Updated for 2017
Hello to the lovely Michelle who asks:
I’ve heard mixed advice from everyone on the screenwriting software issue… Some advise getting it, others say there’s no need for expensive software – at least not until you’re in the thick of it. What’s your take?
There’s lots of choice now
Some people like screenwriting software; others see it as an excuse for a company to make shedloads of cash. That disclaimer aside however, I think you’re bonkers if you don’t use *some sort* of screenwriting software.
For one thing, it looks better on the page than manually formatted MS Word. It also takes a hell of a lot less time to hit “return” than it does to go back and painstakingly move the text about the page into the right place.
What’s more, a script in MS Word is often that bit longer than your automatically-formatted screenplay, so your page count may go up and give you essentially a false reading of how long it really is.
So I’m a fan of screenwriting software, defo. But which one?
Here’s an overview of those software packages that have crossed the B2W desktop in the past decade and a half, both free and paid-for …
NB. Since writing this post back in 2009, it would appear one of the key advantages of paid-for software is it is not suddenly abandoned by its developer! Something to think on, perhaps?
- BBC’s Script Smart. The second fave amongst them is the BBC’s Script Smart. I downloaded it once to try it and didn’t understand it. Nothing appeared to work – at least in the way I wanted it to and/or expected it to. Perhaps I got a dodgy download, ‘cos I appear to be the only person in the universe this has affected. Whatever the case, I didn’t like it and haven’t been back. [EDIT: No longer supported].
- Sophocles. There was a brief interest in Sophocles amongst my Bang2writers and I took a look too: it seemed interesting, but by then I had already bought software. [EDIT: no longer supported].
- Scripped. Another one Bang2writers seem to like is Scripped, principally for its online collaboration feature (which CeltX also has). Whilst I applaud the idea, I’m simply not interested in online collaboration in this way. I gave the actual software a try and it seemed fine – but there appeared to be loads of stuff that I didn’t need/wasn’t interested in and though I still technically have an account, I haven’t opened it in yonks. [EDIT: GONE ALTOGETHER!! There was an EPIC data loss and users’ scripts got deleted, detailed HERE. Listen to John August’s podcast with Scripped about it HERE. Something else to think on perhaps, re: freeware].
Here are some more free screenwriting software that have turned up, since writing the post:
If you use any of the above, let me know what you think of them and I’ll add your thoughts to this post.
1) CELTX. Lots of Bang2writers are big fans of this one. I’ve never used it myself, but I have test driven it and it wasn’t for me. But it remains the most widely used screenwriting software after Final Draft with my writers. Check it out, plus pricing, HERE.
2) Slugline. This one comes in at $39.99, plus you can try it for free. I found this via Google; I’ve not test driven it. No Bang2writers have recommended it, but none have said it’s terrible either. If you use it and want to share your thoughts in the comments of this post, please do. Check it out HERE.
3) FADE IN Pro. This turned up in 2014 to VERY enthusiastic endorsements from the Bang2writers. They say its functionality is ace, the programmer is approachable (apparently someone asked for a radio template to be added and it was, almost immediately), plus it’s affordable at just $49.95. Check it out HERE.
4) Writer Duet. This one can be used free online, or upgraded to $79 per year, or $159 for a lifetime. There’s also a Screencraft version that comes with a variety of extras for $99/$199. Now I’m not gonna lie and say I use Writer Duet because I don’t BUT I really do rate Screencraft and have talked to the guys there about it and believe they offer a good product. Check out the details, HERE.
5) Final Draft. I’ve been a Final Draft user now for aeons and updated to FD10 in 2016. It’s my favourite version yet, for sure. What’s more, everyone I know and work with regularly uses Final Draft: we don’t have to worry about converting files, we can just attach and “send”, no faffing about. Since I am allergic to faffing and want to do everything RIGHT NOW OR BUST, this floats my boat.
Someone said to me once that Final Draft is the professional’s choice. Certainly, I have never sat in a meeting – with anyone – and been asked, “Do you use Final Draft?”, it’s just a given. All the professional clients I read for use Final Draft; as a reader/editor I would be at a disadvantage if I didn’t have it. After PDF, FDR is the file I get most. On a purely finnicky level again, I find Courier Final Draft the neatest and easiest to read out of ALL the courier fonts.
Of course, the downside is Final Draft is bloody expensive. It’s also not great for radio plays and as for creating new format templates you might need, forget it – I tried once and nearly had a severe brain explosion. But of all the major formatting tools available, I think it’s easiest to use, most convenient, most universal and best looking on the actual page.
What’s your choice of software and why?
Over on Twitter (follow me to join in!), my mighty tweeps are making the following recommendations:
Apparently Scrivener is ace. I’ve never used this, so can’t say one way or another, but it’s a paid-for software costing $39.95 and of course you can have a trial first to find out if you like it. Downside: it’s only available to Mac users at present. [UPDATE: Now available for Windows as well].
Others are recommending Writers Cafe as well as Allen here, principally for its “storylines” function. I’ve heard mixed tales about this software and I took a look a while back and it didn’t appeal to me, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a go, especially if you find outlining a real pain.
Apparently Movie Magic give existing Final Draft users a discount!
Meanwhile, over at Facebook, there is MUCH love for both Final Draft and CeltX too, with just a couple recommending Movie Magic – I wonder why it hasn’t caught on over here? Our American cousins seem to use it more.
Join Bang2writers on Facebook to join in the conversation.
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