September 2, 2014

WriterDuet Pro Makes Its Collaborative Screenwriting App Available Offline & So Much More

WriterDuet Pro Desktop Version Now Available
If you write screenplays with a writing partner, you have most likely run into the difficulties of collaborating on the same screenplay in real-time in a screenwriting application. This is something that the industry standard Final Draft has never done well.

So a little less than a year ago, we here at No Film School were excited to share a post about WriterDuet, an online collaborative screenwriting app that lets multiple users edit a screenplay online in real-time, plus video chat simultaneously and outline their scripts intuitively with virtual notecards among many other things -- all for free. But what if you want to go offline and write solo on that same collaborative script without an internet connection? Sure, you can export and import that script every time, but that's laborious. Guy Goldstein, creator of WriterDuet, has been working on a desktop version to solve this problem, plus adding many new cool features based on user feedback. In fact, Guy doesn't want WriterDuet to be just your collaborative screenwriting app. He wants WriterDuet to be your one-and-only screenwriting app. Now, for a one-time price of $45 (all future updates included), you can get WriterDuet Pro to keep writing that collaborative screenplay offline and much, much more.

With the introduction of WriterDuet Pro, screenwriters that use WriterDuet can now transition seamlessly from online to offline mode. WriterDuet's code and your screenplays are cached so you can continue to write without an internet connection. WriterDuet syncs automatically the next time you go online. The offline mode of WriterDuet Pro is supported on Mac, Windows, Linux, and Chromebooks, and the application works with Chrome (recommended), Firefox, and IE 10+ browsers.

Additional features of WriterDuet Pro that differentiate it from the free online version of WriterDuet include the abilities to:

  • save screenplays to your hard drive
  • automatically backup scripts to Dropbox, Google Drive, or your browser file system (Chrome only)
  • use tools to find ways to shorten script, check for errors, and analyze your script
  • customize margins for page height, screenplay element, or a specific line
  • use Typewriter mode to center cursor vertically on the screen — for speed writers who don’t like to follow their cursor down the screen as they type
  • protect PDFs with watermarking, passwords, text to image conversion, printing/copying prevention, and invisible tagging
  • drop pins to move quickly to specific sections of your script, plus easily cycle through pins to jump to specific script locations as you write

If you have used Final Draft for years as your main screenwriting application (like I have because it was the only thing available way, way back), you know the company has not been very responsive with version updates. And, every update comes with the added fee to move to the next version. Final Draft is still operating in the old software development model, and their prices and sluggish development cycle times reflect the old ways of making software. For production purposes, Final Draft has some great tools for revisions, reporting, and exporting to other production tools. But Final Draft's biggest advantage right now is inertia among screenwriters who already use their software. With responsive developers like Guy working to make better screenwriting apps available for free or reasonable prices and moving more nimbly than Final Draft, the next wave of screenwriters won't bother with the so-called industry standard.

To underscore this point, Guy has come up with 25 reasons why WriterDuet is better than Final Draft. I should note these are Guy's reasons, not mine, but I certainly agree with many of them, especially these particular reasons that really stand out for me:

  • Real-time collaboration: This is the whole reason why Guy created WriterDuet in the first place. The ability to have multiple users edit a screenplay in real time using an application designed to write screenplays (not merely Google Docs) is something that makes common sense -- and something I haven't seen done well in any other screenwriting app.
  • Ease of use: WriterDuet uses several intuitive icons, each of which has mouseover instructions to help you get familiar with the application
  • Grammar checking: This may not sound like a big deal, but you do not want to submit a screenplay to an agent, manager or producer to have them discover that you erroneously used "it's" instead of "its" and "your" instead of "you're". Plus, grammar checking is available in multiple languages.
  • Script shortening: This is genius. WriterDuet has a tool that finds orphaned words sitting by themselves on a line, lines that can be shortened if a few letters are removed, and lines where a small, individual line margin cheat will save a line break.
  • Automatic backups to cloud storage: Beyond saving your script in WriterDuet's cloud storage, WriterDuet Pro allows you to schedule automatic backups to Dropbox, Google Drive and your own computer hard drive
  • Undo find/replace globally: Thankfully, I have not run into this yet in Final Draft, but apparently once you launch a find and replace throughout an entire Final Draft screenplay, the only way to undo it is to undo every single instance of the find/replace manually. Yikes! WriterDuet Pro will undo that find/replace globally.
  • Embedded multimedia: As someone who has linked to songs in a playlist, this is a feature I like and hope will expand. WriterDuet Pro lets you embed links to images, YouTube videos and Soundcloud pages to augment the reader's experience as you tell your story on the page.
  • Grooveshark music player embedded in application: Once you start writing, you usually don't want to leave an app for fear of losing momentum or getting distracted. If you like to write with music playing in the background, WriterDuet Pro has Grooveshark embedded in the app along with some pre-programmed channels for your music needs without ever leaving the app.

You can still use the online-only version of WriterDuet for free. If you like what you get with WriterDuet online and want to take advantage of WriterDuet Pro's expanded offerings, including the ability to continue working on your screenplay offline, you can purchase access to the desktop app for $45.

What do you think about collaborative screenwriting app WriterDuet Pro's new features? Is this the new screenwriting app you have been looking for?

Your Comment

18 Comments

So, the one vital question remains: what happens when two writers work offline on the same script, and then it syncs back up?

September 2, 2014 at 10:23PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Einar

WriterDuet's creator here, great question! It works about as well as possible. You can both add, remove, and change lines (even the same lines!) and all your changes will be applied as fully as possible. If one person edits a line and the other person deletes it, it'll still get deleted, *but* the edits to the line will still be available in the revision history.

In general, it's super-smart. If you add to the end of a line and your partner deletes from the beginning, it'll work seamlessly. You can simulate this in the regular online-only mode by opening up the same script in two different browser tabs, turning off your WiFi, and making changes in both browsers. Then reconnect your WiFi, and you'll see both sets of changes intelligently applied!

September 2, 2014 at 10:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Thanks for the reply - it sounds, as you say, about as good as that situation can get. A little worrying maybe that deletion always takes precedence, and might be confusing if you're unaware that your writing partner has made some changes since you were last online.

If a dialogue box popped up saying "There were some conflicts when implementing offline changes - would you like to review them?" And then the program could show you where changes overlap - that might be a useful feature somewhere down the road :)

Of course it would be common sense for collaborators to avoid working on the exact same stuff when offline, but you get carried away sometimes.

September 3, 2014 at 12:28AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Einar

Revision history sounds good enough to me. Other than that, work on your communication with your writing partner.

September 3, 2014 at 1:38PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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adam

This was my first thought too. While revision history is certainly sufficient, I agree that some sort of notification after the sync occurs that conflicting changes were made would be useful. We're only human, and we all forget things. Especially in the wee hours of the morning.

That said, I just uploaded a script from a PDF (the only file format I have on my office computer) to test it out and it looks great! I've used Celtx, Scrivener, and Final Draft, and I've got to say that this is impressive. The fact that I can work on my scripts from anywhere, as well as collaborate with others at any time from wherever I am, is wonderful. Also, gotta love that auto-save/revision history combo. I'm sold.

September 3, 2014 at 2:21PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Lee

Looks like he's thought of everything - I'll definitely check it out. I write in Scrivener and love it. The one feature I might miss is the ability to break a script up into sections and folders for easy navigation but it does sound like WriterDuet has something similar.

September 2, 2014 at 11:22PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Stu Mannion

Great review, if I were collaborating on a screenplay I'd definitely consider buying this. The ”online only and it's free“ concept of WriterDuet is great, too, if you trust the cloud (which I don’t). For now I'm sticking with Scrivener, which I only bought last week after testing it extensively. And I agree that while Final Draft is a wonderful tool and certainly has paved the way, it is simply way too expensive in comparison and its business model is very outdated.

September 3, 2014 at 1:47AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I honestly don't like that Final Draft basically has the monopoly on screenwriting software in the industry, because it means they can be lazy, charge exorbitant fees for old software, and get away with it completely.

That being said, I write constantly, and I have used tons of different screenwriting software, and Final Draft is the only one that ever stays stable enough with its formatting and when exporting to PDF.

If there's ever a free screenwriting software out there that can be as stable as Final Draft is, then I'll switch over quick. But until then...I'll stick to old school...mainly because I have to.

September 3, 2014 at 1:51AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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WriterDuet's creator here: I agree with you about stability and consistent formatting. WriterDuet matches Final Draft's default page counts virtually identically (including splitting dialogue across pages), and you get the exact same page counts on any device (including mobile) and in PDF.

If you haven't tried WriterDuet yet, I think you'll be very excited. And not just for collaboration! Infinite revision tracking, an awesome outliner, and dozens of other features put it miles ahead of Final Draft, and it's advancing at break-neck speed (without breaking). This article links to my list of 25 ways WriterDuet is better than Final Draft, but here it is again for reference: https://writerduet.com/blog/?p=18

WriterDuet isn't just a cheap alternative - it's genuinely better software, written by a screenwriter who cares about getting it right. There are many professional screenwriters using it, and because it can read/write Final Draft files (plus Celtx, Fountain, and PDF) there's very little risk in giving it a shot. Best of all, if you have questions or suggestions, I'm extremely responsive and often add feature requests within a day or two.

September 3, 2014 at 2:06AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Or within the hour! True story: I had a question about formatting, got an immediate response, and it sounds like there is going to be a new feature in the software as soon as tomorrow. Um, wow? Wow is appropriate here, right?

Also: For kicks I took scripts from Final Draft into WritersDuet and kick out PDFs from both. Identical. Awesome. It's awesome.

It's free, but you're gonna get the pro version because its worth it for the scripting shortening hacks.

September 11, 2014 at 2:07AM

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Why is nobody talking about Celtx?
And why does this seem like a one big advertisement?
And what about SSL Security for Writer Duet?
Seems like a good software, but I am sticking to Celtx, it just seems much easier to use.

September 3, 2014 at 6:27AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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GATSBY

WriterDuet's creator here: WriterDuet does use SSL security! Also, I originally started screenwriting on Celtx, so I'm quite familiar with it... and it's limitations (inaccurate page counts while writing vs. PDF, non-standard formatting, not splitting dialogue across pages, and a ton of missing features while writing). Then I used Final Draft for a couple years, which is much better than Celtx IMHO, but still not good enough.

I tried to make something that's far better than either one, but if I've failed in any way, please let me know! I take suggestions to heart, so if you don't find WriterDuet easier (and better) than Celtx, please let me know in what ways and I'll try to improve it. Thanks very much!!

September 3, 2014 at 12:27PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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"once you launch a find and replace throughout an entire Final Draft screenplay, the only way to undo it is to undo every single instance of the find/replace manually."

Actually you can just reverse the words in 'find and replace', doesn't have to be done manually. That said WriterDuet looks pretty great.

September 3, 2014 at 7:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Billy Barber

If you reverse the words to undo FD's find and replace, you might change "back" things you *didn't* just change!

September 3, 2014 at 8:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I REALLY don't like the idea of storing something valuable (like my work) on the cloud. Make all the assurances you want but if Apple and Sony and a long list of others can't keep data secure I have a hard time believing one guy can do a better job.

September 4, 2014 at 1:48AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Porter

WriterDuet creator here: Yeah, I'll never make any assurances. But the truth is it's hard to get *anyone* to read most spec scripts, so I think hackers are more interested in celebrity boobs and credit cards. ;-)

That being said, I don't like this either, and I have a solution (not implemented yet, but researched and planned): use client-side encryption with a password never sent to our servers. Everyone you let into the project will need that password to unlock the script, beside their own account password. So all we'd save on our servers in this mode is a jumbled version of the script, meaningless without the key (which of course would have to be secure enough itself).

Aaaand I'm planning to offer a special version of WriterDuet that will be offline-only, which gives you all the awesome features *except* collaboration (duh). I haven't implemented that yet either, but I think it's actually not that hard, and I may have it in not too long if there's demand. It could still use some of the online stuff like optional Google Drive and Dropbox syncing, but the script itself would never be stored on our servers - scripts could be treated like regular files, even if WriterDuet is running as a web app (with the benefit of the code itself being updated constantly).

September 4, 2014 at 4:02AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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WriterDuet has been the only long-distant collaboration platform our team could work with. All the others had major limitations that made working together difficult.

September 4, 2014 at 4:02AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Richard

perfect content with full dimensions all over~

September 5, 2014 at 6:32AM

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