I’ve been using Final Draft screenwriting software since 2002. But so many times I’ve found myself throwing up my hands in frustration, and simply wanting a minimal, clean writing interface. Highland 2.5 screenwriting software is here, new and improved, and developed by screenwriter John August (Aladdin, Big Fish, Go).
For me, the software isn’t just helpful for writing the screenplay, but it also has ways to motivate my writing and seems to have helpful features for after the screenplay is written. Here are ten things I love about Highland 2.5.
1. Hitting Goals
If you’re like me and spend the first thirty minutes “writing” by surfing the internet, then you’ll love the “Goal” and “Sprint” features. For “Goal” you set how many pages or words you want to write that day and it keeps track for you. It also records when you hit your “Milestones.” It’s literally a record of your workflow.
If you ever say to yourself, ‘I want to write for one hour straight,’ the “Sprint” feature is a timer you set to help keep you on track. If something comes up and you have to step away from the computer, the 2.5 version of the software allows you to stop your sprint. It’s a fun way to keep those pages coming.
2. Drag and Drop Navigator
This tool shows you a list of your slug lines and allows you to move entire scenes around without having to cut and paste them. It’s super easy and I know it will come in handy when I’m in a second or third draft.
3. Word Analysis
This is the tool I didn’t know I needed. It looks at all your words, telling you which ones are unique, which aren’t in the dictionary, or which are used only once. This could be helpful if you are trying to make each character’s dialogue distinct and want to make sure you don’t have more than one character saying things like, “Doggone it!” or “Mercy me.”
It also can tell you which words are spelled differently in the UK. This would have been so helpful to me when I was writing my recent novel for a British publisher. I wrote it using American spellings and then was told four days before it went to print to change all the American spellings to British ones. Given that I’m not British, it was an incredibly difficult and time-consuming task.
4. Gender Analysis
As Hollywood is trying to create more roles for women, this tool will help you keep track of your male to female ratio. And, as if taken straight out of the Bechdel test, can tell you how many scenes have two or more women speaking to each other.
5. Video Tutorials
You will need the internet to see the numerous video tutorials Highland has created, but they are super easy to access. Just go to the “Help” dropdown menu and click on “Video Tutorials” and it takes you straight to the videos on YouTube.
6. Revision Mode
You can choose a color for your revisions, which comes in handy when you are working with a writing partner and you are passing drafts back and forth. Pretty smart. Stars (indicating there are changes) are also added on the right side of the page which is really valuable for when you go into production.
7. Highlighting Dialogue
This comes in handy if you’re doing a reading of your screenplay with actors. Instead of using an actual highlighter, you can pick a color for each character and it will highlight all of that character’s dialogue making it easy for your actor to stay on top of the scene.
8. Convert to Narrated Script
In the “File” dropdown menu, you can choose “Convert to Narrated Script.” Once you do this, you can go to the “Edit” dropdown menu and click “Speech.” It will then read you your screenplay, telling you who is speaking. It will say, “Paul says, How are you, Linda?” This is a great way to listen for errors and also have your screenplay read to you.
This feature lets you keep notes for yourself or your writing partner within the same document. You can also keep cut lines of dialogue in the “Scratchpad” in case you want to put them back in later.
10. Export to Final Draft
If you want to send your screenplay to someone who doesn’t have Highland, you can click on the “File” dropdown menu and click on “Export To” and you can save it as .fdx document. If you then click on the “File” menu, then “Share” you can email, text or AirDrop your screenplay.
Shanee Edwards graduated from UCLA Film School with an MFA in Screenwriting and is currently the film critic for SheKnows.com. She recently won the Next MacGyver television writing competition to create a TV show about a female engineer. Her pilot, Ada and the Machine, is currently in development with America Ferrera’s Take Fountain Productions. You can follow her on Twitter: @ShaneeEdwards