How to Convert Screenplay PDFs to Final Draft Using Highland

Do you have an old screenplay that you really want to rewrite in the latest version of Final Draft, but you only have a PDF copy buried in a folder on your hard drive? Or have you ever been rewriting one of your screenplays on Final Draft when your hard drive dies and you discover the only other copy of your script is a PDF you emailed a friend to read? All you can think about is the time and misery of retyping that PDF back into Final Draft. Unless you have Highland, which will convert that screenplay PDF into a Final Draft document, saving you time. And misery.

Melting screenplay PDFs and turning them into Final Draft (.fdx) files isn't exactly new. Highland has been able to perform this cool trick since its beta launch back in February 2012. But with the recent release of version 1.5.4 of Highland from Quote-Unquote Apps, John August has decided to create a few training videos to show off Highland's features. His first entry below walks us through the process of converting screenplay PDFs to Final Draft files using Highland:

Now, Highland can do more than convert PDFs to Final Draft. Screenwriters can use Highland to convert .fdx files into Fountain format to make edits and changes, then resave those files in .fdx format without ever opening or using Final Draft. This could work well when screenwriters are collaborating and one works in Final Draft while the other doesn't. Also, the Fountain format is future-proof because it is a plain text format, so Highland can convert screenplay PDFs and .fdx files into Fountain format for future-proofing.

On his blog, August points out that Highland can't convert every screenplay PDF to Final Draft. For example, if the screenplay PDF is actually a scanned document, it's really a series of images with no text for Highland to recognize and pull out. In this case, August notes you could use a character recognition app like Prizmo 2 on the PDF first, then try to convert the new PDF to Final Draft via Highland. Also, Highland doesn't play nice with PDFs generated by Fade In because of the "odd PDF-building code Fade In uses," says August.

August plans to release more screencasts of Highland in action because Quote-Unquote Apps has removed the demo version from its site. The demo was creating confusion for users, so August decided to create the screencasts instead. Also, August explains that Highland is updated frequently - twice a month on average - and maintaining the demo version simultaneously was slowing down development.

Highland is currently available at the Mac App Store for $30.

Have you used Highland to convert your screenplay PDFs to Final Draft? Is this a solution you have been looking for to convert your old screenplays or rescue your current project from a hard drive crash? Share your stories with us in the comments.


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Writing screenplays in Fountain is effing AMAZING. It's so much easier than FD, CeltX, or any other format - all you need is a text editor! - and the files are smaller, and since it's all technically plaintext, still readable/editable if you switch to other software or need to archive.

I use Highland as a writing tool. No need for Final Draft or any other screenwriting software. Why pay 150 bucks or whatever when ten dollars gets you just about the same functionality AND more longevity/open file formats/ease of use?

November 21, 2013 at 7:43AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Highland might be okay to write with but how is it for polishing and revision?

Among a bunch of nifty features, I love the way Final Draft allows you to split your screen in two with color coded index card summaries in one window and the script in the other. The cards are a kind of storyboard in text. I code each card with a color corresponding to its significance (green = Act I, yellow = Act II, red = Act III, pivotal scenes = lavender). It makes it easy to see how the story flows. If you see something out of place just move the card and the scene follows.

Also, did you know that the .fdx format is actually xml? You can open and fiddle with this file in any text editor.

As far as the cost goes, what's a few hundred when you consider the millions you're going to make as a famous professional screenwriter?

November 21, 2013 at 2:01PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


FYI, I made a website that converts from PDF, Final Draft, Celtx, Word, and Fountain for free:

November 24, 2013 at 4:39PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

You voted '-1'.

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February 22, 2018 at 5:25AM