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Three Top Screenwriting Software Products for 2004
By Jeffrey M. Freedman

What better way to start 2004 than to upgrade to one of the most popular screenwriting programs if you aren't using one already? After testing some of the hottest products on the market, my top two are Movie Magic Screenwriter 2000 and Final Draft 6.0. Both are incredibly intuitive and user-friendly, competitively priced, and endorsed by some of the most successful screenwriters in the business. 

Movie Magic Screenwriter makes screenwriting as easy as it can be-not easy, not fast, not sweat-free-just as easy as it can be. All of the formatting that you would have to do with less sophisticated and intuitive programs is handled quickly and efficiently by Movie Magic. Character names, scene headings, and action are all added to the script with the touch of a keystroke or two. And if you are working on a script that has 83 main characters, that's not a problem, either; Movie Magic presents you with a character list every time you are trying to remember who that guy with the laser concealed in his no-foam latte is or want to review who or what is already in your script. It's all there just by hitting the 'C' on the control bar. Or just type the first letter or letters of the character's name in the script and it will pop up.



And if you run out of names for your plethora of characters, Movie Magic can help you there, too. The program has an extensive Name Bank that will help you come up with the right name for each character. The list is separated into male, female and family names. Final Draft 6.0 has a similar name bank utility. The script compare functions is a great feature if you want to compare two different drafts of the same screenplay; I found little difference in terms of ease-of-use in the way Movie Magic and Final Draft executes such a comparison. 

One thing I love about Movie Magic is their script note function. It's real easy to click on the little yellow button on the main menu bar and create a horizontal, yellow note space to jot down something you don't want to forget when you are in mid-sentence. You can also hide the notes with a click of your mouse and see them again at any time. Final Draft also has a script note function as well that is easy to use. 

Movie Magic also accommodates every major format you may be writing in. The program comes with feature film and television templates that facilitate the creation of scripts in either format, with partial scripts to help you get oriented to each. Final Draft also has some very popular templates that can help you get a feel for how the product enables you to handle several different genres. 

An online collaboration feature makes it really easy for you and your Movie Magic-using partner to trade ideas and inspirations in real-time. The program is also very adept at handling animation creation and ease of adaptation of script to animation production. Final Draft also scores high marks in getting you onto their Web site for assistance with most of the questions you might have about the product. 

If you want a screenwriting program that is up and running right after you get it out of the box, you can't do much better than Movie Magic. It took me more time to figure out how to open the box than to get the program installed and running. You definitely don't have to be a computer nerd to get the most out of this software. The manuals are also easy to understand and very comprehensive. I tried their online help service for assistance with configuration of the 'save' function and got a response within 24 hours. Other really impressive features include real-time Internet collaboration, online script registration, and export to Adobe Acrobat© PDF format; superior production features, such as built-in script breakdown and detailed export to Movie Magic Scheduling; Script Analysis features; and a very efficient import and export feature.
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