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New Screenwriting App Slugline Focuses on Simplicity So Writers Can Focus on Writing

Last month, I wrote about the retail version of screenwriting Mac App Highland from Quote-Unquote Apps, based on the Fountain markup language. The major selling point for Highland is its ability to melt PDFs into Fountain-based text files that can be edited and exported as either formatted PDFs or Final Draft (.fdx) files. Today, Slugline arrives, a new screenwriting Mac App now available for purchase that is also based on Fountain. What is Slugline’s major selling point for screenwriters? Simplicity.

For a quick peek at Slugline and what it offers in the way of a streamlined screenwriting app, check out the company’s video below:

The creators of Slugline, Stu Maschwitz and Clint Torres of Act Focused Media, have kindly provided nofilmschool with a review copy of their app, and after taking it for a test drive for a few days, I’ll post a more thorough review. In the meantime, let’s talk about what Slugline has to offer.

First, for longtime nofilmschool readers, you may recognize Stu Maschwitz’s name (if not, know your history). Stu collaborated with screenwriter John August to develop the Fountain markup language. Not surprisingly, John August and his Quote-Unquote Apps partner Nima Yousefi are part of the Slugline advisory team. You see, Slugline isn’t a competitor product to Highland. Rather, it’s a companion product. Don’t believe me? Just ask John August himself:

For those wondering, there's no rivalry. Highland and Slugline are pals ::
John August

Also, Slugline isn’t trying to replace screenwriting applications designed with all of the production bells and whistles in mind. Instead, Slugline wants to be the app you use when you write your first, second, thirteenth, and fortieth drafts before you need to share it with the full production team.

Perhaps the most important feature of Slugline is the full-screen mode, which lets you remove all distractions from your screen so you can focus on the writing. This, in combination with the simplicity of the formatting, is where I think I’ll find the most value with Slugline.

The concept of Fountain as a simple, future-proof way to write screenplays has also intrigued me, but I’m personally not a big fan of writing in a plain text editor. I’ll admit it. I like a little bit of formatting in my GUI. Slugline looks like a marriage of the two: use Fountain’s rules and Slugline intuits how to format your screenplay while you write on the screen in real-time. Nice. Oh, and you can use Courier Prime. Even better.

Now, this does mean a little retraining of the brain. To use Slugline, you need to know how to write in Fountain. Fountain understands the formatting rules of screenwriting (INT or EXT means a scene heading, character names are in UPPERCASE, the next line after a character’s name is dialogue, etc.). Using Fountain’s rules, Slugline lets you format by typing. For example, to italicize, use *asterisks*. To bold, use **double asterisks**. To underline, use _underscores_. Don’t want to type to format? Fine, Slugline will let use you use ⌘I for italics, ⌘B for bold, and ⌘U for underline.

While Slugline is a Mac App, you can save your files to a cloud service, like Dropbox, and open them with any text editor to keep writing in Fountain format. This means you can use iOS text editors like Byword and Elements to continue writing on your iPad or iPhone. Slugline creators think even DroidEdit Pro on Android may open and be able to edit Fountain files from Slugline.

Slugline also offers outlining capabilities plus the ability to add notes to yourself in the middle of your screenplay. Since I have used completely separate tools for each of these capabilities (namely, pen, paper and notecards), I’m not sure I’ll be using Slugline for my outlining and notes, but it’s good to know it’s there.

I’m in the rewriting phase of my current script with some serious work ahead of me this coming week. I plan to translate my script from .fdx to Fountain using Highland, then opening the Fountain file in Slugline to check out the new app. After using Slugline for a few days, I’ll post a more specific review.

Want to try it yourself? You can buy Slugline now in the Mac App store for $40.

What do you think about Slugline from this initial announcement? Do you think this is the Mac App for screenwriting that you’ve been looking for? The screenwriting app you never knew you needed? Share your thoughts with us in the Comments.


[via Prolost]


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

Description image 42 COMMENTS

  • Slugline creators must be really inspired by House of Cards ;)

  • Looks awesome, but the price point is a little high for me. Wish there was a trial version to figure out if I like it or not before buying.

    • Christopher Boone on 04.20.13 @ 11:33AM

      Hey Steve, I agree a demo version would be nice, so I will do my best to be thorough when I post a full review after using the app.

  • Interesting tool, but could it be used in a real production environment? Is there any revision mode or scene management feature?

    • Christopher Boone on 04.20.13 @ 4:12PM

      Hey AC, I don’t think Slugline is trying to compete with Final Draft or Movie Magic Screenwriter, which have the production capabilities of scene revisions, etc. Most scripts will eventually get imported into Final Draft or Movie Magic for production, but both of those programs can feel clunky when actually writing the first draft of a screenplay. That said, I’m quite used to Final Draft, so I don’t notice its quirks as much anymore. Curious to see if Slugline will let me concentrate more on the story.

      • Thanks, keep us posted on how you find working with it. Personally I find production features such as revision mode useful not only when preparing the script for production but also in the initial stages of writing.

  • Joshua Brown on 04.20.13 @ 1:51PM

    Looks awesome. Basically exactly what I’ve been looking for. But $40 is too much. I’ll pass for now.

  • Wow this looks like SUCH a ripoff. For $40??? Really is the problem you have simplicity? Is the problem you have with Celtx which is free is that it is too complicated for you?? This looks like TextEdit…except it costs $40 but TextEdit that came free with my Mac.

    • I think they need a demo/trial but $40 for any software that, if you’re going to be doing this as a committed, serious pursuit, you’re going to spending THOUSANDS of hours in, is next to nothing compared to your time and effort. Final Draft is $300, why does anyone use that if Celtx is free? The software is not expensive. A lifetime of pursuing an art that is EXTREMELY difficult to make a living at — that is expensive.

    • App developers have to eat. If it’s too expensive, don’t buy it.

  • john jeffries on 04.20.13 @ 4:08PM

    Everytime a new screenwriting program comes out. I ask this:
    -Is it free?
    -ok, then I’ll keep using celtx

    • What if every viewer said that for every single movie production you’re involved in from now on? I think it’d be pretty hard to make a living as an artist.

      • john jeffries on 04.20.13 @ 5:53PM

        Honestly all I need when writing a screenplay is to have it formatted correctly, and for it to export as pdf.. Celtx does that for free. Why another company would want to charge me money for something another app does for free is beyond me. Unless it gives me back massages or makes me peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while I write, that would be nice. I’d pay 40 dollars for that.

        • John,

          Locking pages, revisions, different page colors, export for breakdowns and schedules, interoperability with other industry-standard apps… I am not saying Celtx doesn’t have these things but a screenwriting program is not just “export to PDF.” Writing personal productions and dabbling is one thing, using it in a real team-based production environment is another.

          Again, not knocking Celtx as they have a lot of production features, and Slugline is not actually interested in these things — but the “is it free? No?” line of thought really does not apply to professional screenwriting.

          • john jeffries on 04.20.13 @ 10:36PM

            honestly dude in 2013 “professional” is just a marketing term

          • woody allen writes notes on napkins and screenplays on a manual typewriter. i think he’s had a bit of professional success dabbling with these methods. to imply that someone needs a program that does more than format and export to pdf in order to be a professional is as much a sales pitch as cosmetic companies saying women need their eyeshadow to be pretty. nofilmschool seems to be shifting from ‘whatever means necessary’ to ‘we’re gonna need a bigger check’.

            • Ron,

              I often write my first draft by hand on paper as well. See:


              Woody Allen’s scripts are eventually turned into budgets and schedules and call sheets, though, no? I am not arguing against free screenwriting software, I am arguing against the line of thinking, “if it’s not free I won’t use it.”

              And give me a break with this “we’re gonna need a bigger check” bullshit. If this was a sponsored post, maybe you could say that. If we had EVER written a single sponsored post, maybe you could say that. Instead we are posting about a new tool that some writers might find handy and instead folks are responding with “$40 is too much.” If that’s the case, don’t buy it. Simple enough. Or wait for their demo — or our review.

          • Barret Bowman on 04.21.13 @ 5:22PM

            I don’t think at any point anyone said you “need” those things. They are just trying to argue the point of what the $40 more is going to give you. And if you like to have all of those extra resources at your fingertips of the computer, buy it. If you enjoy the kick back writing style and find other ways to breakdown your screenplay, good for you. I mean, I would much rather do some things long-hand. I agree that, “for me” I wouldn’t pay the $40 for this application. But I won’t dock the app and call it a waste or crap. It’s just a personal preference. People get so butt hurt on here when it comes to pricing anything.

        • John,

          There was no “reply” link to your “in 2013 ‘professional’ is just a marketing term” respons, so I’m doing it here.

          Did you mean to say that “professional” as it relates to products is just marketing, or “professional” as a concept is just marketing?

          • @john jeffries As a production company who must sift through thousands of submissions, I can assure you that “professional” is not just a marketing term. The vast majority of submissions are most assuredly amateur. And the difference is blatantly obvious in an instant. (And it has very little to do with script formatting.)

          • john jeffries on 04.22.13 @ 2:27PM

            I think its more the term “professional” or “pro” used to market products aimed at prosumers and people that probably aren’t David Fincher

          • john jeffries on 04.22.13 @ 2:27PM

            Designed to appeal to the aspirational/upwardly mobile filmmaker

  • Stu Mannion on 04.20.13 @ 6:57PM

    Scrivener costs $50 and has awesome organisational tools.

    • I am in love with Scrivener. If I could take 10 apps with me to a desert island, it would be one of the first ones I’d put in the bag. The really hard work of writing, according to various pros more accomplished than myself, is nailing the *structure*. To do that, you often need to kindof zoom in on a small segment and then zoom out to a birds-eye view. The way scrivener elegantly lets you organize story bits just like you would files or documents on your computer is simply fantastic.

  • Where is the demo version?! I want to try it before i hand over 40 bucks.

  • Im always skeptical of high priced software without a demo (and sorry but for what it is $40 is VERY high). Celtx, Plotbot, writer duet, trelby – all free to use – all write scripts. Celtx also has a similar mac app but only charges $20.

    Sure simple is nice…but whats nicer is having the choice between simple and powerful all in the one app. Thats why at only $10 more Scrivener makes so much sense. Its as simple as you need it to be, lets you write a screenplay without any fanfare, but has incredible outlining, index card, plot point and structural features that second to none. For me scrivener is a must in that first draft phase where ideas are wild and woolly and you need a way of turning chaos into order.

  • Also i wish people would stop saying Final Draft costs $300 – it costs $179 for a full license and has a student version for only $79. Just saying.

  • I don’t know if anyone got a chance to try out Highland, but that’s my go to screenwriting program, now. Writing in fountain language is great, and can be done in any plaintext app (textedit) and converted with free programs. So much better than bloated and buggy screenwriting apps. I’ll give this a try when a demo becomes available, but I doubt it will be at all better than simply employing fountain markdown language.

  • Does it support Cyrilic fonts? Latin based languages are not the only languages in the world.

  • Is there one for Android or Windows PC?

  • Gosh, so much venom coming from so many people. I happen to like Storyist, and I think I paid $49 dollars for it years ago. Just choose your tools and enjoy them, don’t quibble over what’s worth 6 burritos or 8 burritos or no burritos. Why are you even reading this instead of working on your screenplay?

  • I’m currently writing my screenplay in Movie Draft. It’s an application you guys covered last year here on the site. (

    I’m absolutely in love with the feature set that this application offers. Non-linear writing, even though is not something I’ve taken full advantage of yet, I love the idea of. Plus it makes formatting and keeping track of scenes and acts very easy. At 29.99 it’s a dead steal and not to mention it swings in fine with FDX files which helps writers integrate with professional production environments.

    In case any one is interested, the creator of Movie Draft has done a review on the above mentioned app Slugline, and is pretty candid about what he does and doesn’t like about it. Check it out

    Thanks for the posts and keep up the good work NFS!

  • I’ve probably used every piece of screenwriting software there is. I recently downloaded the trial version of Scrivener, followed the built-in tutorial, and purchased immediately. I’ve not encountered anything that comes remotely close to Scrivener for the serious writer. Its beauty lies in having every element needed for your screenplay at hand in one piece of software (i.e. character bios, location descriptions, synopsis’) and its extensive range of organisational and structuring tools. You can even embed research and reference material directly into your Scrivener project (accepts audio, video, web, PDFs etc.). You have the capacity to write in a non-linear manner, to juggle scenes as you see fit, corkboard mode with scene index cards, export to a wide variety of formats, add notes, a full-screen mode, and a lot more. It’s a fairly complex piece of software to use initially, but the tutorial that comes with the software is easy to follow and explains most of the features. Also, it’s much cheaper than Final Draft and Movie Outline.

  • If it was free, I might be interested, but Scriviner is by far a more intuitive and better value writing software. It also has a free trial option too. Check it out here:

  • Russell Steen on 04.29.13 @ 12:00PM

    In a free market (capitalist) system, a person or group of persons create a product (or service), usually based on the perceived need in the marketplace, but often a new product is one they wished existed and assumed others would find value in if it existed. The producer calculates the time and resources that go into the development, then the ongoing production, advertising and delivery costs, and tries to make a profit selling the product. If they ask too much, they will fail to sell their product. If they ask too little, they will fail to remain in business.
    In a communist (central controlled market) system everyone works for the good of the people, and all “profits” from creativity and industry are to be shared by all according to their need. Needless to say those at or near the center of a centrally controlled system do better than “according to their need”, and those away from the center get to provide a bit more of the labor and resources. History has shown this system has a hard time motivating people to create and produce, but perhaps someday the right people will be in charge and the redistribution of wealth will be handled fairly.
    In some independent filmmakers fantasy worlds, the people (and perhaps the government) should subsidize their work and creative efforts so they can learn, grow, and afford the latest tools allowing them greater production values and the ability make enough to live comfortably while pursuing their (unfortunately appearing to outsiders as self-serving) career objectives as filmmaking artists and truth-tellers. However, those who work for them should do so for the experience, or perhaps because their work promotes progressive ideals, or because they are clever enough to conscript people to do their bidding because it is so much fun. In these fantasies camera and lens manufacturers, grip and lighting manufacturers, and screenplay formatting software companies are expected to see their obvious need and provide their products and services for the narrowest profit margin possible, or better yet, free.

  • What’s the difference between this app and highland?