September 28, 2018

The Eight Best Professional Screenwriting Software Solutions

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Which screenwriting software is right for you? Let's dive in.

So you want to be a professional screenwriter, but you’re struggling over which screenwriting software to use? Unfortunately, no screenplay software will make your writing better, but some might be more tailored toward your needs on the page.

In my nearly decade of writing scripts, I’ve used each of the programs imaginable. I’ll take you through the eight best screenwriting software solutions I’ve found on the market, and we’ll list the pros and cons of each.

Let’s smash cut to the details!

Screenwriting Software for Beginning Screenwriters

1. Free Screenwriting Software: Microsoft Word / Pages / Google Docs

Welcome to the beginning screenwriter’s crutch. Pages and Word come with your computer and they’re a great place to play around. If your aspiration is to become a professional screenwriter, then you have to be willing to put in the work. Before you learn script format, it’s best to just hang in there, work out dialogue, work on your voice on the page, and experiment.    

Pros: It usually comes free with your computer or Google account. There are no limits to what you can write, and you can learn the basics for telling your own story.

Cons: You’re not going to learn anything about format, it’s not for professional screenwriters, and there are limits to the formatting you can achieve on the page.

2. Free Screenwriting Software: Celtx

Okay, you’ve graduated past the free screenwriting software that comes with your computer. Now it’s time to learn formatting and see your ideas hit the page. It’s exciting, but it’s probably not time to commit to paying lots of money for a program. Celtx is a great, free screenwriting software choice. Come here to learn.

Pros: It’s free, and free is awesome. You can learn formatting from the ground up. There are lots of paid upgrades that can help you budget and even shoot your first script.

Cons: It’s less intuitive than other programs. You can save different files but most people in the industry aren’t looking for Celtx files when they want to budget and breakdown.

3. Free Screenwriting Software: Writer Duet

Lots of people nowadays write with a partner. It can help lighten the load and refine the ideas in real time. Most software isn’t tuned to two writers being able to be in different rooms. WriterDuet is great because you can collaborate anywhere.

Pros: This offers intuitive collaboration between writers, which makes it easier for you to finish your latest spec or pilot.

Cons: You need to have wifi to truly collaborate in different places. You need to be online for some of the “saving” options. This can make things tricky.

Now that you know about the free options, let’s look at some screenwriting software that cost a little more than free…sometimes hundreds more…but they’re what you need to be a professional screenwriter

Screenwriting Software for Professional Screenwriters

4. Final Draft

The company's tagline is “the industry standard,” and it’s impossible to ignore Final Draft’s relevance in the marketplace. Final Draft is used by lots of professional screenwriters, but it’s not the be all, end all. Still, it’s a useful tool with lots of templates for different formats, and using it does make you feel “cool.” I know it does. I remember the first time I used it and what I wrote and how "professional screenwriter-y" I felt.   

Pros: The “.FDX” format is universally used by lots of professional productions. Revisions Mode makes it easy to track changes.

Cons: At almost $250, it’s easily the most expensive program on this list. Sure, lots of people use it, but it does have problems with crashing. Plus, upgrades sometimes phase out old files.

5. Movie Magic Screenwriter

This is a highly intuitive software that also works in tandem with one of the most popular budgeting softwares. Movie Magic is also reliable, easy to use, and consistently updates with useful tools. It’s popular in lots of writers’ rooms as well.

Pros: You can change the layout and interface to keep your screen clean and clear. You can collaborate with other writers in real time.

Cons: It’s not quite as popular as Final Draft but it’s just as expensive. Also, there's no website for help or support. 

6. Highland

If you’re going to use screenwriting software, maybe you should listen to the advice of a professional screenwriter. John August created screenwriting software that addresses most writers' wants: something simple that just lets the work flow. All this for a low price.

Pros: You can customize the layout, use different colors, and export in lots of different formats. Plus, John is constantly creating updates that are drawn from what people suggest and need.

Cons: There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles, so if you want screenwriting software that also does budgeting and other accouterments, this isn’t the program for you.

7. Fade In

This is a newer version of screenwriting software that’s taking a direct run at Final Draft’s business by billing itself as “the new standard.” It’s an aggressive attack, but I respect it. Fade In has a sleek look, and can professionally format with the best of them. The best part? All the updates are free…and we love free screenwriting software.

Pros: Has, by far, the most adjustable features compared to all the other programs. It’s also reasonably priced and certainly easy to use and learn.

Cons: Because the software is so new, there aren’t many studios and shows adopting it. It can make your work look like a professional screenwriter's in the end, but if you’re working inside the industry, it may not be compatible immediately. They’re working on that.

8. Scrivener

There’s a good chance that you’re going to be writing other things besides screenplays. This software has templates for all kinds of writing. It’s specifically designed for authors and stretches toward film and television.

Pros: If you decide to step out into novels and novellas, this is a great choice. It can be used for a wide array of writing. Plus, it has an excellent outline feature.

Cons: Because it’s not strictly made for film and television, there are lots of gaps when it comes to cross-compatibility, general use, and practicality.

Summing Up the Best Screenwriting Software

As I mentioned in the opener, none of these programs is going to turn you into a professional screenwriter overnight. Screenwriting software can help you format and get your voice on the page, but the secret to success is rewriting.

It doesn’t matter where you do your writing; only that it’s good. Pick which program works best for you, and then use it A LOT. I’m excited to see what you will write next.

Your Comment

13 Comments

I use Fade In and just wanted to give it a vote of confidence.

I saw Rian Johnson post a screenshot on Instagram of his, in progress, screenplay for Star Wars using some software I'd never seen before. Looked it up and gave it shot. Very happy and don't see myself using anything else ever again (especially since a one-time price means lifetime free updates).

September 28, 2018 at 5:32PM, Edited September 28, 5:33PM

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Scott Cassidy
Director
120

That's awesome about the updates - Rian is a great person to model yourself after.

September 28, 2018 at 9:51PM, Edited September 28, 9:51PM

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I've adopted Fade In as my regular screenwriting software too, and I have Final Draft - never use it. Fade In is, for me, much quicker to use.

Fade In can import and export Final Draft files, fountain files, and a bunch of other formats. You can generate all sorts of reports (maybe not as many as Final Draft - I haven't opened that in years so I've forgotten what it's capable of). The support for Fade In is really good too. I found a small bug that involved the file names of exported files. It wasn't something that broke the software, just a minor thing. I let them know about it and got an email back that same day letting me know it'd be fixed in the next minor update, and it was.

With Fade In playing nicely with Final Draft files and being a heck of a lot cheaper, I don't have any need to go back to Final Draft.

October 5, 2018 at 2:02PM

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You said for Movie Magic Screenwriter --

"Also, there's no website for help or support."

I don't find that to be true.
Movie Magic Screenwriter has a Support & Help website that's very easy to find.

http://www.write-bros.com/
http://support.screenplay.com/

It has been around for years.

September 28, 2018 at 7:19PM, Edited September 28, 7:23PM

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B Sharp
Writer/Actor
86

Good to know - I'll adjust the article!

September 28, 2018 at 9:51PM

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I think it's a bit unfair to only include WriterDuet as a free program. Yes, they provide a fully functional free version if you are ok with staying online – but they also offer a desktop version, that has the cloud sync and collaboration features, but works perfectly fine offline and alone.

I use WriterDuet, but have never used it to collaborate. It is a fully featured, slick and modern screenwriting program on par with Fade In.

September 29, 2018 at 1:07AM

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Has anybody an opinion about dramaqeen?
https://dramaqueen.info/about-en/?lang=en

September 29, 2018 at 3:57AM

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Jens Koenig
Engineer
173

Highland is Mac only btw.

September 29, 2018 at 5:05PM

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I recently had to choose a scriptwriting program for my company and ultimately chose Celtx. The deciding factor was Celtx's full suite of pre-production tools that all integrate with its scriptwriting. Being able to generate shot lists, schedules, call sheets, and sides that are all automatically updated when a scene is added to the script has saved me TONS of time. To my knowledge there isn't another software that can do this. If anyone knows any let me know!

September 29, 2018 at 6:28PM

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I believe Movie Magic has similar capabilities, but I've never had to use them.

October 2, 2018 at 11:17AM

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Arc Studio Pro is a new option with some pretty cool features. Been using it and so far so good. I was using Highland before that. Highland is great but if you're not on a Mac...don't worry about it. lol

October 2, 2018 at 2:23PM

Great article! A question i have if im writing novels n novellas reality fiction n want to turn my novels into screenplays , is script studio a good softwear?

October 8, 2018 at 4:29PM

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I don't think it matters unless you want software that can handle writing all three mediums. If so, try Highland out and see if you like their templates.

October 8, 2018 at 10:36PM, Edited October 8, 10:36PM

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