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?

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR | Gaming | Metaverse technologies | Wearable tech | Tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
3 min read
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?