Sophocles Beta 2007

I got an email this morning (or was it last night?) asking if I’d like to participate in the beta testing of the new Sophocles scriptwriting software.

Now, I don’t know about this. I use Final Draft and I’m quite happy with it. Apart from a few moronic decisions in the early versions  of FD7, namely saving each page as a picture when you convert it to PDF (why?), I have no problems with it and it does everything I want it too.

I don’t really use any of the scene navigator functions or whatever else is in there. I use it for typing and that’s about it. I’m aware people don’t like it and there are other programs which perform better with more functionality; but I really don’t care. It does what I want and that’s fine.

But in the spirit of curiousity, I’ve downloaded Sophocles and had a look. First impressions?

There are things all over the screen! Hundreds of things, what are they? Buttons, tabs, menus … what the fuck is all this?

I had to switch it off and have a little lie down.

I’m back now and I’ve had another look. At a second glance I still find it quite confusing, I think it will take a while to get used to what it all does. I also find it quite weird that the default setting puts the ‘paper’ in a small window to one side instead of in front of you. And you don’t get page breaks, just a continuous stream of paper with thirty second intervals marked on the side. No page numbers? How does that work? I like page numbers.

I’ve just checked to see if it actually does have page numbers or not and I couldn’t find the program. It’s not in the programs list in my start menu, where the hell is it? Oh right, I’ve found it. What the hell is it doing over there? Nope, no page numbers.

There is an option to switch it to a page view, but that just puts a thin dotted line across the endless page. Every now and then Word does something like this and I hate it. I like the pages to look as much like a piece of paper as possible. The other problem is the explorer at the side. When I worked out how to get rid of it, the paper moved to the centre, but the text is too small to read. I’m trying to find a way to enlarge the view, but I’ve no idea how.

Right, I’ve found that.

And we’re off. Okay, so this is starting to make sense now. The story outlining aspects might be useful; but I like to do those on a piece of paper first, then move to a board so I can get a total overview. I’m not sure I like having the scenes on the screen, I find shifting my attention to another medium helps me think about things in a different way. I guess it’s something I could get used to and is useful if I’m writing away from home.

This then is the real test, if all I want it to do is exactly what my pre-existing software already does, then how much use is it to me? It’s a bit different and I could get used to it, but do I want or need to get used to a different program?

I’ll give it a fair run, though. I’ve got a script which needs a re-write so I’ll do it on Sophocles, see how it goes and report back.

Don’t take my word for it though, try it for yourself. The beta version is available for all and sundry here:

Categories: Sad Bastard, Software | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Sophocles Beta 2007

  1. Moviequill

    I concur. I already have a fine program so why would I need to switch? It does what I want and I know it inside and out from steady, repeated usage. Sophocles is a great program for someone who does not have formatting software, but there is not enough major differences from what I am using now to switch. MovieMagic users will say the same considering FD and vice versa… heck, I know some writers who say the same about their custom made Word templates

  2. At the risk of repeating what I wrote on Lucy’s blog: I work for at least one company which wants scripts in FDR format – I have to keep FD anyway until they change their minds.

    I’ve been playing with Sophocles all day and will post an update tomorrow.


  3. You almost might think that with this invite to test, Sophocles were targeting screenwriting bloggers as part of a sophisticated marketing campaign for their new product.


  4. That’s what I’d do.

    We are their target market, after all.

  5. The problem with Final Draft is that the FDR file format is proprietory. If anyone wants to make a new program that reads or writes FDR files, tough. It doesn’t make any sense to pick a proprietory format as an industry standard.

    If the creators of the program decide to start charging $10,000 for the program (and the company you work for still requires you to send scripts in that format) then you will have to pirate a copy or fork out $10,000.

    And even if they don’t do anything as crazy as that they can still bring out incompatible versions which require expensive upgrades or disappear off the face of the earth.

    And if you don’t want to run Windows or OS X then sorry – you can’t run Final Draft (actually you can run it on Linux under Wine, kind of, but not by design).

    The funny thing is that Final Draft barely offers the writer anything that a few m
    acros in a word processor or text editor wouldn’t do. There must be a way out. The most promising thing I’ve seen is which has an open file format.

  6. Hi Thomas, thanks for dropping by.

    Surely making your program use a proprietory file format is good business sense? You want people to buy your program, not a cheap knock off version.

    They could start charging the Earth for the program, some might say they already do, but they can only charge what people are willing to pay. If it gets too expensive, people willl slowly move to a different program. Final Draft is only the industry standard by concensus – FD 7 has done a lot to change to that opinion, the first versions were horribly buggy and stupidly designed.

    As for running in a different OS, how many people don’t use Windows or whatever Apple call their OS? Is it a significant percentage? Do most software companies cater for this market?

    I ask because I genuinly don’t know – I only know one guy who runs Linux and he’s so obsessive about fine tuning his PC it rarely works. He spends more time working around Microsoft products than actually using his PC for something useful.

    I’d definitiely dispute the fact FD doesn’t do anything a word processor and a few macros can’t do. FD, and other writing programs, have much more to offer and make the writing process a lot easier. But then again, maybe I just don’t know how to use a word processor properly?

    All I know is, FD made my job a hell of a lot easier. I can’t imagine going back to Word or its ilk.

  7. bugger

    okay. I kind of get you. I cannot believe for an instant though that the non-linear format for screenwriting offered here got dismissed with a simple “I don’t use the navigator” comment. First let’s establish that in story development, it never goes easy peasy. Usually the creative spark begins with a flurry of images that can fit into any act, at any time. Most likely – any one of these images take a single line to describe. A script can be formatted, plot points covered, beats established – all using that navigator that received such a nonchalant oversight. This product has added a tool that finally allows the writer to develope in a non linear fashion – using that tool, the plot is set before a word of script is added to the page. Revisit this tool with that in mind….

  8. Are you defending Final Draft, Sophocles or both?

    My nonchalance about the scene navigator was a FD related comment; and I guess I have that attitude because I do write linearly.

    I outline the story and work out the act breaks on a piece of paper, fill in any other plot points which need to be there, write a short treatment and then move to my board. Even then I tend to put scene cards up in a linear fashion.

    I could use Sophocles’ tools for this step, but I prefer to use a big board I can physically step back from and see everything.

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