Two weeks ago, I set up a survey to gauge how screenwriters felt about the screenwriting software they used. This morning, I closed the survey, which capped out at 130 responses — most of them coming the first week. My thanks to all the writers who participated.
Is 130 responses a statistically valid sample? Probably not, but we’re not electing a president here. The goal was just to get a better sense of how screenwriters felt, and on that level, I think the results are pretty clear.
As I talk through some of my observations, I’ll focus on three different groups. “All Writers” refers to anyone who responded to the survey. “Professional Writers” means respondents who identified themselves as earning their living as a screenwriter. Since I have no way of knowing whether these people really make their living off the screen trade, I’ll also single out “Verified Writers.” These are screenwriters who I personally emailed, so I know they do it for a living.
Over the next week or so, I’ll post some further thoughts and conclusions. But for now, I just wanted to present some general observations:
1. Most screenwriters use Final Draft.
In all, 75.2% of respondents used some version of Final Draft. For verified writers, that number rises to 100% (13 of 13). For all writers, the number two program was Movie Magic Screenwriter, followed by Microsoft Word and Sophocles.
2. Most screenwriters are happy with their current program.
A whopping 87% of respondents rate their program Good or Excellent, and 83% fall in the Satisfied camp. Those numbers drop to 77% and 78% for verified writers, but are still quite good.
3. Real writers use Macs.
Granted, that’s a biased bullet point. But it’s worth noting that among verified writers, Mac users outnumber Windows users by more than two-to-one (69.2% vs. 30.8%). In the less strict professional writers category, the numbers are roughly even (50% Mac vs. 47.1% Windows). Windows comes out on top for total respondents, 59% to 38.5%.
4. There are a lot of features no one uses.
Among these: index cards, collaboration, character name generator, computer voice reading, and email from within the program. Split screens could be added to this list, but since that’s a new feature for Final Draft v. 7, it’s understandable why most people don’t use it.
5. People want features they don’t use.
The great thing about surveys is that they can reveal logic inconsistencies. For instance, 51% of all writers never use script compare, yet 67% consider it Crucial or Important.
6. Price is an issue, but people will pay for quality.
For starters, 81.7% of respondents report using a legitimate copy of the program. We can’t know if that’s really accurate, but I’m inclined to believe it. While 58% of writers feel the software they are using costs too much, 47% said they’d be willing to pay $200 for their ideal screenwriting software, and another 39% said $100. To my eyes, that doesn’t seem to be a case of just wanting things cheaper, but wanting a better program for the money.
7. Most people found the survey through my site.
Which makes me feel all warm-and-fuzzy.
I conducted the survey using SurveyMonkey, which is cheap and brilliant. One of the very best things about the service is that by clicking on this link, you can see all of the results for yourself. While you’re there, definitely try the “Edit Filter…” feature in order to see more specific sets of information. (Hint: Check the “Total” versus “Visible” figures to make sure you’re really looking at the data you want.)
As always, please post your comments. I have my opinions, but I’m very curious to know your thoughts about What It Really Means.