There are many screenwriting software options out there, designed for filmmakers at any level and with different pricing (from free to a few hundred dollars). Which is the best one? Which one should you use and why?
Why you should use screenwriting software
Screenplays must be formatted according to a specific industry standard. Such standard has been developed for various reasons: it is easily readable, it clearly separates the different elements of the script (such as scene headings, characters, action, or dialogue), and it leaves empty space on the page so that people can write notes on it. Most importantly, the formatting makes sure that one page of written content roughly corresponds to one minute of film. You must format your screenplay correctly or no producer or agent will ever bother reading it – they receive so many submissions that they don’t have time to deal with non-professional writers.
Theoretically, you can format your screenplay with any text editor (even Microsoft Word), but doing it manually is a huge waste of time and it can be difficult to do it consistently from the beginning to the end. Moreover, professional screenwriting tools usually come with additional functionalities that can make life a lot easier when you shoot the script and you need to create script breakdowns.
1. Final Draft
Final Draft has been the industry choice for decades, becoming the de-facto standard for any commercial production shooting today.
You can write a script with any screenwriting tool, but it is likely that at some point someone will convert it into the Final Draft format to work with it during production. This is because Final Draft implements the industry-standard script revision system so that you can keep amending scenes while the crew is already shooting.
Another big advantage of Final Draft is its comprehensive tagging system that makes it easier for the 1st Assistant Director to create the shooting schedule and generate automated breakdowns. Scripts written in Final Draft can also be imported automatically into all the major scheduling software tools.
Cost: $199.99 – the iOS version is selling at just $9.99
Trelby it is probably the best FREE option available right now. It is open-source so it will always be free and it doesn’t have any kind of limit. And if you know how to code you can even modify the software yourself to suit your needs! Trelby is fast and simple and it can import and export in the Final Draft format (along with many others), so you can use it without worrying that perhaps one day someone could ask for the script in a different format. The main problem with Trelby is that it is currently available on Windows and Linux only, but a Max version should be on the way too.
Celtx was originally launched as a free scriptwriting software and has now developed into a complete cloud-based production management suite. Among its features, it allows to quickly create call sheets, storyboards, shot lists and schedules. It also allows for collaboration with other writers, although it’s not real-time. It is certainly a solid and more affordable solution to Final Draft, but it’s not for you if you want to keep your work local rather than in the cloud.
Cost: between $7 and $20 per month depending on the subscription level / FREE old version
If you are looking for a completely free solution that can be installed on your computer, you may still be able to find its original version here – Windows https://celtx.en.softonic.com/download – Windows https://mac.filehorse.com/download-celtx/
4. Writer Duet
Writer Duet is probably the best solution for writers who are planning to collaborate a lot. It is a cloud-based solution that focuses on real-time collaboration, making it impossible to create conflicted copies of your script. Despite being cloud-based, it also allows users to work offline and the changes will be pushed to the cloud as soon as you reconnect to the network. Finally, it is available on multiple platforms – including mobile devices – so it can really streamline your collaboration process.
Cost: from $5 to $16 per month depending on the subscription level
5. Fade In
Fade In is a traditional screenwriting solution that can be described as ‘similar to Final Draft but cheaper’. It is ideal if you prefer avoiding a cloud-based approach and it is also available for mobile devices, including Android. It has a truly extensive set of features that can satisfy any writer’s needs. If you are looking for a solution that is fully focused on the writing and has all the necessary professional features but you can’t afford Final Draft, this is probably the right option for you.
Cost: $79.95 desktop app – $5 mobile app