Hog Bay Software offers an alternative to WriteRoom called FoldingText, which, while not exactly a focused-writing app, does something interesting. The $25 app is a combination of a text editor.
If you want to learn, at some point you’ll need script writing software. When it comes to script writing software/screenwriting software, I have three apps to recommend.
Here’s a quick guide to the best screenwriting software so you can choose what’s right for you. Quick Navigation.
My Philosophy on Screenwriting Software In a nutshell: time is a writer’s most valuable resource. Therefore, script writing software should save you time: it should be easy to learn and use, bug-free, and reliably updated. NOTE: what follows is my opinion, and I am not compensated for these recommendations. That said, here are my choices for the best screenwriting software. Best Free Script Writing Software: Celtx is free and over 3,000,000 people are using it (according to their website).
Celtx is fully-featured, cloud-based screenwriting software that can also be used for storyboarding and production. Celtx offers a few subscription choices, one of which is the option for a free subscription.
Celtx is not only my top choice for the best free screenwriting software, it’s also my choice when a filmmaking team needs to collaborate on the script as well as budgets, schedules, shot lists, and more. Celtx is only $9.99 per month for the additional storyboarding and production features. Celtx integrates with iOS apps such as Index Cards, Script, Shots, Scout, and Sides. Best Inexpensive Script Writing Software: Highland is a minimalist, distraction-free software that utilizes plain text. This means that your script is readable in any text editor and can move easily on and off of any device. Highland also exports to and imports from FDX and PDF, provides notes inline with text, and has markers and page-jumpers to navigate within a long document. Highland’s lead developer is top screenwriter John August ( Big Fish, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory). Highland is $29.99.
Best Full-Featured Screenwriting Software: Fade In renders text crisply, supports unicode (text in other languages) and dual dialogue, and allows you to find/replace and undo just about anything. Fade In has fully functional syncing iOS and Android versions, and is updated for free by a capable developer who also writes and directs films. Fade In is also the choice of top screenwriter Craig Mazin ( Hangover 2, Identity Thief). I should note here that John August’s podcast Scriptnotes (which Mazin co-hosts) has. Fade In costs $79.95 and offers a free trial. I purchased Write Brothers Movie Magic, i.e., Screenwriter in 1998. I dabbled in a few other screenwriting applications including Celtx, Story, Final Draft, and Highland. I liked Celtx and Highland.
I’ve written scripts for commercial and informational videos using Word just because that’s what the client used. If I were starting now, I might go with Celtx. It being more web based has advantages and disadvantages, but it is free. I still prefer Screenwriter. I have a BSEE and was a hardware and software engineer for 30 years so I don’t think my preferences are biased by technophobia. In the future, if I need to write anything besides narrative features and shorts, I may try another application. Claire E Robertson Same here.
I bought Movie Magic in September 2000. I’ve had to wrestle with downloads when switching to a new computer system from my old Windows XP systems but it works great for me so I’m basically refusing to upgrade to the expensive newest version of it.
Why fix what isn’t broken? I did have to try and show that I could use Final Draft when I took a college course over a decade ago but my instructor was so impressed with how well my work looked in MM that he allowed us to choose which we preferred. The majority of the class chose MM over FD. Bottom line on it was that we really didn’t need a lot of extra tools to do basic things like using an index card feature.
Both programs have it but MM is a lot simpler to use than FD and you really only need to remember where your tab, enter, and down arrow keys are in addition to where your alphabet keys are once it’s set up for your own writing style. Happy to report, I can type over 200 words a minute without having to look at the keyboard.
Useful since the letters often fade fast on every keyboard I get. The addition of being able to import a word processing document and then quickly convert it into a screenplay format means I’m unlikely to want any other screenwriting product in the future. I can also use MM budgeting and scheduling with it, too.
I use and love Fade In. So much better than Movie Magic, which is what I used previously (I’ve always preferred Movie Magic over Final Draft). It even has a dual-column A/V template, which is really handy if you do commercial video scripting (although I prefer the way Celtx handles the A/V format). Fade In also imports and exports to Final Draft (among many other file formats), so even if you’re working with people who require a Final Draft file, you’re not stuck having to use it.
Aside from Fade In’s seamless functionality, I also appreciate that it doesn’t look like it was time-portaled in from the mid-90s. Irene I used to be a Final Draft Fundamentalist, but when I needed to collaborate with people I don’t see very often, and when I began looking around for ways to write without having to put my beloved laptop at risk in the wild, Fade In and Celtx came to the rescue. I have to admit that Celtx is slowly winning me away from Fade In, however.
I’ll miss the $ I spent on Fade In, but Celtx is so easy to use. I’m also a big fan of Scrivener, but I use that mainly for non-screenwriting purposes, probably because I began using it to write and compile ebooks for Kindle. It’s a monster of functionality!
What level of familiarity would you recommend aspiring screenwriters to have with Final Draft? While I’m sure some people would disagree with me, I don’t think aspiring screenwriters need to have much familiarity with Final Draft other than to know it exists. Yes, it definitely is what productions use, but as there is a long way between writing a script and getting a movie made, I don’t think expensive screenwriting software should be an impediment. Is there a chance that you would have to convert your script into Final Draft if the movie goes into production? So you have to spend a few hours re-entering your script because you’re movie is getting made?
That is work I would personally be happy to do. Writerduet allows you to upload a Final Draft, Celtx, pdf, doc etc into it. It’s my favorite over others because I can see my partners writing in real time. They can see me when I’m in there. So I’ve had the ability to write with others who live far away from me.
Maybe other sites allow this now, but they weren’t when I was shopping around/testing them out. The formatting isn’t always perfect in WriterDuet after an you upload (esp.
If the previous doc was a pdf etc, but it’s pretty good to get started). And you can download out of it (once you pay into the paid service, I believe there is still a free trial version) into PDF, Celtx, Final Draft, etc. Very convenient for sharing with others who don’t use Writerduet or have Final Draft yet. I use final draft and have for years. In general my mantra is if you want to play with the big boys than you have to use their toys.
It really is the go to for production. One of the more memorable moments at Austin’s festival this past fall was watching the FD boys debate another program. They license to entire crews and have to contract with the production that they will support them. That aside, I can tell you as a coverage reader as well as a writer, I can instantly recognize when someone is using another software.
Or worse — WORD. It SHOULDN’T get in the way of a story but when you are reading upwards of 10 scripts a day at times, you get into a cadence of scene breaks and formatting that is automatic in FD and can vary (in line spacing and margins) in other programs — it seems nit picky but it does take you out of the story. When you are an established writer (like Gilroy on Nightcrawler) you can get away with breaking the norm, but in the meantime I say stick with the standard.
John I use the free version of WriterDuet and it’s excellent. Definitely the best free screenwriting software around. I had issues with all the other “free” screenwriting programs. Will upgrade to WD Pro soon. There’s a great quote on the WriterDuet website from Ed Solomon, writer of MEN IN BLACK and most recently NOW YOU SEE ME: “Writer Duet is the most intuitive, most user-friendly scriptwriting software I’ve ever used. And it’s truly amazing to be able to write and share screens with one, two, or many different people at once.
I wish I’d had this earlier in my career. I can’t say enough good things about Guy Goldstein and Writer Duet.” – Ed Solomon (Men in Black, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Now You See Me). Speaking as an (DGA) Assistant Director and Unit Production Manager, Celtx makes our job quite challenging. The greatest issue being that it cannot easily export to any other program.
So while a writer may find it wonderful (and free), script breakdown for scheduling and budgeting becomes a nightmare. All the slugs, sets, characters and locations need to be reentered manually into a scheduling and budgeting program. Celtx claims to have an all in one solution and can provide many production reports, but it simply doesn’t provide the horsepower needed as a day to day production tool. I think that the best piece of software out there right now if WriterDuet. WriterDuet is an incredible piece of software that does all of the the things that final draft does, better, plus an incredible real time collaboration capability. In my opinion, it’s really the only viable choice for writing partnerships, and perhaps the best choice for single writers. It’s way more fully featured that the free version of Celtex.
It has the PDF reading capacity of Highland, but it’s also cross platform, which Highland isn’t. I have not tried Fade In. The lead developer on WriterDuet, Guy, is also extremely accessible and always has responded to my questions or feature requests.
Having used many screenwriting software programs over the years, I was surprised to find Celtx offered many of the features the expensive programs do — yet it is free. The cavet here is they do charge for additional production-level modules yet the direct benefit is anyone can get started in screenwriting at a professional level at no cost.
All of our screenplays have been imported into Celtx since 2010 and I have requested all of my students to do so as well. I highly recommend Celtx for anyone who is writing. Questions: — Do ALL of these program save in Adobe Acrobat for a standardized pdf?
— Can the pdfs of those scripts be “read” in the other programs? Example: When a Scrivener or FADE IN script’s pdf is sent to a production company, can the production staff member use their software to “read” the cast numbers & # speeches and the Int.- Ext. Locations list? I noticed that David, a DGA, indicated that they don’t all import. Writing with free scriptware is fine for beginners, but when you are seriously submitting, you have to understand that the pdf has to allow for the programming that provides for script breakdown so the production company can identify COST factors like cast size and locations with a couple of taps of the keys. If the script is being submitted to actors, they want to know how many scenes they appear in and the number of speeches they have to “guessimate” their value to the project. I use Movie Magic.
I also use moviemagic. I love the monthly newsletter I get from them (tips from ‘screenwriter bible’s David Trottier). It imports from pdf and word just fine. It has a LOT of bells and whistles I don’t know how to use yet. It has templates from all the majors, and all the formats. It is constantly saving for me in a ‘timed backup’ file, so if I forget to save or the power goes out, a recent version is safe. I’m so happy with it, I’ll likely buy it again.
I don’t know why no-one really uses itit’s great! Charu Hi Stephanie I think professional writers cannot NOT think of compatibility with the production office and those who give notes – readers, execs, producers, directors. Here in Mumbai I have been writing a TV show for the last six years in MS Word because that particular production company has its own format and production office requirements. I use FD and Celtx for writing features. I prefer FD despite its high cost and occasional bugs because I just feel more safe about of my work. (I have this phobia of scripts getting stuck in ‘retrieval hell’ in hopeless recesses of crashed hard disks or ‘cloud bursts’ or getting ‘locked up’ in a free / trail software etc etc etc 🙂 ) But currently am writing a feature for a company using Celtx because the producer has ‘political issues’ with using expensive writing software.
One software that I really miss is SOPHOCLES. Did anybody on this thread use it?
It was so good and it’s a pity that they discontinued their service. Chrid Great article! I found and use Celtx but didn’t know about the other two. I keep looking for a software package that reads aloud dialog. Years ago I was sometimes lucky enough to find a group of actors willing to read my script out loud and put feeling and character into after they had read the script and the result was an incredible high to hear your own words and spot things that worked or didn’t work well. I highly recommend anyone who can find a community theater or group of actors willing to do that for an afternoon quite valuable! Anthony This is a subject that could go on and on ad nauseam.
Just go take a look on different threads about screenwriting on Stage32. I’d call this the ghost topic.
It will always come back. Personally, I stopped using Celtx because it was a pain to use during the rewrite process. And to be clear I used Celtx since the beginning. There are bugs in the editor which prevent you to have a perfect formatted screenplay, this year I called it quits.
So I put my hands on Scrivener, set it up with two different templates depending on the project. Movie Screenplay / TV Bible And the finishing line so to speak is made on Final Draft and/or Trelby which is remarquably handy for a free software.
Anthony Also, one last thing to bear in mind about Celtx. You can get an editor that you install on your computer.
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That’s the one I used. It’s a great start I’m not denying it. You also now have the possibilty to do all your preproduction via their web services. I think the tricky part with what they offer you for a fee per month is that it is a closed service. You can do everything on their web platform but if you want to get out, and put your script, your data, your schedule, your budget on another piece of software, you’re gonna waste a lot of time trying to export things correctly. In effect they discourage you to do that, they want you to stay. So after due considerations ( should I stay or should I go) I said, that’s enough for me.
I want to be able to carry my data on any file format I want without any restriction. So I can deliver them to other people. Hope this will help, but hey don’t take my word for it! You can try it. John Edwards Hey Steph, Once again, a great and useful post.
I used to use Final Draft and discovered Celtx after my laptop was stolen. I, too, think it’s hard to beat for the money. I’m also a fan of very stripped down software: in fact, I just used MS Word with a screenwriting stylesheet on the past. I think there’s a danger of getting distracted by the bells and whistles (as if writers needed more distraction) and soon we get so caught up with the tool we forget about the work. That being said, Celtx’s features are incredibly useful and easy to use. For that reason and the cost it is my go-to writing program (after pen and paper).
Odocoileus Been a Movie Magic user for 8 years. Still love it. But I’ve been flirting with Fade In because it has a mobile version that allows smooth transfers between my PC and my Android devices.
For my Android devices – phone and tablet – I’ve been using DubScript. It allows me to write scripts using the Fountain markup language and see them displayed in screenplay format. But Fade In works perfectly with Fountain files, whereas Movie Magic doesn’t quite get to a hundred per cent compatibility. Courtney I still use Final Draft (and will continue to use Final Draft) because I feel it works better than all the other programs I’ve used (including those listed, especially Celtx). Once you get to know Final Draft inside and out, it has all the same functions as any other program out there and a lot more.
It’s also more compatible with many of the programs needed for pre-production outside of the writing process which helps take the script form the page and put it further into pre-production without the hassle (MM, SSP, etc). Honestly, I think it’s all just preference. Paul Thurston I’ve used Movie Magic for years and never looked back. Ross Good article!
With so many options out there, good discussion about tools to help writers increase productivity/quality is helpful! A couple important requirements a screenwriting package needs to provide: First and foremost – storytelling! Index cards and a notebook aren’t terrible, but there might be ways for technology to help. Software designers, I don’t want to figure out a new, complex UI or programming language (I have Maya for that). My needs are very simple: help me lay out and organize my story!
There are many fine software packages out there, but the best I’ve found for this purpose by far is Scrivener. Truly a simple, elegant tool that costs a whopping $50! When the story is up and running, then it’s time to look at other packages – FD is king here, but MM et. Are right in there, too. Formatting is crucial, and this is where software can really come it in handy. Why formatting is so important is all the breakdown/pre-production work that’s required by other departments.
FD and MovieMagic Screenwriter play very well with many scheduling and budgeting packages that every line producer and AD uses. I hear Celtx does too. Accurate revisioning during the prepro process can be greatly streamlined with a good package. FD is obnoxiously and needlessly expensive, but it is quite the formatting tool.
Have to say I’ve never tried Celtx in production. In my case, I do the bulk of story design with Scrivener and format with FD (prehistoric version). Work gets done snappy-like, unless there’s a hitch with the cognitive process. Silvia Hi Stephanie, I have been a loyal Final Draft user since for many years. I started with Final Draft 4 I think.
I am now using Final Draft 8. I still love it and as you mentioned it is the industry standard. That said, I have experienced crashing with FD 8, (I literally almost started crying last night when it crashed). Even though I have it set on ‘auto save’, it still crashed. I would also like to mention that I am also registered on Celtx.
I am especially thrilled with it’s relatively new ability to allow us to ‘cut’ and ‘paste’ our scripts into its program. As I said, Love me some FD! But, I have been very blessed to be able to get my hands on it. If that were not the case Celtx would be my #1 choice. I tried an Open Office template, early on.
It could make scripts, but it lacked full functionality. I finally got a discount copy of FinalDraft through my school and loved it from the start. It’s the real deal. I’ve never had it lock up, though occasionally it pauses, which may be more a function of my computer than the software. Sometimes free is too expensive. I have no fears of submitting a script file in FinalDraft format. My feeling is that it’s still the industry standard.
And it works. BTW: agents and others can tell if an RTF file was not created in FD.
There’s an easy way to check. Earl Celtx PROS: Runs on Windows. Can be run from flash drive or any browser via Cloud. Able to store multiple versions and various data related to the project in one file. Navigation window with file & folders capabilities. Can be saved/retrieved directly to/from Cloud.
(Multiple versions) Character description templates. Lots of pre-production tools such as Scheduling, Storyboard.
CONS: No onscreen WYSIWYG. Inaccurate onscreen page numbering. No page locking. No revision page colors. Allows sentences or dialog to be run on at page breaks.
(period or no period) Does not import Final Draft files. Not able to navigate to note locations by clicking on the note. ——————————————————————————————————————- Screenwriter 6 PROS: Error checking. Prints sides.
Navigation menu makes it easy to go to notes, scenes, bookmarks. Colored text. Advanced production features. Great support! Either by email/web page or phone, I Always got help a timely manner. ————————————————————————————————————– CONS: No Linux or mobile application. Does not import/export Final Draft files.
No Full Screen mode. Cannot be run from a flash drive. Navigation menu does not have file/folders capabilities. ——————————————————————————————————————– Fade in Pro Pros: Runs on Windows. Able to import Celtx, Final Draft, PDF files. Retina display with OS X. Able to export Final Draft files.
EPUB export Adobe Story support. Fountain support. Scrivener support. Constant updates. CONS: No web version.
(Versions – 1.2.464 ) Needs Mac OS 10.6 Intel or better. No tagging/breakdown capabilities.
Dictionary/Thesaurus (Online only) Cannot be run from a flash drive. Navigation menu does not have files, folders or notes capabilities (Like Celtx, Storyist) Wish there were more quick launch icons to create Notes, Synopsis, etc. (maybe Right-Click does this?) Launch icons too small. (at lease on my netbook) So My number one software remains MM Screenwriter 6.
(I never totally trust web based only apps, (especially after what just happened to Scripped!). JD I normally use Scrivener, but I was considering using John August’s markup system, just to see how I liked it.
Also free, and apparently imports/converts easily to FD, the industry standard. Before that, I used FD (a long time ago). I was fine with it, but that was apparently before they introduced crashes as an um, “undocumented feature.” Heh. I trust NOTHING to the cloud.
Also re the standard: whenever I output a complete draft, I compile a copy in FD mode and CHECK it. Ditto when exporting into PDF.
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Errors can occur. Adjustments will be made.
I’ll probably get FD again, just b/c it is the standard. Don’t let haste, sloppiness or cheapness hinder the potentially very important eyeballs reading your work! Output to the industry standard (whatever that is where you are) and make sure your work is 100% when it goes out.
That’s the trouble with university, they have standardised across the university. However NOBODY in the film industry uses Word as it’s too easy to screw up. You can use WriterDuet to output to RTF and then into Word. Some production companies will use Word internally, just as some will use Celtx, or EP or StudioBinder or But the international standard script format is Final Draft.fdx which can be tagged and imported (as a.sex file!) into Movie Magic Budgeting and Movie Magic Scheduling.
So that means that whatever you use to write your script, it must be capable of ending up in.fdx. Robert I’ve tried all of the screenwriting programs (and I do mean ALL of them).
I used to use Final Draft but got sick of how buggy it was and paying for updates. Movie Magic Screenwriter is just too old at this point. Celtx is clunky, Adobe Story is clunky, and I wouldn’t trust either of those.
I wouldn’t trust ANY cloud based program or website. Scripped disappeared and took all the scripts stored there with it. Friends of mine use Writer Duet because it’s free but it’s been down a LOT lately, and when it’s down you can’t get your work. Highland and Slugline are sort of cool but they’re not really full screenwriting programs. They’re kind of like half screenwriting programs. I bought Fade In (ONLY fifty bucks!) and have been using it for a while now. So long Final Draft.
WriterDuet creator here, just wanted to address the point you mentioned: AFAIK we’ve had two non-trivial times offline in the past year, and nothing was lost, we were back up in a few hours. I’m working on solutions to avoid that happening again.
But there’s an easy solution to avoid Internet problems with WriterDuet: buy the Pro version, which works seamlessly offline. You’re comparing it to paid programs – yes the free version has a limitation, but that should be expected.
A lot of programs don’t have fully capable, unlimited free versions at all. You say you’ve tried all the programs, but it sounds like with WD you just took your friends’ experience (which seems like it was good except one or two brief holdups). Give it a try yourself, I am confident you will be very impressed! I believe the Pro version is hands-down the best option out there. Joseph Lombardo Hello, I’m interested in trying the Fade In software. I haven’t written for many years and so a lot of this is new to me.
When I last wrote I did so in Word. As far as Fade In is concerned I’d like to know if this is a program that I can save on my computer or do I have to save into some cloud somewhere. I really don’t like the idea of my work drifting around someplace. I’ve read up on Fade In and haven’t seen anything mentioning this. Can anyone tell me about this please? I’ve gone from Final Draft 6 to Scrivener to Final Draft 9. As a novelist and screenwriter, Scrivener was the best choice.
It was great for organizing the chapters of my book into folders using a left pane, and then also organize the screenplay on the right pane. This made it extremely easy to convert my novels to screenplay format. Even though I am using Final Draft for the rewrites, I would feel equally comfortable continuing in Scrivener.
The other advantage of Scrivener is you can use it on an unlimited number of devices (my example: 1-work/2-home/2-laptops) where FinalDraft only allows 2 total installations. Ronbrassfield Where’s Movie Outline in this discussion? Very worthy package which has been around about seven years now, as shown by Final Draft v. 9 evidently copying some of its features.
I started out with Scriptware, which stopped updating with Windows 95 and does not seem to network, as in “I’m out on the deck with my laptop and I want to work on the script stored on my desktop’s hard drive.” It still works fine, though, given those limitations and it never had installation limits. Movie Magic 6 does the networking just fine, and I believe it will install on three PCs. Movie Outline integrates character- and scene-building features into its interface and stacks up quite well against the big boys of the marketplace, but it only allows installation on two PCs. I never even considered going to Final Draft after its late-90s crash-prone version upgrade, and some of the users here seemingly could relate, judging from their comments. Its “industry standard” promotion seems to have been most effective in making it the leading seller, though. I always envision Final Draft users as also wearing those black baseball caps with the word “Writer” printed on them.
Sydney I started out with a really great program called Sophocles that, unfortunately, went face-down in the soup quite a few years back. I switched to Final Draft which is a good program, but too expensive and yes, a bit buggy. I now use Fade In and have to say if you want a full featured screenplay writing program that is mucho affordable, powerful and updated for free, check it out. It will do everything you need done as a scriptwriter without a lot of bells and whistles that frankly, you will prolly never need. And, as they used to say, all good screenplays begin with FADE IN. Steve Schaefer I’m retired and over the years have written several magazine and technical articles, and am how experimenting with Action & SF novels.
Over the years I have tried many author software products, but settled on what works best for me – being MS Word & Excel. This may sound crazy to writers unfamiliar with the products, but I find they are very useful – maybe because I have used them for so long. I’ll explain how I use them – so other authors will be offered another solution.
Excel: I use this to setup a Timeline of events in a story; as most stories unfold over many days, weeks, months, or even years. On the main page I divide up the columns on the 1st row as follows: Under Slug Line, Action, Parenthetical, and Dialog. Dividing the 2nd row as follows Under: Slug Line: City, State, Country, UTC, Local Date, Local Time, and Location. Under Action: Focus, Group, Item, Character(s), and Action. Under Parenthetical: blank Under Dialog: Blank Additional Columns: Notes, URL Resource 1, URL Resource 2, and Expert Comments.
Word: Google “setting up a script format using MS word” and follow the instruction on how to create document that uses the “Alt” plus another key to format a movie script. This allows you to set each line as needed, and also with automatically jump through Slug, Action, Character, Parenthetical, and Dialog; as long as you don’t want to skip around or use more than one of each type as you write. Since most authors already have MS Office, I believe these two programs work well together and offer a low cost solution to writing. Just like in the graphics industry, there is no one stop shop. Photoshop is for image work, Illustrator for single page layouts and graphics, InDesign for multipage layouts, etc.
With Scriptwriting, I’d make similar distinctions. You need something for 1) outlining / arranging scenes 2) writing the actual scenes 3) collaboration (sending out, highlighting, adding notes etc) I don’t think there is a software that does all three well. Some try all three, but something is always buggy or crudely made. My recommendations are an individual solution for each step. 1) Outlining Remember, Pixar spends 3 years outlining and 1 year scriptwriting. ‘Numbers’ by Apple is best for that extensive work.
It’s a spreadsheet software like Excel, only free and better. At a certain point you need to create a horizontal axis to align scene cards on, or to match them to whatever story beats (Snyder, Truby etc) you want to hit along the way. There aren’t many ‘offline yet portable’ row and column options where you can enter anything along a flexible x and y axis, even add images. The alternatives are actual post-its on your wall, or cloud services which don’t work offline.
2) Everyone who has been involved in any kind of production workflow knows that it’s best to eliminate file conversion. Something always goes wrong. Stuff gets lost or corrupted all the time. For writing, Final Draft is the thing, because you can start and end there, no matter how many rewrite/sharing versions in between. Everyone serious has it.
And come on, it’s not expensive. Ask a freelance designer shelving out 50 bucks a month for the standard set of work tools.
And for the crashing of FD: hitting ‘command (or apple) s’ every 5 minutes like a nervous twitch, and general file versioning have to become your friend. If after a writing day you haven’t saved 3 versions, one at 12, one at 4 and one at 8, you’ve got a problem lined up in the foreseeable future. If one version becomes corrupted, you have one not too old to fall back on. In hectic work environments, saving a copy every hour is good. I know people in the 3d world who save a new version every ten minutesor after each setting. There is no way around versioning. Files will get corrupted.
3) For sending around stuff and commenting, there is no way around Adobe Acrobat (PDF). Whoever can’t read/comment it with their software can get the free Adobe Reader.
But it’s a one way street. I haven’t seen a software able of converting a PDF back to a really intact editable version. Something always goes wrong during conversion. PDF is the only serious format for reading, sharing and collaborating, but then this ‘viewing and commenting’ version is useless and it’s back to the live Final Draft version. Hope that makes sense. I’m not a pro writer but an Information Architect and perfectionist when it comes to planning and production control. (can you tell?).
I used Celtx free version for many, many years, and I liked it for writing. I found the additional features a bit clunky, but I used them as I wanted to do everything in the same software. When everything changed with the paid version, I hung on to the free model for a while.
When I switched from FCP 7 to the Adobe cloud, I thought I might try Adobe Story to keep workflow simple and minimize cost (Story is included in the cloud). Story is OK for writing, but the other features are clunky and buggy and seem not to be developed from a production POV. Still struggling along with it because I am a Adobe cloud convert, but I wish it worked better. I know of several people in the industry who insist you need Final Draft. Major studios/production companies they insist use FD and when they need to do breakdowns, plan a budget, whatever, a FD file is a must.
Not a PDFS file. But I currently can’t afford it. It cost more than I make a week. If you are an a indie producer who does everything yourself, directing, editing budgeting, it probably doesn’t matter what you use.
But no one wants a producer refusing to read something b/c you only had a PDF copy and not a Final Draft file to send them. Which I guess can actually happen.
Jonathan S None of this takes into account AV scripts, the TV documentary (and commercials) two-column format. FadeIn sort of does it, as does Celtx (but you can’t see it). The only halfway satisfactory dedicated software was the now discontinued Final Draft AV. Which was buggy and crashy and inflexible.
But at least it existed. Word tables are disastrous, as Audio and Video move out of sync all the time and formatting just goes all over the place. So – an appeal to all developers – give your software an edge that all the other programmes don’t have, and include a decent AV format. In all honesty, for all the bells and whistles these softwares have, I almost always end up drowning in mountains of paper notes and I still haven’t finished a single project in 25 years of writing because I’m too disorganised if not too fussy about HOW I organise. Frankly I find the organisational tools in these softwares to be somewhat disorganised in and of themselves with a billion tweekable windows that get in the way of each other (a complaint I have about all software, to be honest), although CeltX and Fade In definiatly are the best of them for what I need, and even then, I can lose myself all too easily and end up glaring at the monitor as if it is in some way responsible. What do I need?
Ah, just a moment. Yes, I am hoping a passing software developer will read this coment. I need fixed windows and symetry.
That is a fixed work space in the middle (I don’t care about autoformatting, we don’t need that crap,) above the workspace is a fixed window with the hook, eg “This is a story about a failed scientist who has spent the last 15 years trying to make good on his backup plan of writing for a living. While his style is good according to everyone else, he thinks it’s crap and can’t organise himself for toffee!” Below the central work space would be a fixed window for notes. On the left a fixed window for scenes or chapters, depending on what I’m writing and on the right a fixed window for characters and temprements. To give me something with millions of customisable windows often ends up with me spending hours trying to find the most esthetically pleasing form for the best possible organisation. Wayne I had the same issue with a project. Had notes everywhere.
So I put them on notepad and separated each section with zero’s. Thats my system. And saved all the work on several files. Then put them in a folder. Then make a back up. A master copy of the story.
Then made key indicators of where everything should go. After removing the areas. It will build up. Then when you finish. Handle the formatting.
As for all the paper notes. Put all related notes together. Then allighn them into the storyline. Copy type the result.
Move onto the next one. It does take time. Hope this helps.
I am a software junkie. I try all of the software that I can get my hands on. However, I use Final Draft because in the end most people have that software and instead of exporting a Final Draft file from another program I feel like I might as well just start and end in the same one. I also don’t think it’s all that expensive as far as software goes, but that is just my opinion.
I do enjoy Highland, but as a Writer/Producer that is often finding ways to do my own films, I find it handy that Final Draft has the tools I need built in for breakdowns, reports, and tagging. I love the site and look forward to many more years of reading. Vikram Hi Stephanie, I am a complete newbie to film script writing, but would like to get the right software at the very beginning (so I don’t get forever put off).
I have a set of questions, if you mind answering. I’ve nudged towards the Slugline for the Mac (yet to purchase it). 1) Is exports and imports from FDX and PDF possible with Slugline?
2) Is various other languages options available on Slugline or any other software (such as Hindi)? 3) And finally I like to start of with Treatments or Outlines, does Slugline have this option? (Do you recommend any other software) Thanks, Vikram.
If you use a Mac, you work with text. Your documents may be short (tweets and iMessages) or long (reports, stories, or even novels), but you need an app to handle that text. Depending on the type of writing you do, you may want something as simple as a basic text editor or as complex as a full-featured word processor; if you write code, you want an editor designed for that type of content. I tend to use what have come to be known as focused-writing apps. These apps, increasingly popular of late, allow you to write in a focused environment, export your writings to various formats, possibly apply basic styling, and let you print your work. Unlike a word processor, which has lots of complex features for formatting and styling text, or a text editor, which is better for complex text modifications or working with specific code languages, a focused-writing app takes a minimalist approach, providing just the necessary text tools for writing and then getting out of your way so you can focus on your words.
I looked at the top focused-writing apps for OS X to find the best one. (We’ll look at word processors and code editors in future articles.) What makes a good focused-writing app? Today’s best focused-writing apps are made with writers in mind and offer some or all of the following features:. A distraction-free environment—or at least a special view or mode—that allows you to focus on your writing without worrying about toolbars, palettes and other formatting tools.
A full-screen mode, so you can shut out everything else on your Mac’s screen. Support for the writing language, a simple syntax for formatting plain-text documents that can be easily converted to HTML for use on blogs or web pages. Multiple export formats, such as HTML and RTF, for publishing or sharing your styled text. (Since OS X lets you, as long as a writing app has a mode or view that shows your text with proper formatting, the app doesn’t need a specific PDF-export feature of its own.). Document statistics. Data such as word count and character count are essential to many writers; some people may also want more-advanced statistics such as reading level and estimated reading time.
An iOS companion app is a nice bonus—if you tend to write on both platforms, an OS X app with an iOS cousin lets you easily switch between platforms. (Note for this feature to be useful, the apps must use a common sync platform such as iCloud or Dropbox.) Top choice: iA Writer Information Architects’s $5 wins hands down for simplicity and for its attractive (and only) font. While it doesn’t let you choose your own typeface, the company’s Nitti is a beautiful mono-space font, and working in iA Writer lets you ignore everything around its document view—I often use iA Writer’s full-screen mode to block out the other windows on my Mac. The app also includes a Focus Mode that restricts the view even further, letting you concentrate on a single sentence at a time. (I’d prefer it if Focus Mode highlighted the current paragraph rather than sentence, since many writers think in terms of paragraphs, but the app’s sentence-level focus seems to be popular.) iA Writer is a minimal, yet powerful writing app. IA Writer’s Markdown support is very good.
The app offers a formatting bar at the bottom of the window that lets you quickly apply Markdown formatting, even if you don’t remember which syntax characters to use. You also get a decent Markdown-preview window, though it’s not customizable. In fact, that’s one of iA Writer’s hallmarks, love it or hate it: Little in the app is customizable.
If you don’t like what’s here, you should look elsewhere. But if you like iA Writer’s approach and attractive styling, you’ll find it to be a great tool to write without distractions. There are also iOS version of iA Writer, for iPad and iPhone, and those apps work with iCloud, but you can also use Dropbox to be able to access your files from any app. Top contenders Hog Bay Software’s $10 is a bit like iA Writer with more options. WriteRoom comes with a handful of default themes, and you can download others or even roll your own, if you’re so inclined. You can zoom your text and use any font installed on your Mac, and the app’s Typewriter Mode automatically scrolls your document as you type, similar to how you’d see a piece of paper move in a typewriter.
WriteRoom has no Markdown (or other language) preview, however, limiting its usefulness for writing in anything but plain text without an additional app to show what your writing will look like. WriteRoom lets you choose different themes to suit your preferences. Metaclassy’s $10 falls, feature-wise, somewhere between iA Writer and WriteRoom—it lets you choose between a dark them and a light theme, and it lets you choose your font.
But Byword gets Focus Mode right, allowing you to choose either Line Focus or Paragraph Focus. It’s also got a typewriter mode, it supports rich text, and the premium version (unlocked via a $5 in-app purchase) lets you publish your writings directly to WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger, Scriptogr.am and Evernote. Byword is also available in iPad and iPhone versions, and it syncs your files using iCloud. However, fans of Markdown will want to steer clear (unless they use Marked, below), as Byword’s Markdown preview requires that you toggle between edit and preview mode—you can’t proofread using the preview and make changes to your text at the same time. I like Byword’s paragraph focus, which highlights the paragraph I’m working on while dimming the rest of the document. Honorable mention Hog Bay Software offers an alternative to WriteRoom called, which, while not exactly a focused-writing app, does something interesting.
The $25 app is a combination of a text editor and an outliner: You format your text with Markdown syntax, but you can “fold,” or hide, sections by clicking on header characters. This feature lets you write longer documents, keeping a big-picture view without having to tediously scroll up and down.
You can also move sections around like an outliner, but FoldingText is still, at heart, an app for writing and working with text. When you’ve finished writing, you can export your document to HTML, or copy it to the clipboard as HTML or rich text. FoldingText lets you collapse your document sections, move them around, and reorganize them. The rest of the pack TextEdit Many people can get along just fine with OS X’s built-in TextEdit, which is actually a full-blown word processor. It can handle serious formatting, such as lists and tables; can work with graphics, videos, and audio files; and can export to a variety of formats, including RTF and Word.
But despite its many formatting options, TextEdit is a “plain text” editor at heart—it’s the direct descendant of Apple’s aptly-named SimpleText, and the much older TeachText, both simple tools designed for editing and displaying text documents. It also offers no true distraction-free mode, doesn’t include full-screen mode, and doesn’t explicitly support Markdown formatting, though if you use it in conjunction with Marked 2 (see below), you can write in Markdown and preview your formatted documents. Mou Chen Luo’s is a free (donation requested), Markdown-focused text editor that includes a live preview in a two-pane window: editor on the left, preview on the right. The app includes keyboard shortcuts for Markdown-syntax formatting, and notably offers very good support for CJK (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) languages. It’s also very flexible, letting you choose themes—including those you create—for both the composer and preview panes. Mou even lets you post directly to Tumblr and Scriptogr.am, though not to WordPress or Blogger.
However, placing the editor and preview pane in a single window takes up a lot of space, and if you’ve got a dual-display setup, you can’t separate those views so that the editor resides on one display and the preview on the other. You can temporarily hide the preview pane, but the window doesn’t resize, instead expanding the editor pane to twice its width, which can be annoying. Also, you can’t choose which side of the editor the preview pane appears on—I prefer to have my preview to the left of my editor, and I can’t do that with Mou. Mou gives you two panes, the text editor and a preview, in the same window. For Markdown fans: Marked While all of my recommended focused-writing apps handle Markdown syntax to some extent, few shine when it comes to previewing the formatted output (HTML or RTF, for example) of a Markdown document.
IA Writer’s preview isn’t customizable; Byword requires you to toggle between composing and previewing; and WriteRoom has no Markdown preview at all. I’ve adopted Brett Terpstra’s $12 (currently at ), which not only provides Markdown previews that are automatically updated to reflect changes you make to your documents, but also lets you customize its display with CSS files that, for example, match your blog or website’s design. Marked also includes a full range of text-statistic tools, as well as export options—so even if your favorite writing app doesn’t export to your preferred format, it’s likely that you can get such functionality from Marked. In my writing, Marked has proven invaluable, especially for documents with complex formatting—not only is its export-to-HTML feature perfect, but I use my website’s own CSS file for Marked’s preview, so I can see exactly how my writing will look. Marked can also display inline images based on Markdown and HTML links, something the writing apps above can’t do. I couldn’t work without Marked 2 to preview my text documents and export them to HTML.
Bottom line There’s no shortage of writing apps for OS X, for any type of work, and for any budget. You may want to stick with the free TextEdit, or, if you use Markdown, look for a tool that displays formatted texts better. My ideal text editor would have the simplicity of iA Writer, some of the features of ByWord and WriteRoom, and the preview and export features of Marked 2. Sadly, such a dream app doesn’t exist. In its absence, I’ve found iA Writer to be the most useful tool, because it stays out of my way.