The choices for writing tools on the Mac are varied and many, and subject to our tastes, needs, requirements, experience as computer users.
Most used in the business world is Microsoft Word, more for compatibility than love; understandable, given the cost and complexity of Word.
I have a special need and use something else and it will be a cold day on my behind before someone takes it from my Mac.
Don’t get me wrong. Microsoft Word actually works well for general word processing. Yes, it’s a bit bloated and sluggish and somewhat expensive. It’s also a general use application that tries to be all things to all people.
For me, it fails in one critical area. I have needs that go beyond the confines of Microsoft’s flagging flagship product. I write for a living and much of what I write requires a second column.
Creating audio visual productions requires split thinking, and sometimes a split personality. Audio in one column, visual in another column.
With most word processors, Mac or Windows, what you get is a blank page, sometimes some templates, but you need to customize the application to fit your requirements.
That’s understandable. In this case, the effort does not match the end result. I’ve been a Final Draft user since it first appeared on Mac OS X, and it was one of the first applications to make the switch nearly five years ago.
Set the stage. You need two columns. One column is for audio and one is for video. Who but TV commercial producers and screenwriters even care about such a setup?
Remarkably, there are plenty of us who are neither, but have to look at the world through that combination of two columns and specialized tools.
TV stations use Final Draft for producing news and TV commercials. Radio stations use Final Draft to add sound effects and background music to voice overs.
Businesses use Final Draft to produce almost anything to do with audio and video; training films, and corporate videos come to mind.
For the rest of us, there’s both media writing and presentations. Digital video shorts are often required by business to highlight and introduce new products and services.
Even doing simple videos is better when there’s a script, and that script requires two columns. I even have friends who use the less expensive Final Draft AV to produce elaborate family videos.
Why? It’s just much easier to think in two columns, then build a classy home production around the combination of audio and video. Therein is the key. It’s easier to think in two columns.
Fortunately, Final Draft isn’t just about two columns. There are built in tools which help us to think in two columns, and work in two columns.
For example, the Header and Footer are fully customizable. Yes, that’s the case in Word, too, Bambi. A precision tool with a specific use does easy that which is complex in a general purpose tool.
Headers and Footers are those areas which contain basic information relatiing to the production. Agency, client, project, title, subject, length, writer, producer, director, contact, draft version, and anything else you need to keep track of.
The second major requirement is cut and paste. Isn’t that available in nearly every Mac application, Bambi? Yes. In the case of Final Draft it’s how the cut and paste works.
Precision is important, and the cut and paste does not require realignment, or extra carriage returns to keep copied text aligned in a new section. It just works.
If you’ve ever tried multiple columns in Word or other word processors, you know they can be easy and simple, and an absolute nightmare to make major changes.
Final Draft lets you add sections with ease. Insert new copy or a new scene or a whole new section. Click, done. And everything else maintains alignment.
Here are the basics. Paragraphs stay aligned within left and right column as you type. Add styles for different requirements; separate style sheets for video, audio, characters, dialog, whatever. Then drop it into which ever column you need.
Templates are always a good place to start and Final Draft doesn’t disappoint; start with basics, or make something fully customizable for your needs.
Final Draft AV and Final Draft files peacefully coexist with one another, as does import export from nearly any word processor.
Spell checking is built in, as is the thesaurus. For Mac users, scripts can be exported to Keynote to create a storyboard. Spotlight will index Final Draft AV scripts, so searching is a breeze.
Into broadcasting or video production? Export Final Draft scripts to a teleprompter with or without character names, and there’s no need to reformat. Just do it.
Using Microsoft Word in business is often a requirement because of compatibility issues. For specific tasks, get the right tool. Two column work gets done better with Final Draft.
Pricing ranges from $49 for upgrades to $229 for the full version of Final Draft, to $359 for both versions. And, there’s working demo of each to download.
Oh, I seldomuse Microsoft PowerPoint these days. Keynote just seems to do the presentation job with less fuss, less bother, and for most needs is compatible. It’s all for a cleaner world.
What are you using for specialty word processor requirements? For writing where Microsoft Word won’t do, what do you use? Mellel? Avenir? Have you tried the new Scrivener? Share your experience in the Comments section below.