Writers are very specific about their process and often require special tools, resources, and even circumstances to write effectively. So, if you are struggling to find the best screenwriting software, review our list below of the top screenwriting software options.
The Best Screenwriting Software in 2020
- Final Draft
- Fade In
- Movie Magic Screenwriter
- Highland 2
Although you can write using any word processing tool, screenwriting and scriptwriting are a unique format, and to excel in this arena; you need the best script writing software.
Our picks for the best screenwriting software are detailed below with an overview, pros, cons, and anything else you need to know about each one.
1. Final Draft
Final Draft was the first screenwriting software on the market and remains to this day the best. It is super easy to use, with dozens of useful templates. It helps screenwriters organize their work and includes auto-formatting to keep your characters and scenes in line. It even has a story map feature called Beat Board where you can flesh out a storyline using pictures, notes, and illustrations. It mimics the old-fashioned corkboard approach to screenwriting.
If you write screenplays for a living, Final Draft is a must-have. However, it is pricey, at $200-$250 per license. But it is loaded with features you will love instantly.
- Powerful tools.
- Easy to use.
- Perfect for screenwriters.
- Dozens of helpful templates.
- Organizational tools.
- Collaboration resources included.
- Can only collaborate with one person at a time.
- Skimpy revision history.
- One of the most expensive screenwriting apps.
- Not a lot of helpful tutorials on tap.
2. Fade In
An excellent alternative to Final Draft is the screenwriting software called Fade In. It was developed in 2011 by screenwriter and director, Kent Tessman, and is widely used in the movie industry. Fade In is extremely affordable at $79.95 with free updates for life. It packs many great features under the hood, such as automatic script formatting, a sleek, easy-to-use interface, and real-time collaboration.
You can also easily insert images directly into the script. The distraction-free writing space will delight many writers. You aren’t limited by export file formats, which is another helpful feature, and everything is saved automatically to the cloud, so you never lose your masterpiece.
- Great interface.
- Very affordable.
- Autocomplete functionality and automatic script formatting.
- Real-time collaboration.
- Cloud storage and free updates are included.
- One-time fee.
- Index cards, templates, and reports.
- The free version imprints a watermark on the script.
Celtx (an acronym for Crew, Equipment, Location, Talent, and XML) is another heavy hitter in our lineup of screenwriting software options. The company boasts of having 6 million users! Celtx is best for a production environment because it includes features like call sheets, budgets, schedules, storyboards, and script breakdown. One of the best features is it is easy to engage in multi-user collaboration and discuss all the angles of a potential story or issues with props, actors, or locations.
Celtx works off a subscription plan, and it costs $20/month for up to 10 projects. It works on just about any platform and includes mobile apps. This app excels at organization and keeping everyone on the same page.
- Multi-user collaboration.
- Revision tracking.
- Offline mode.
- Shot lists for the film crew.
- Budgets, schedules, and a project catalog.
- Cloud-based making it easy to share and backup.
- Easy-to-use interface.
- You have to pay for a monthly plan to use it.
- No free version.
- Focus is pre-production and shooting, not as much on screenwriting.
The number two winner in our screenwriter software list is Movie Magic Screenwriter (MMS). Although it doesn’t have all the features as Final Draft, it comes pretty close. It’s more affordable, and it is excellent software. MMS makes it easy to draft scripts using outlines and the distraction-free interface. You can color-code scenes, characters, and other items for easy reference down the road.
The professional templates enhance usability. However, some users have difficulty with navigation and say it’s tough to learn all the tricks. Another sticking point is that it is quite pricey, although cheaper than First Draft. So, if you are looking for a less expensive option with many of the same features, this one might do the trick.
- Outline view and distraction-free writing.
- Color coding for scenes, actions, and characters.
- Dozens of templates.
- Text-to-speech option.
- Collaboration tools.
- Offers a cheaper academic version.
- Automatic formatting.
- It can be difficult to learn.
- Not as compatible with other screenwriting software.
- Quite expensive, although cheaper than Final Draft.
- Users complain about the navigation and using it with large scripts.
An essential feature of screenwriting software is the ability to collaborate and work together as a team. WriterDuet does this beautifully and allows multiple users to edit a single file without any danger of overwrites. The cloud-based solution offers a free plan, but it limits you to three projects.
There are three other subscription plans, the Plus Plan for $7.99/month, the full-featured Pro Plan, which is $11.99/month, and they also offer a Premium Plan with all the Pro Plan functionality with 10GB of storage and add-on plugins for extra usability. WriterDuet has a friendly interface and tracks all your edits to go back in time if you need to.
- Multiple pricing options.
- A free plan.
- Cloud backup.
- Revision tracking.
- Multiple file formats for exporting and importing.
- Add-ons for more functionality.
- Offline mode.
- Must sign up for the priciest plan to get all the features.
- Collaboration only works when online.
6. Highland 2
Highland 2 is a Mac app created in 2012 by John August, and its main focus is to help fresh, new screenwriters learn how to craft screenplays using a basic, simple interface. True to form as a Mac app, Highland automates scriptwriting by automatically formatting as you write, inserting headers and dialogue sections.
The software also makes useful suggestions to help you learn. Highland 2’s aim is simplicity, and it creates a basic text file that can be read by most other screenwriting editors. The app costs $49.99, and you can purchase it through the Mac App Store. They do offer a limited free version. The Pro version comes with some nice perks like support via Slack, templates, and themes.
- Reorders scenes and notes using the drag-n-drop feature.
- Speaking parts tracking.
- Automatic backups.
- Free version.
- Fourteen templates & 10 themes with the Pro version.
- Support using a Slack channel.
- The free version includes a watermark on exported PDFs.
- Revisions, themes, and templates only available with the Pro version.
- Mac only, no Windows version.
Trelby is an open-source screenwriting alternative that is entirely free. Keep in mind; you get what you pay for. The community strongly recommends collaboration to improve the software. This option is great for budding screenwriters who don’t have a lot to spend on writing software. It works well for college students and others who need scriptwriting software but don’t necessarily require all the fancy features of a paid program.
You can acquire the codes for Trelby on Github, and the software is configurable because it is open source. You can actually modify it any way you see fit. There is a reporting feature, and you can export to a multitude of formats to use with other editors such as Final Draft, Celtx, Fountain, Adobe Story, and Fade In.
- Complete free and open source.
- Very user-friendly.
- Screenplay editor (automatic formatting).
- Custom views.
- Compare mode to review side-by-side scripts.
- System requirements are minimal.
- Only works on Windows and Linux platforms, no Mac version.
- Less robust than other competitors.
- Limited editing features (no bold, italics, or underline available).
- No support.
- No collaboration.
- English only.
Scrivener is widely popular writing software used most often for novels and book creation. Therefore, it works especially well for those who want to convert a book to a script. What many users like is that it has a familiar look and feel (like MS Word), so the working environment is easy to use. Importing text, even entire novels, is a snap using Scrivener.
The software is very organized so you can easily set up characters, plots, scenes, and dialogue without a hassle. The program handles editing pretty well but is far less robust and is missing a lot of features of the big-name programs like Final Draft and Celtx. You pay $45 for Scrivener in a one-time fee, but you may have to pay for future updates as well.
- Fairly inexpensive.
- Easy to use.
- Works with MS Word.
- Side-by-side view for notes and writing.
- Drag-n-drop feature.
- Compatible with Windows, Linux, and Mac/iOS.
- Footnote support.
- Fewer features than other programs.
- Not useful for a production environment.
- Not super quick to learn.
- Must purchase separate licenses to use on multiple platforms.
- Pay for updates.
StudioBinder is trusted by big names in video production like Spotify and BuzzFeed. They call themselves the “world's leading video, photo, TV & film production management software.” The sleek, modern interface will delight users. Meant for a production environment, the program includes call sheets, shot lists, storyboards, and contact lists to keep everyone connected, script breakdowns, shooting schedules, and more. It works the way Slack and Asana do for business, to provide a collaborative workflow to keep everyone on the same page.
StudioBinder isn’t fooling around, and this app is jam-packed with features including various export/import formats, personalized emails, 24/7 online access, and SMS support. They do offer a very limited forever free plan, but you max out at one project. They also provide three plans ranging from $29/mo - $99/mo based on the number of projects and file storage you need.
- Drag-n-drop functionality.
- Image support.
- Calendars and task lists.
- Tagging for props, wardrobe, and locations, etc.
- Various pricing plans with different features.
- Free plan.
- The free plan is limited to one project.
- Too pricey for small production companies.
- Features are extensive but may be confusing for beginners.
Causality, also called "story sequencing software,” is a gem among hardcore screenwriters who want to strip away the glamorous interface and get down to the bones of writing. It is famed for its ability to plot while you write simultaneously. The ability to perform dual functions while in the same space is extremely functional. You can also mind map connections between characters, actions, and plot lines.
The app is very visual and attracts a specific kind of writer who likes to link everything visually as they go. It’s not for the mainstream and doesn’t work great for production. Although they offer a limited free version, you will pay $5.99/month for the Pro version, or you can pay $279 to get a permanent lifetime license. You do have to pay for additional add-ons.
- Dual writing/plotting view.
- Helps make connections.
- Works on all platforms.
- Generous support and full-featured.
- Collaboration built-in.
- Multimedia integration.
- A free version (limited to 10 pages).
- Complicated for some users.
- Not ideal for a production environment.
What is Screenwriting Software?
Screenwriting software makes it easy for writers to draft scripts, scenes, and screenplays to use in TV, movies, and even video games or advertisements. Typically, they include features to write, edit, format, and print their final pieces.
Key Features to Look for in a Screenwriting Software
When searching for the best free screenwriting software or even a paid app, you need to know what features are most desirable to get the best results. The features to look for are:
- Ease of use.
- Script breakdown.
- Automatic formatting.
- Alternate dialogue tools.
- Automatic backups (cloud-based), so you never lose your files.
- Dictation so you can speak instead of type.
- Importing and exporting tools (must export to PDF).
- Built-in collaboration resources.
- Production tools (if you need them).
- Community outreach to ask questions and get help.
- Analyzing tools for suggestions around dialogue and tightness.
Another important thing to look for is how well the software allows you to organize your projects by scene, character, storyline, etc.
How to Choose the Best Screenwriting Software?
Balancing price versus functionality is how most people will determine what the best screenwriting software is for them. If your job requires you to write scripts, craft scenes, or dialogue, you may want a specific tool. If you are casually writing your own soon-to-be movie craze, you might not need as much firepower.
Screenwriting Software FAQs
Below are some common screenwriting software FAQs to help you make your decision.
What software do professional screenwriters use?
Roughly 95% of the industry uses Final Draft, and this includes big-name production companies, moviemakers, and TV shows. The software produces perfectly formatted, ready to use scripts and screenplays. However, professional screenwriters often use a combination of tools, depending on the job.
What is the industry standard screenwriting software?
The industry standard is Final Draft, but it is pricey for some people, and runner up would be Movie Magic Screenwriter. Celtx and Fade In are also excellent choices.
What is the best software for screenwriting?
Choosing the best software for screenwriting is really a personal choice. It highly depends on what you are writing and the type of project. If you are working on a production crew, then Celtx might be the best option. If you want a full-featured program with all the bells and whistles that other industry rainmakers are using, then Final Draft might be your best bet.
How much does screenwriting software cost?
Screenwriting software costs anywhere from $7.99/month up to a one-time fee of $250 for Final Draft. It depends on whether you are comfortable paying a high up-front price or paying as you go with a subscription-based model.
Is there any free screenwriting software?
If you are on the hunt for the best free script writing software, you might want to check out Highland 2. Trelby is another option, although it’s somewhat bare-bones and is open-source, which can be good and bad. If you want a well-supported app with basic features that teach you as you go, Highland 2 will do the job well. However, keep in mind the free version is limited. You have to pay $49.99 for the full-featured version.
What is the best free screenwriting software?
Although Trelby is completely free forever, it’s not the best software you can get, and there is no support or guidance to use it. If you have a Mac, you probably want to choose Highland 2 as your go-to freebie option. WriterDuet also offers a free plan.
Is screenwriting software worth the cost?
If you write scripts and screenplays for a living, absolutely! Trying to stay organized with storylines, characters, plot, scenes, and dialogue is hard enough using inferior software like a word processor, but using a tool built for screenwriters makes it easy to keep organized, stay on task and focus on the job at hand.