Screenwriters looking to craft their cinematic masterpiece don’t need to be distracted by fiddly screenplay software.
I’ve used my fair share of screenplay writing software in my time, many of them are very good, a couple of them are great. Some are more hassle than it’s worth.
There are quite a few options for free screenplay software too, so don’t think that shelling out £100 is going to mean you’ll make the best formatted script. In all honesty, so long as you write the damn thing in an industry recognised layout you’ll be fine.
Here’s my run down of the best screenplay software (that I’ve used anyway!).
This is my go to screenwriting software. It’s easy to use and there are apps for both iPhone and Android which is great if you want to tweak your script while waiting for the bus.
For me Celtx pips other software to the post by simple virtue of being very user friendly. It’s not too cluttered and it formats text easily as you go using the tab key, which becomes second nature very quickly.
Celtx offer a subscription for professionals with options from $19.99 to $39.99 per month. However there is a free option which can be used online. The benefits of the paid options include all kinds of funky extras like storyboarding, collaborations and extra stuff like budgeting etc.
The free online version via their site allows you to work on up to three screenplays.
However… You can download the desktop software and use this completely for free on as many projects as you want. I’m not entirely sure why they have the subscription option then give the software away for free, but hey, I’m not complaining.
Why do I recommend Celtx? It’s super easy to download your screenplay as a PDF, editing names and locations in the database is a breeze, you can easily edit online via the app or even a web browser and for me it’s the most intuitive software allowing you to get on with the complex procedure of crafting your story.
APP? iOS and Android
Price: Free – £39.99 per month
Long considered the gold standard in screenwriting software, this is undeniably a solid piece of screenwriting kit.
The process of writing is fluid although for some reason I don’t find it as fluid as Celtx. There just seems to be a few extra clicks than with Celtx and the layout is more like an old version of MS Word.
However, it is the industry standard for a reason. That reason being the fact that it is super simple to use and it does the job with ease.
Where Final Draft falls down for me is that they don’t have an Android app, which means, for me at least, it doesn’t have the flexibility of Celtx. Somewhat weirdly, Final Draft use the excuse that there are too many variations of Android so, stability, or something… Why this is a problem for Final Draft and not any of the others on this list is anyones guess.
APP? iOS only
Price: If you’re a student you can pick up Final Draft for around $100. The full pro version is $250. Keep an eye out for special offers as it is often reduced in price.
This is one of the top industry options (probably behind the two listed above) and it is probably one of the cheapest. For $79 you get a fully featured software product with all the bells and whistles of Celtx and Final Draft, but without the hassle of a monthly subscription of massive outlay.
One of the features most prized on screenwriting software, collaboration, is a feature included as standard on Fade In. This is something you would need to shell out a monthly subscription for on Celtx.
I’ll be honest, I’ve never written a full screenplay on Fade In, but I do like it’s style. It’s probably the cleanest looking piece of software on this list. Formatting isn’t quite as intuitive as on Celtx (probably why I switched back to Celtx) but for an effective and feature packed piece of kit, it’s great.
Oh… And it has iOS AND Android apps. Take that Final Draft.
Apps? iOS and Android
Price: Demo is free. $79 for full package.
A free plugin from Google for use with their Google Docs software, this is more a formatter than a piece of software.
What that means is that you write your screenplay as is and then format sections of text as you write. This means it is a bit fiddlier than real screenwriting software, but, for free it’s pretty good. As it’s Google Docs, it saves to the cloud automatically
I’ve only written a short piece on it as a test but from what I’ve seen it would be one of the more laborious ways of writing a screenplay.
Looking at the comments and forums about it, it also seems you can’t make a title page (which is very useful). There are also a few glitches such as the cursor doesn’t go to the end of your formatted section of text or after inserting a character name it doesn’t default to dialogue. Small things that would make writing a full feature a bit of a pain.
There is also no navigator or inventory of character names which can be very useful features on dedicated software.
App? For Google Docs, yes on iOS and Android. For screenplay formatter, no.
An interesting option as PlotBot is browser/online only software. However it is fully featured and a great free tool which allows you to collaborate with as many writers as you want.
Whats the catch? Well, you can only keep a limited number of screenplays private. What this means is that anyone can view your non private screenplays and, in theory, steal your idea. However, it can be a great way of getting feedback on your writing style and even collaborating with people. There don’t seem to be many active users though so if you wanted to make a full script and sell it to Hollywood, no-one would see.
There is no PDF download, instead its RTF (rich text format) which means you’ll have to put it in some other software for a PDF. This may be where Google Docs comes in handy…
Other Screenwriting Software (That I’ve not used)
There are a lot of options these days for screenwriting software, so if you’re starting out in the game you definitely don’t need to splash the cash.
A fully featured and completely free dedicated software package. Reviews and comments about it are good and many people seem to swear by it. I’ll probably check it out…
Another option with a free version where you can save three scripts, but the full featured package is $149. Not used it but seems to get good reviews.
App? Android and iOS
Price: $149 for the full package.
Fully featured and collaborative, but only really any good if you have an Adobe cloud subscription. It’s expensive though so unless you work for a film production company you’re unlikely to use this option.
Price: $9.99 per month.
The Bottom Line
If you’re an aspiring screenwriter, use what you can afford. Don’t assume that having the industry standard software is going to magically sell your script to Hollywood. Really, all of the software above does the same thing, which is puts your words into an industry recognisable format.
I love Celtx and use the desktop version mostly. However, nothing is stopping you from using Trelby or even Plotbot. Especially in the early days.
The bottom line is… It doesn’t matter about your screenwriting software. Just write!
Are you a screenwriter? Feel free to share your thoughts below… Don’t forget to share!