NB. Since writing this post back in 09, it would appear one of the key advantages of paid-for software is it is not suddenly abandoned by its developer!
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. Have been looking into FD and found reviews fared Movie Magic better. What’s your take ?
Well, obviously: end of the day, it’s your choice. 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 a mentalist 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? Well again, that’s totally up to you. Here’s an overview of those software packages that have crossed the B2W desktop in the past ten years …
CeltX. Lots of Bang2writers are big fans of CeltX. Of the free screenwriting software this is definitely my favourite, but it has limitations that get on my nerves, the biggest one being you have to be online to convert to PDF [UPDATE: It’s now 2013 and this has been rectified; CeltX is still the most popular free software of the Bang2writers]. I’m also not a big fan of the menus at the top: they don’t seem as well laid out logically-speaking as they could be. On a purely finnicky level, I don’t like the version of Courier CeltX has, it seems a bit weird in comparison to others.
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].
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!! 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].
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].
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.
Paid For Software
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.
Final Draft. I’ve been a Final Draft user now for aeons: it was the first I tried, but I was amazed by how easy it made everything (perhaps making the others seem like it was reinventing the wheel?). Granted, Final Draft 7 had some annoying bugs, but I’ve been using Final Draft 8 now since it came out and I’m pleased to report that I have had no problems whatsoever, plus it has some great new features too. 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.
Movie Magic. Of the paid-for software, about three million years ago I tried Movie Magic. I didn’t like it. Everything seemed to be in the wrong place, though I accept that’s a personal thing. What’s more, since I didn’t seem to know anyone who used Movie Magic, I couldn’t just send people a MM file. This seemed a good enough reason not to buy it and I haven’t lived to regret it; in the past 5 years only ONE Bang2writer has sent me an MM file. When I asked him to convert it because I couldn’t open those files, the text on the page went absolutely ballistic. [EDIT: I have no clue whether this has been rectified; in the last four/five years, no one has sent me another MM file, leading me to believe it just never really caught on in the UK maybe?].
What’s your choice of software and why?
Since writing this post, it would appear one of the key advantages of paid-for software is it is not suddenly abandoned by its developer!
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. [2013 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.
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