In an earlier post, I listed three ways to import a PDF into Final Draft:
- Retype it.
- Copy and Paste and Reformat every line.
- Use Highland.
On a Mac, Highland was by far the best choice. It was much faster and much more accurate.
Joel Levin at Final Draft emailed me to recommend an alternate workflow that’s listed on the Final Draft site:
If you have a recent version of the Adobe Acrobat Reader you can go to File > Save As > Text and save the document as a text file.
Import this text file into Final Draft (File > Open) as a script but you may need to do some reformatting.
I just tried it, and will update my earlier post. Here’s a screencast:
The short version is that for the file I tested, this method was better than copy-and-paste — but only slightly. Elements were more likely to be recognized correctly, but line breaks and spacing glitches were daunting. The script also swelled from 114 to 343 pages.
I wondered if it was just something strange about that one file, so I tried the same method on a bunch of the PDFs in the Library. Some of them turned out better than others, but all of them were significantly messed up.
So while it’s generally an improvement over copy-and-paste, you’d still need to spend quite a bit of time getting a useful script out of this workflow.
This actually isn’t Final Draft’s fault — their app is doing a commendable job on the fairly janky text file Adobe Reader is creating.
Nor is it Adobe’s fault — they built a general-purpose PDF app that doesn’t know anything about screenplays. It’s like complaining that a hammer is a terrible screwdriver.
Highland is a specialized tool for doing exactly this kind of conversion, which is why it works so much better. My previous recommendation still stands: if you need to convert a PDF to Final Draft, your best bet is to use Highland on a Mac.
If you can’t use Highland (e.g. you’re on a PC, and can’t bribe someone with a Mac), this Final Draft workflow is better than copy-and-paste. My thanks to Joel for pointing this out.