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Notes from the Final Draft for iPad Focus Group

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When Final Draft announced that they were coming to the Apple iPad, there was an explosion of buzz, rumor, and speculation. Along with the initial report came an invitation from Final Draft to anyone wishing to help beta test the app.  Naturally, I dropped everything and signed up.

Just days later, I received an invitation to participate in a Final Draft for iPad focus group. Needless to say, I was eager to get involved. That focus group was held at 10am this morning in Sherman Oaks, CA.  And, I’m happy to report that it generated a very productive and promising conversation.

They didn’t ask us to sign any non-disclosure agreements, so I am free to talk about the session… but truth be told, they didn’t reveal anything about their plans.  Instead, they asked some very pointed, and well thought-out questions.  That alone proved that they had already done their homework, and knew what most screenwriters would expect from the app.  And since they already had that foundation in place, they could zero-in with greater detail during these focus groups.

The group was very sharp, and there were plenty of great ideas bandied about. Almost everyone agreed that there needed to be seamless integration between the iPad and desktop versions of Final Draft. There were also several requests for cloud based file storage and the ability to sync wirelessly. Another overwhelmingly popular request was “page view” (being able to see the script as it would be printed), and not just “speed view” (an endless scroll of text). There was also a lot of time spent on the ability to read and annotate existing material.

All in all, I got the sense that the folks at Final Draft understand and agree that the iPad represents a whole new paradigm, with all new possibilities and requirements. They know it’s not just an issue of taking the desktop version and mashing it onto the iPad. Therefore, I am very excited to see what they conjure.

Among the participants in today’s session was Brian Gary, one of the hosts of the immensely popular MacBreak Studio.  He’s also a trainer at RippleTraining.com, and author of several terrific technical books.  I’ve been a fan of his work for a while, and it was nice to meet him in person.  If you work in any of the Final Cut Studio apps, you should check out his stuff.

One final note about the group. Aside from the Final Draft Product Manager who was leading the discussion, and the student who was helping her, there were no women at this session. Perhaps that was by design. Perhaps not. But it did bum me out for two reasons. First off, there’s no shortage of brilliant women who could help shape our digital landscape. And secondly… um….I’m single.  So… there you go.

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12 Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing this! It’s made me happier about my iPad preorder. Was there any talk of how they were planning on printing scripts?

  2. Hi Jenny,

    The F.D. product manager didn’t talk much about the company’s plans. But there was a general conversation about how the iPad, like the iPhone has no built in capacity to print. Apparently, HP has a solution in place, but I doubt it’s going to be elegant. For now, I’m guessing you’ll have to email (or transmit?) a PDF of the script to your computer, and print it from there. But again, that’s just a guess.

    I’ll share any details I pick up along the way.

    -Taz

  3. Hi Michael,

    Nope. They were especially tight lipped about dates, but they did say that they are already working on the base level code — the stuff that would be required no matter what features winds up in version 1.

    -Taz

  4. Taz…I think you summed up the meeting very well. I have to say that I went into the meeting with only moderate interest in the iPad, but came out very interested. Not necessarily what FD is going to be doing specifically, but the general opportunity to develop/create for a new platform. Interesting times ahead….

  5. Hi Filipe,

    No word from the Final Draft camp yet. They started doing field studies in August, so it’s not especially surprising that we haven’t seen an app yet. That said, I was really hoping to see a few screenshots or a feature list by now.

    -Taz

  6. @SJobs:

    Ha! Exactly. They’ve been talking about this for over a year. How hard could it be?

  7. I think here’s what the problem is. Final Draft has a near monopoly on screenwriting software. They get 250 dollars a pop. Apple won’t let them charge more than 20 bucks for a copy, so FInal Draft is dragging its heels thinking: "Why should be sell a twenty o ten dollars version and ruin our market?" I’ve writting Final Draft three times about progress and they totally ignore my emails (Very professional for a company to do, no?). That tells me the don’t give a damn about putting a mobile copy of Final Draft out there.

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