Final Draft v. the Snow Leopard InstallerComplications Ensue
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Monday, March 15, 2010

I had a bit of a technical issue this weekend. When I installed Mac System 10.6 on my beloved, battered MacBook Pro, I discovered that my copy of Final Draft had become deactivated. Apparently the file that FD uses to store its activation code is one that the new system overwrites.

This is an issue that DMc warned me about last September. But I thought, hey, surely they've fixed their activation bug by now.

Fortunately, I had a spare activation. But then, when I tried to migrate my account from my old computer to this nifty new MacBook Air I bought, Migration Assistant somehow deactivated the old copy of FD7 on my old computer.

Unfortunately, the free tech support line at Final Draft only works regular weekday hours, Pacific time. So no help there.

I tried to authorize an old copy of Final Draft 6, but guess what? Final Draft has disabled the activation server for FD6 entirely, along with all support for the program. Fortunately I was able to find the CD, or I'd have been completely hosed.

All of which left me not feeling much love for Final Draft and seriously contemplating going to Screenwriter. Many of my friends sing the praises of Screenwriter. I've always liked Final Draft, and earlier versions of Screenwriter were not too Mac-friendly. And I'd really hate to have to port my old scripts over to Screenwriter -- for what I am sure are clever commercial reasons, neither company provides an automatic converter.

Monday morning, though, I got a very nice call from Joel Levin at Final Draft, which clarified a few points. The main one being that, although free tech support is down on weekends and evenings, paid tech support is up. And though you have to give your credit card to talk to a human being on the weekend, if it's about activation, they don't charge. Joel assured me "we're there for our customers 24/7."

I do think that FD ought to have solved the activation issue by now. Installing Snow Leopard does not wipe out your Office 2008 registration DRM. But as Joel points out, Microsoft has a few more programmers than Final Draft can afford. And they will restore your activations if they're wiped out by Snow Leopard.

I pointed out to Joel that their website could make it clearer that they are always available to solve your activation issue for free. I might have figured that out if I hadn't been panicking, but c'mon, it would kill you to use a bigger font for the important stuff?

I really disagree with their decision to kill off the Final Draft 6 activation server. They feel that FD6 is "dinosaur ware" and leaving the activation server running would open them up to more tech support issues. I feel that they're depriving me of stuff I own. Maybe old stuff that I own, but I really needed FD6 to work yesterday.

I was sort of tempted to take the Air on my trip to Toronto last week. Boy am I glad I waited. I would have been so hosed.

I guess some of the morals of the story are: never upgrade the system on a working computer, damn it. Don't make any changes to your software at all when you're in the middle of a project with a deadline. Don't travel with untried equipment.

And, I guess, read the website carefully this time.



You could also upgrade to version 8 for $79. I feel 8 is a LOT more stable than 7

By Blogger Unknown, at 12:33 PM  

I should give them more money because their DRM is defective?

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 1:04 PM  

Final Draft is ass and this is the height of their assedness.

The new Screenwriter auth system is totally easy.

By Blogger DMc, at 2:04 PM  

By the bye, Alexi, you got caught by "the ultimate fail." oh if only if someone had warned you about this

By Blogger DMc, at 2:51 PM  

I was having this problem (until I upgraded to 8) but I found I avoided the problem if I unpluged my external drives / thumb drives before attempting activation.

Good luck.

By Blogger Joe, at 4:06 PM  

I concur with DMc.

His experience (those who haven't yet, do follow the link and read it) seems to be IDENTICAL to what I experienced back in the days of FD3 and FD4.

I have legit copies of FD6 and FD8 because my clients are using it but the trouble has never stopped.

The 'market leader' in screenwriting software has never, ever gotten ANYTHING right, except perhaps their advertising.

By Blogger Karel, at 6:43 PM  

I upgraded to 10.6 with Final Draft 7 already installed. No problems whatsoever. There must be a way to make it work for you in the opposite direction.

By Blogger glassblowerscat, at 6:58 PM  

" But as Joel points out, Microsoft has a few more programmers than Final Draft can afford. And they will restore your activations if they're wiped out by Snow Leopard. "

Six months? No. Sorry.

This alone is the kind of #fail thinking that proves FD is not a company that deserves your money. First they pull the plug on "dinosaur ware" that you bought?

Well what do you call it when I had to spend a year still on 6 after they put out an impossibly buggy FD 7? What was that?

And the fact that the same nightmare I had in 2009, I had in 2004 with the new FD7 losing activations?

There comes a point where DRM if it inconveniences a user too much becomes too much of a liability. If you guarantee that a user who pirates your software will have an easier experience than a paid user, then you do not deserve to be in business. Your right to protect your intellectual property does not trump my right to use something I've legitimately paid for.

Similarly, when CD's started using rootkit DRM's that acted as Malware on computers, people screamed.

You know how Screenwriter's DRM works? You go to a server. It says, you have 3 machines. Here they are. If you'd like to deauthorize one, click on it. Done.

So simple a child would use it. And it eliminates the "hard drive crashed" "sold the machine" / "lost the machine" so I lost an activation problem entirely.

Completely elegant. Good thinking -- and a more stable program with better support for production besides.

A guy who has the nerve to use "we're not as big as Microsoft" for a 6 month old problem? That is weak.

Plus the fact that you have to phone long distance from Canada.

Nope, Alex, I'm glad you got the personalized service that the rest of the customer base doesn't get. But for now, I'm sticking with the program that does exactly the same thing, but better and more elegantly.

By Blogger DMc, at 2:10 PM  

Thank you, Alex, for posting the corrected information.

I revisited our website and our activation line's phone message and they absolutely can and should be made more clear. The changes will most likely be implemented by EOB today. My apologies to anyone who might have been inconvenienced or frustrated by the lack of clarity.

I invite any registered owner of Final Draft who's having any problems with v.7 or v.8 to open a ticket with a technician. We stand behind our software and will work with a client until their issue is resolved. My staff and I are here to help and the last thing we want is for someone to be unable to use their software.

Links to the phone, email and live chat services, the interactive troubleshooter and the knowledge base are at

Joel Levin
Vice President, Technical Support
Final Draft, Inc.

By Blogger Unknown, at 3:21 PM  

"...I'm glad you got the personalized service that the rest of the customer base doesn't get."

I am very much not a FD apologist, but they'll give this level of service to anyone - not just uber-famous guys like Alex.

I wrote a post on DDP about FD8 and Joel tracked me down and sent a comprehensive email addressing my concerns. He also offered his phone number if I had any more problems or questions.

That said, it is ridiculous that they haven't implemented a Two Page display by now. Even though they said they would have it in FD8, they're now saying, "Not in 9, maybe in 10."

Now that I think about it, you *should* go check out Screenwriter and let us know how it works out. :-)

By Blogger The Spec Life, at 6:00 PM  

I had a similar problem. After a little saber-rattling, I was able to get them to give me a new FD6 activation, despite the fact that the server is down, but it feels like a cheap attempt to get more money from me.

I use Screenwriter now. After almost a decade of using FD, I have a slight preference for FD's interface choices, but I have no interest in giving them more money. I'll use upgrade - and use FD - when a job requires it, not before.

As for the argument that FD doesn't have enough developers, let me just point out that MMS has a smaller user base - but doesn't have this problems. FD also has a reputation for being cheap when it comes to hiring developers.

By Blogger Hotspur, at 3:41 PM  

Solution: Don't use any screenwriting software. Instead, use the reliable: QuarkXPress.

After creating your style sheet, man alive, you're done. All you have to do is keep on keyboarding. All your headings, dialogue positions, etc, will go where they should go. And since it is a typesetting program, it doesn't function as word processor only. You can't go wrong with QuarkXpress.

By Blogger TheCoolCanadian, at 2:15 AM  

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