripts across all software.

Update 25th September 2013: Added Beta details from alt.screenwriters.

Update 6th February 2014: Since Final Draft 9 was released on the 6th of January, I did a side-by-side comparison between FD9 and Fade In Pro.