iPad: Screenwriter's best friend?

Final Draft is developing an app for the iPad: the question is, could a tablet ever replace a printed script?

Final Draft

Are iPads and slates trying to forge a new territory between reading and writing?

I've written a screenplay or two in my life, and have as such become a fan of Final Draft screenwriting software. That's why my last trip to the company's Web site caught my attention: a Final Draft app is in the works for Apple's iPad.

I became somewhat excited and interested by this news, because it suggested a possible functionality I can't currently easily get with my laptop: a screenplay reader with the ability to casually edit.

Final Draft sent me an e-mail survey after I checked a box showing interest, and the questions certainly seemed to lead in that direction. They wanted to know what I thought should be in a screenplay-writing app for a tablet, but also what interest I'd have in a reading/annotating app for both writers and for those looking to create script coverage for studios.

The idea of an e-reader actually being used to create notes as well as display text is, at least to me, the real holy grail of all e-reading. The original purpose of e-readers (and the e-ink displays of readers like the Kindle) was to replace the printed page, and most of the paper I waste goes into creating copies of scripts or rough drafts that I then read and make notes on before re-entering edits later on. I do this because, though I love using a laptop to write, I absolutely hate using a laptop to read. Hundreds of old stories and drafts sit in a folder, largely untouched, because they're not easily readable or sharable on a laptop, and I'd rather not waste the paper to print them. Having a diverse e-reader that can not only read e-books but also allow easy note-taking and edits is the desire that turned me off to limited-use devices such as the Kindle, and I'm not the only one .

Apple seems to have set an agenda by announcing iPad versions of its iWork programs, particularly Pages. Final Draft never had an iPhone app, but it and many other document-creation programs could quickly follow suit with a host of annotating reader programs. I already use my iPhone as a reader, particulary for Kindle books , but its use is admittedly limited. The portability of the iPhone is fantastic, but it only reads a large paragraph at a time, and the small-screen strain is hard on my eyes after a while. Also, though the iPhone may be fine for reading, it's lousy for editing--there's simply no screen real estate for it.

This is the main appeal, for me, of a device like an iPad: perhaps it could be my virtual piece of paper, a way to create edits while reading without lugging out the laptop. Netbooks still provide more universal functionality than an iPad , but they just aren't great as e-readers ( sorry, Dan ), and certainly don't have great touch-screen functionality yet, though some such as the convertible Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3t come close.

The question is, is defining a new category between physical paper and laptop a necessary step right now? For a serious writer who's used to printing lots of versions of their lengthier documents, it could be. For me, it just might be enough to warrant a look at the iPad when it debuts.

If there are any Hollywood types out there, speak up: would an iPad ever replace a physical script at a reading, while doing coverage, or on a set?


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