Screenwriting : Best Screenwriting Software by Nancy Ahern

Nancy Ahern

Best Screenwriting Software

Hello Fellow Screenwriters! What do you think is the best screenwriting software? Thanks for your feedback.

Christopher Hart

I use Fade In. It can export/import most of the other software. Final Draft, Celtx, even E books. Movie Magic is the only one left out.

Nancy Ahern

Thank you Christopher!

Philip Sedgwick

As user of FD and Movie Magic, Movie Magic hands down.

Nancy Ahern

Thanks Philip!

Doug Nelson

I think it depends on where you are in screenwriting and where you want to go. Celtx is free but pretty limited. Final Draft has become the industry standard for writing all the way through to production, but costs a bit. So best is in the eye of the user but you can't go wrong with FD.

Mark Souza

I use Final Draft

Georgia Hilton

screenwriter pro

David Taylor

FD

Nancy Ahern

Thank you so much everyone. I appreciate your feedback!

Nancy Ahern

Thanks Chris and Dan. Your information is very helpful.

Philip Sedgwick

Per Dan's comment, Movie Magic is infinitely easier to use, and less glitchy. I write at least 20% faster on MM, though I am proficient in both systems. I write first drafts (and all drafts of specs) in MM, but if a director or company insists upon FD, I convert the file after the first draft, then work in FD. There's (or was, haven't checked in the past couple months to see if it's fixed) an issue with FD's ability to have voices read your script with the newer PC's. I rarely use this, but when I had to on one project, it's hard to have only one voice reading all primary characters... sounds the same as when I read them. FD is in cahoots with WGA. But in reality, a properly formatted script can be written on a lot of platforms. Find the one that works best for you. So given cost factors, see if you can get a trial download of the various systems. And you may be forced into FD at some point.

Nancy Ahern

Thank you so much Philip!

Mark Souza

The voice thing is very cool. Mistakes your eyes fly over without seeing time after time, jar the ear. It's great for that last clean-up pass.

A. Ma

I use Scrivener is fair good and the version 2.0 for mac is amazing, great alternative for F.D.

Jessie Bernard

I use (and may be the only person in the world to use) Movie Outline 3. I love it and it exports in FD. If your a strategic writer, meaning if you outline and do a lot of character developing and that sort of thing then Movie Outline is a great investment.

Michael A. Freeman

Hi Nancy, I'm new to Studio 32.com, but thought I'd throw my 2 cents in (for what it's a worth?). I've used both Movie Magic and Final Draft, but I would say the former is also more user-friendly and generally has more bells-and-whistles applications. Still, I use FD because almost everyone I've talked to and when I worked at Sony and Showtime, the "standard" screenwriting software tool was FD. Hey, has anyone used FD 9 yet? Does it have more features/bells-and-whistles than what FD8 offers??!! Cheers!

Anne-Cecile Ville

Ditto I use Movie Magic Screenwriter unfortunately some producers use FD and others MMS, but I prefer MMS. I guess one day I'll probably have to invest in FD... Sigh...

Luna Munroe

I use page2stage

Pedro Vasquez

I have both Movie Magic and Final Draft. Usually use Final Draft for my scripts. But I think MM has some really useful "Tools." Of course, the are cheaper options out there that work just fine.

Eoin O'Sullivan

Any piece of software that allows you to write in standard format - it doesn't matter what you use (perhaps avoid MS Word), no piece of software can write a screenplay for you. Celtx is free and perfectly capable at enabling you to knock out a screenplay, you just have to supply the words . . .

Joseph Anthony Hammond

I have used Celtx for two feature films, a short, and TV stuff. It works great, is free, and is open source, it keeps getting better.

Nancy Ahern

Thank you everyone. I really appreciate it. Stage 32 is truly a supportive community.

Tim Lane

I have used Celtx and now Final Draft. Celtx had it's glitches but the one thing I miss about Celtx was the character sheets that it generated for every character. I never used it's 'storyboard' feature but it seemed interesting.

Ruben Carbajal

The industry standard is Final Draft, so I think it's best to stick with it. Personally, I enjoy using Celtx much more--but now to avoid formatting issues on projects, I stick with FD.

Nancy Ahern

I will probably go with Final Draft. I have been using Word and formatting myself and it is a pain. Thanks again for your feedback!

Ron Horton

I'm not so sure you can call Final Draft the "Industry Standard." Sure, it's a big name and, I'm sure good, but I like my Movie Magic. I have not tried FD but, in my Portland screenwriting group the jury was still out about its user friendlyness. Movie Magic is also accepted by all contests and the movie industry. Just get a good one, not a cheap start up like I tried. You'll benefit from paying a little more to get so much more.

Nancy Ahern

Thank you for commenting Ron. I really am looking for "user friendly" so I will have to ponder all of this. Welcome to Stage 32, it is a great group!

Georgia Hilton

Nancy. et al... use what you want and use what works for you... In the end they all work and in the end you can transfer scripts to any format and there are a bazillion people out there to help you in a professional for-hire situation... We've delivered FD and Screenwriter Pr0 scripts to the WGA and many other entities... no issues.

Bryan Michael Block

I have copies of the following: Final Draft, Movie Magic Screenwriter, FADE IN, Movie Outline, and Movie Draft. I have tried Celtx, but found too many formatting errors and things that just didn't seem "right" while using it. I have also tried Scrivener, which has a "screenplay mode". So, here is my .02: ISSUE 1: The core of all of these apps is basically a specialized word processor that puts your screenplay in "industry standard format" - the problem is that you can transfer a screenplay from one app to the other and gain or lose several pages...because they ALL claim to work in "industry standard" formatting...but they can't seem to agree upon what that is! That means you need to decide what "industry standard" you are going to accept . :-) ISSUE 2:There are features that simply don't exist or aren't implemented well in some apps that don't exist in others. One example is "dual dialogue" - not something that you need everyday, but when you want it...it would be nice if it was there. "Dual Dialogue" is when two characters are speaking at once, and you want to display the dialogue side by side in the screenplay. In Movie Magic, it displays the dual dialogue as staggered columns - it prints fine, but it's ugly to look at. Minor issue. In Final Draft, it converts "dual dialogue" into a fixed graphic that can no longer be edited! You need to "undo" dual dialogue formatting to edit your dialogue. Clumsy handling. In Movie Outline, "dual dialogue" doesn't exist. Period. They promise it is a feature they are looking to add in a future release. FADE IN handles dual dialogue exactly how it should be handled. Two columns, side by side, fully editable text. Score! There are other features that each app has that are (usually pretty minor or esoteric) that may or may not be of importance to you. ISSUE 3: Workflow and purpose. What is "best" for you probably depends on your workflow and what you want to do with your screenplays. Some apps, like Movie Outline have a great set of outlining and character development tools built right into the software. Others are very light on additional functionality but provide basic "index card" outlining (Final Draft, Fade In, Movie Draft), and others have a system of "notes" used to create hierarchical outlines and templates (Movie Magic Screenwriter). Some apps provide online collaboration and cloud-based functionality (Celtx, Final Draft), some have advanced functionality that allow you to interface with production packages more smoothly so you can move right into actual production. So, it kind of depends on what you are expecting of the software. Remember, that once the script has been turned into a PDF, no one will know what package you wrote it in. :-) But, here is my take on the various packages that I have tried: Final Draft: PROS: As noted, pretty much accepted as "the industry standard". Basic index card outlining is easy to use, online "CollaboWriter" feature. Huge user base. If you are entering a lot of contests and need compatible files, you can't go wrong here. CONS: I find the formatting a bit "wonky" - things don't look as nice as they do in other packages and I find my page count gets bumped considerably in FD, especially when using their default font. Dual Dialogue not implemented well, No character development or story development tools and basic outlining can be a bit limiting Movie Outline: PROS: Comprehensive SUITE of tools. Great plot outliner, character and development tools, dialogue spotlight feature, friendly interface, ability to compare scripts, story pacing and character arc tools. Formatting solid. If you need help sorting your plot and story and like to have it all in one project, Movie Outline is a good choice. CONS: No dual dialogue feature, no online collaboration tools, dictionary and thesaurus etc... link out to online resources. Movie Magic Screenwriter: PROS: This program is also an "industry standard" coming in right under Final Draft. Comprehensive heirarchical outlining tools, iPartner online collaboration tools, character name bank, well implemented thesaurus, streamline feature (available on MAC only at this point...) Tons of formatting options, easy find-replace, integrates well with production tools. Despite some shortcomings, a mature writing app that supports the screenwriting process. CONS: Ugly, outdated interface. Some bugs in the code regarding notes on occasion, Outlining process with notes seems dated. Mac version has additional features that would be welcome on Windows. No character development or story development tools. LONG TIME between updates. FADE IN: A new and inexpensive app with a clean interface. PROS: Lovely, simple, clean, and modern interface, that makes you want to write. Very responsive, you can tell this is new code. :-) Store your scripts in the cloud. Dual dialogue implementation is the BEST in this group. Simple formatting options. CONS: Basic "index card" style outlining could be improved. No character development or story development tools. No online collaboration tools, dictionary and thesaurus etc... link out to online resources. Scrivener: Scrivener is not a screenwriting app per se, but it is a writing app with a screenwriting "mode" - I tried the demo and Scrivener has TONS of options. It kind of acts like a big notebook for putting all of you materials for your writing project in one place. it's nice that it offers a screenwriting mode, but if you are used to using dedicated packages like Final Draft or Movie Magic, you might find it a bit clunky. That said, it is nice to be able to put all your reference materials in one spot. Movie Draft: A lightweight app with a fresh, clean look. Simple outlining and colorful highlighting are engaging. It's pretty light on features, but exported scripts look clean and professional. The graphics for the index cards are fun and functional and make the basic outlining function a little more effective than in other more 'professional' apps when developing plots. A fun app. Celtx: Celtx seems to be king of the open source software at this point, and with good reason. They keep adding features and improving it and there is an active user base. Celtx seems to really be focused on the "indie filmmaker" that wants to go all the way through production. Tons of online options, storyboarding, collaboration, and an active user base. I have not tried Celtx in awhile, but when I did I was impressed with the features, although my exported scripts seemed to have some formatting strangeness and overall it still felt 'underdeveloped' - but that has been a few years now, so I can't speak to the current version. That's my .02. My biggest issue with the "big apps" (Final Draft and Movie Magic) is that they seem to have rested on their laurels and their development cycle is so very slow and unresponsive. It's like they are afraid to embrace progress. Movie Magic has had the same version out now for about 6+ years...bugs and all! And Final Draft 8 seems to be the first version in a long while that has sorted out some long standing bugs in that app. Even with that said, they still do some things like the dual dialogue issue, in such a clunky and downright ODD way, that you can't quite figure out why they haven't 'fixed' them. Movie Outline jumped in an filled a niche by adding plot and character development tools to the basic word processor, and smaller developers like Fade In and Movie Draft have focused on creating super responsive code and very clean interfaces to woo people away from the bloated legacy of the "big apps". So, pick your poison and have at it! ~b

Ruben Carbajal

You should definitely use whatever works best for you. But as someone who works in both the Script Dept and writing end of the business--I don't like to be the person who gives extra work to my team (handing a script that has to be reformatted). The problem with transferring files is that it isn't always seamless--so you wind up in a position where you'll have a lot of extra touch up work to do. You might think your script is ready to go--save in a different format and realize you have another hour of work on your hands. I think all of the programs have their glitches, positives and negatives. Just know what you're getting into--if you find you like a program that your team doesn't use--factor in some time into your deadline for reformatting/adjustments.

Joseph Anthony Hammond

Bryan, I have never had the screenwriting programs explained so well, great job. I use Celtx and go on to produce and direct so I don't have to convert for anyone else. You explained Celtx perfect with, "Celtx seems to really be focused on the "indie filmmaker" that wants to go all the way through production." Our last film was accepted at Cannes this year.

Tim Lane

Nice analysis Bryan. FYI: My latest email from Final Draft says if I buy Final Draft 8 now I will be eligible for free uprgrade to Final Draft 9 in the new year. I got my copy a month ago, so Murphy's Law is in effect for me it seems.

Tim Lane

Oh, I may not know all the ends and outs of Final Draft 8 so it might have been my fault but converting a half start script from Celtx to FD8 was a pain and a half. Seems I could import it only as a copy and paste and then only as one element. So it pasteded it all as one big stream of dialog. I had to go to each line and change the element to Character or scene heading or whatever. If anyone know a simple way to do this I have a few older Celtx scripts I'd like to import into FD8.

Bryan Michael Block

The most accurate intermediate format for scripts is RTF (Rich Text Format) - so try exporting your script from whichever app to RTF and then IMPORTING it into the target app. It usually works pretty well between all of the apps, but you WILL have clean-up work to do no matter what. ;-)

Ruben Carbajal

Great tip, Bryan. Thanks!

Thomas Bailey

I use Celtex, it might not be as robust as Final Draft but it's free... and really does everything you need in a piece of software.

Bryan Michael Block

What I didn't like about Celtx was: 1. Needed internet connection for pdf export (and page count is not accurate until you "typeset" the pdf export...which you must be online to do) 2. Standard TAB and ENTER command variations that work in every other screenwriting app were not the same in Celtx. The same with (VO) and other bracketed directions for dialogue. 3. At the time (it's been awhile) there was no direct export to RTF format from Celtx. 4. Dual dialogue doesn't display properly until typeset (dual dialogue is an issue in most of these apps!) But other than that, it has a lot of features, and you can't beat the price (free!) It was mostly the TAB-ENTER functionality that I am used to that really slowed me down, and at that time the resulting script still looked "off" to me when I was done. Just for full disclosure, I keep trying to migrate to Movie Outline because of the outlining features, but I keep writing in Movie Magic Screenwriter. It's hard to break away from the things you are used to. :-)

Anthony Crociata

Doesn't really matter as long as it's compatible with FD. The hard truth.

Richard "RB" Botto

I am a Final Draft disciple myself, but I know my fair share of writers who swear by Movie Magic. They both get the job done, I just feel comfortable with FD. As a reminder, we have made a deal with the Writers Store to offer Stage 32 members 10% off all scriptwriting software including FD and MM (as well as anything else the Writers Store offers). Here is the link to Final Draft: http://www.writersstore.com/final-draft-screenwriting-software/?mr:refer... And here is the link to Movie Magic: http://www.writersstore.com/movie-magic-screenwriter-screenwriting-softw... The code to receive 10% off - and again, this is for anything in the store - is STAGE32WS10

Serita Stevens

I like Movie Magic better because they don't charge for upgrades and give free tech advice which FD does not

Ron Horton

Hummmm.... I guess I clicked 'follow this post' or something. Wonder how I can now get out of it. It's a good discussion but my email box is overflowing.

Anna Bies

Just click "unfollow" Ron. Little star at the top of the discussion.

Ron Horton

Thanks Anna.

Ryan FitzGerald

I'm actually the Community Manager for Celtx, so I'm obviously a little biased here ;-) But for the Celtx-curious in the thread, sync is built into our DNA now, so you can work online in your browser, in a mobile app or in the free desktop software most people know us for. If anyone has any questions about Celtx stuff, feel free to give me a shout.

Nancy Ahern

Thanks so much everyone. Bryan Michael Block, thank you for all the detailed info. Richard Botto thank you for the link to buy the software at a discount. Also thank you: Jacqueline, Georgia, Ruben, Joseph, Tim, Tom, Cynthia, Serita, Ron, Anna, Ryan and Anthony. It means so much to me that you would take time out of your busy day to help me figure this out.

Tim Lane

We're not busy. We're writers. We spend most our day staring off into space.

Nancy Ahern

Ha, Ha!

David Taylor

Final Draft has, for example, a series of REPORTS one can automatically generate from the Screenplay. CHARACTER by name; LOCATION etc etc. These are invaluable for proper editing and polishing. I'm not sure if the other programs have those. It's not just about format.

Brendan Faulkner

I still write in longhand, my wife transcribes them into a screenwriting program. I know you from somewhere - no this is not a pick up line.

Michael Hager

I love Final Draft but that Celtx looks interesting...

Tim Lane

I have an associate that insisted that I use Final Draft so much so he bought it for me. If I could seemlessly import Celtx scripts into Final Draft I'd love to go back to it. The little quirks that I had with Celtx were more than made up for with the extra features. The biggest being that I can write from anywhere. With final Draft I get two computers that I can install it on. I chose the one at work and my laptop. Was sitting at home the other night wishing I hadn't left my laptop at work.

Daniel Dore

I`ve been working with Celtx for a year now and I love it.

Bill Shannon

I use Celtx online and the Desktop plug-in. I adore both and makes it convenient for me to work on a project in my desk top without my co writer bugging me with script changes with only three pages written. lol

Ryan FitzGerald

Thanks for the love, guys. Nancy, I hadn't meant to hijack your thread. I just wanted to let you and others know I'm here if you have any questions about the software. For those with import woes, alas, while Celtx does not export to FDX format, an Edge or Team subscription to celtx.com does import FDX files natively. To export, your best bet is to open the script in the desktop software and export as plain TXT, which other software can then hoover up.

David Brown

I've been using Movie Magic Screenwriter for years and am extremely happy with it. It has all the tools I need and is easy to navigate.

Nancy Ahern

Thanks for the feedback Ryan, no problem!

Mark Moore

I've always used Movie Magic, never had a problem.

Justin Kapr

Microsoft Word

Hillary J. Walker

Final Draft is what the pros use - primarily because it makes doing production breakdowns very simple. Remember - you're not just writing a story - you're crafting a blueprint for shooting a movie!

Michael Joseph DeRosa

Yeah, Final Draft or Movie Maker. I use Final Draft, although a lot of film schools use that free program Celtx. I used Celtx for my first draft, but then when I got Final Draft I had a hell of a time converting it. I had to go over each line and tell Final Draft if it was action, dialog, or a slug or what have you. These programs don't import things as easily as other "word programs" do. MS Word can do the job with a template, but then there's those damn page breaks, and it changes with which ever printer you have selected. You have to go online for Celtx to 'format' the printed version and that's a headache. Final Draft does it all, although Celtx does help you more in the creative process if you don't know what you're looking for in the way of content. I've used MS Word with a template for screenplays, Celtx, and Final Draft, (never tried Movie Maker). And out of those three, Final Draft is just that .... The FINAL draft. Go with that if you can afford it.

David Brown

You can also do production breakdowns and scheduling with Screenwriter. Unless you plan on producing the film yourself, none of that really matters though. Best thing to do is research the different programs, test them out if possible, and decide which one you like best and feels the most comfortable with you. I know someone who has worked in Hollywood for decades and he uses Microsoft Word templates to write all of his scripts. He's happy with it, and ultimately, that's what matters most.

Kamary Phillips

At any rate, choose the one that requires less technical thought, that will allow for much more creative flow. Just happened to be Final Draft for me. I tried all of the above at one time or another. Best of luck!

Christopher Spalding

Scrivener is worth a look - I use it more for fiction as I also use Celtx, but it has great features for planning and organising your work. You can get a trial version at literatureandlatte dot com and the full program is only about £30 as opposed to Final Draft's £150.

CJ Walley

I'm a Scrivener user, I'm not sure how it compares to the others, but it's very flexible for anybody writing across a range of mediums such as those who screenwrite but also write novels.

Donna M. Carbone

The students in my scriptwriting class must use Final Draft. I also have Scrivener but, to be honest, have never used it. FD is easy to use.

David O'Brien

FD for me

Jim Fisher

FD is considered the industry standard.

Flint Rascal

Final Draft!!

David Kramer

Hey Nancy: Would love to have you do a "debrief" of what you have learned here, and what may be best for screenwriters that are working outside of Hollywood/USA, etc. Thanks in advance. ( we have been using Celtx, FD and looking for better options)

CJ Walley

I just tried Celtx based on reading this thread. For free I think it's excellent, but the desktop software lacks some features I make use of a lot in Scrivener such as version snapshots and being able to see the page count as I type.

Tim Lane

The one thing I found FD had over Celtx was the text color changes you could use for your different versions. Celtx will only allow you to change all the text to a different color. Nice I gues, for those who don't like black ink but not truly useful. Something I wish they all had was the ability to highlight or change the text color for a particular actor/character's dialog - automatically. This would come in handy when printing out table reads, especially in those situations where one actor has to read multiple parts.

Ryan FitzGerald

Hi Tim. If you subscribe to an Edge or Team online workspace, you can create actors' sides. If you have the free companion app (iOS and Android) opening those sides docs give you or your actors those very options and a few more, like redacting a character's lines to help the actor get off-book, and a timer to help with rehearsal needs, like at a table read.

Nancy Ahern

Thanks again to everyone, I appreciate your feedback. Hi David Kramer. I have not quite assimilated all this information and it continues to come in. The majority of the people who responded are using Final Draft. When I studied screenwriting I was advised to use Final Draft. A case can be made for each and every type of software. Some are more user friendly than others. Take a look at what Bryan Michael Block wrote. He has used many different types of software and gave detailed information about and the pros and cons of each one.

Flint Rascal

Final Draft!

Bryan Michael Block

I think that it is important to remember that, once you have your screenplay in a pdf format, no one will know what software you used to create it. remember it wasn't that long ago that screenplays were written on a typewriter. :-) HOWEVER, if you are going to be working with other professionals in the industry it DOES matter which tools you use because you have to interface with a wider group of people that are using "industry standard" tools. That's why the ability to import and export scripts in various formats is important, and how accurate the software is at interpreting those formats in the conversion process should be a consideration when choosing a package. I run into this all the time in the editing arena. I am a Sony Vegas editor. I love it and have been using it for many, many years. I learned how to edit on AVID, and I had some experience with Premiere many years ago, but for all of the corporate video work I do, I have used VEGAS. The problem is, that once I went freelance - I couldn't find editing work because the "industry standard tools" (AVID, Final Cut Pro, and now Premiere) are the packages that post houses want you to be familiar with. It doesn't matter how much I like Vegas, or whether or not it is "just as good" or can get "the same results" as an editor using those other packages - post houses want someone familiar with the INDUSTRY STANDARD tools. Frankly, I prefer Movie Magic Screenwriter over Final Draft by a long shot, and I LOVE the outlining and development tools of Movie Outline more than either of those packages, but the bottom line is that if you plan to work outside your own little independent circle of friends, collaborators, and independent producer filmmaker type of people - you will have people send you Final Draft files or need you to be able to work with Final Draft files, and you need to be able to either accurately convert the files into and out of your preferred package or use the Final Draft files directly. That's why I have a copy of Final Draft in addition to the other tools I have. The truth is that we are in a "golden age" here of options. Celtx is FREE! Fade In is less than $50! If you are sharp, you can get Final Draft for a ridiculously discounted price, and then other packages like Movie Outline or Movie Magic Screenwriter have offered "crossgrade discounts" over the years - so that you can end up with several different tools at what I consider very, very reasonable prices. Remember that Final Draft (and to a lesser extent Movie Magic Screenwriter) are "industry standards" NOT because they are somehow "better" - which is subjective, but because they happened to be there first, and over the years they ended up getting a lot of added features that supported workflow in the production process at the time. As a writer, you may never need most of that stuff, but being able to take your screenplay (regardless of which package you developed it in) and convert it to an "industry standard" format should be a consideration for anyone looking to interface with the "established" industry. .02

Nancy Ahern

I can't thank you enough for this Bryan. Your posts have been a tremendous help to me!

Tim Lane

Be sure and proofread your PDF. Sometimes the conversions can be buggy. (all caps or extra spaces or lines or margin issues or improper or annoying "more and cont."s.) A question to the Celtx guy: Is an export feature to FD, MM, or any other program format a technical issue or a copyright issue? Right now, I'm using Celtx for a lot of non script things (character sheets, notes, outline, index cards) and using FD for its script writing feature.

Tim Lane

Kudos on Bryan's insights and reasonings as well.

Bryan Michael Block

Thank you Nancy, I hope it helps. For most packages, RTF export is possible (rich text format) and most packages import RTF files pretty accurately, but there is always clean-up work to be done, and you should always check your conversions and pdf's carefully (as Tim mentions!) You can't go wrong with Final Draft, but if you like a lot of story and character development tools and such, you might like other options better. It looks like Final Draft is coming out with version 9 in January, and it looks like it might support better outlining/plot and character development with some improvements to the scene navigator which is all good news. I hope they fixed "dual dialogue" in version 9 as well. It might move it up to be my preferred app, depending on what other improvements they make. Good luck with your choice, I hope you will share with us which way you went and why.

Ryan FitzGerald

Hey Tim! Since Final Draft went from their FDR format to FDX, discussions of import/export became wholly technical. (The X refers to XML, which is an "open" file format.) Celtx can import and convert FDX scripts but we currently only export to plain TXT or PDF. We add new features every week but, truth be told, widening our range of import/export options just hasn't been a high priority for us as Celtx adoption has been growing so quickly. It's on our to-do list - we just haven't gotten around to it!

Tim Lane

FD doesn't import anything, unless I'm doing something wrong, I don't see an import option. I am doing a RTF cut and paste,but then it's mostly just the words. If I paste it under the 'general' element it turns my 110 page Celtx script into a 226 page FD document (not really a script). If paste it under the 'scene heading' element it's a 443 page FD document in all CAPS! It doesn't recognize that a particular line is dialog or action or character so it's a tedious line by line conversion which is why Bryan is correct about writing with whatever whoever you're working with uses.

Bryan Michael Block

Hey Tim, in Final Draft if you just go to "Open" in the file menu, you will get drop down options for opening RTF (Rich text format) and Plain text documents. That is how you "import" in Final Draft. Try exporting your Celtx doc as a Rich Text or plain text doc and then using Final Draft to "open" it. RTF should retain the formatting, and Final Draft SHOULD interpret the spacing as codes for slug lines, character names, dialogue, etc... with minor clean-up issues. Let me konw how it goes! B

Tim Lane

Oh man! Thank you so much! I wish I knew this two weeks ago when I 'converted" (via cut and paste) a new project I was working on ... thankfully only 40 pages in. I was pulling the drop down menu and seeing only 'Export' so I went to 'New' instead of 'Open'. Just now did my 110 page Celtx script and it worked like a charm.

Tim Lane

I hate to think I'm going to have to start reading manuals just to use a program!

Bryan Michael Block

Glad it saved you some time. If you don't like to read manuals (who does?) There is a set of tutorials online (Youtube I think) for using Final Draft.

Tim Lane

Ryan, Celtx will export to HTML. Is that just for web publishing? I was a little worried when I exported it as a TXT file (RTF not available) but FD handled it well just the same. Glad to hear I can import to Celtx. I'll give it a shot and see what carries over and how. On a side note (as my FD only has one voice) I imported it to ReadThrough.com to take advantage of all their voices (FREE) and the script included the Scene Properties' Summary. I thought that was strange.

Russell Buchanan

I like Celtx because it's simple and you have to read back everything to make sure it's correct. Maybe a little extra work but you do end up knowing every line etc of what you have written.

REkz KaRZ

I used to use FD. It was very crashy when I used it, really frustrating when you've finished a script! I now use CELTX, after multiple screenwriting friends recommended. I probably should upgrade (only $10), but I haven't yet. I really like their cloud storage & iPhone app. PROPS / recommend

Russell Buchanan

When I constantly hear remarks that MM and FD have glitches I'm glad I use Celtx, amazing that something you pay for and has been around for a while still has glitches.

Bryan Michael Block

It's true, Russell. They do have glitches, and that has been my biggest complaint with Movie Magic - at least Final Draft has upped their game and gotten back into a reasonable development cycle. Movie Magic screenwriter is standing still. Although, to be fair, most "glitches" are minor and don't affect the actual writing. When I tried Celtx a few years ago, I found that it too had glitches...but they were big enough for me to go ahead and keep using my other packages. It seems that they have been hard at work making it a real alternative though.

Tim Lane

Don't forget that glitches can be a result of hardware or software or power fluctuations or input devices or printer drivers or operator error or environment or OS or bugs or maleware or Murphy's Law (which is why I previously stated to proofread your PDF's ... in other words SHATT! (Shit Happens All The Time!).

Tim Lane

Example a program I had been using for the longest time trouble free was Webex to connect to remote computers. Microsoft upgrades to IE10 (which my laptop auto installed) and it no longer works. I unistall IE10 and now it sort of works. Glitch? or SHATT? Their program didn't change but I haven't been able to get it back to where my laptop functions with it as it did before.

Russell Buchanan

Yes Bryan, it's a very simple program that makes me read and read again instead of listening like another program I used to have. That has made me see so many new ideas and mistakes that I'll always, I hope, keep using it as a hard yards but worthwhile writing program.

Bryan Michael Block

I always re-read everything a million times anyway. My most recent screenplay is on draft revision 8. If I'm consistent, I have at least 4 more revisions to do before I'm ready to either shop it or produce it. :-)

Mark E Clason

As a rookie screenwriter, I'm using the free version of Celtx, and it works well for my current project.

Nicole C Taylor

I wish I had the talent to be a screenwriter! But I do have Movie outline on my computer. I was able to get a free version for like 30 days or something like that & I bought it after that.

Paul Rothbart

Final Draft is the industry standard. It's what my partner and I use. I've never used Movie Magic, but I know writers that love it. Personally, I would recommend Final Draft.

Pedro Vasquez

@Nicole. You can be a screenwriter if you choose too. There's no easy way to go about it, but reading a few good books to learn "the rules" and above all reading lots of scripts will get you the "education" you need to start writing.

David Kramer

Just a simple comment here. Many brilliant Film Directors never liked "scripts" Kubrick is one of my favorite examples, so you may want to just write short stories, but remember that films are visual, and usually have music and sounds, so do think visually as you write, to make a director/producer aware of how it might be captured on film. We prefer stories, storyboards, ideas over scripts, and we also need to know the twitter statement for this film/story. I'm more of Director/Writer that creates short films, and we prefer true stories and Docs rather "Hollywood" films/stories.... Finally, anything that helps us create great films should be shared! Great question/topic!

David O'Brien

Okay! Got a dummy spit here: I'm just a little weary of the endless guru industry that has sprung up around the 'how to' of writing for the screen. You need some basic information and then you write and keep on writing and learn from every mistake you make. You'll make more than a few and let's hope you make them in your own movies so the cost is at your own expense. I've run a course for writers and actors that offers the basics in two sessions of six hours. I've had participants tell me they learned more in that time than in three years at The London Academy Of This And That (serves them right for attending that academy). My course is not comprehensive but it is more than enough foundation to get you going. You can study for three years but the most you'll learn from any course or any set of books will be in the writing you do. I don't go past Final Draft but its just a convenient format, the rest is in my head and I often start with a short story that explores all the material that won't be in the script; its especially useful when I'm directing my own short films. Get what you can from the gurus, don't turn your back on them but don't try to rewrite Gladiator aboard Titanic or Terminator In Love. . wait a moment, , err. . look I'll get back to you, got some writing to do. . a prizefighter called Maximus is headed for the biggest fight of his career when he boards the ship that even God cannot sink. . I might be on to something here. . sorry. . get distracted easily . .I'll get back to you. My point is Get a story, make sure its a great story with compelling characters and write to please and excite and inspire and challenge and frighten and humour yourself. . and maybe an audience will join in, but its much more fun that way and some consolation if nobody wants the script you write. There's no guarantees, that's just the game you've entered. If you need a guarantee, get a job in the insurance industry.

Tim John

Sounds like a really useful course. I too have read many books about how to write Hollywood scripts, but never one that also discusses the other aspects of living there, which are full of tough lessons. That's why I wrote my book. You can see more at adventures-in-Lalaland.com. For Hollywood at least, I think writers need to see the bigger picture

Donna M. Carbone

David... your course is pretty much the same course I teach every week -- and I use "teach" in the loosest sense. I give my students the basics and then tell them to listen to the voices in their heads. Write! Write! Write! Mine is a think tank environment. Everyone is the teacher and everyone is the student. We learn from each other. Those who are really dedicated writers come faithfully. Those who aren't up to the task of writing ten pages every week quickly fall by the wayside. The advances they make are amazing and each one is developing into a pretty good story teller. I insist on Final Draft because that's the program I use and I can't help with editing otherwise. Truthfully, I tell them to familiarize themselves with the gurus and then file that info away for later use. I believe that good stories come from the heart not from the pages of "how to" books.

Bryan Michael Block

.02 in praise of the gurus - The "how to" books and gurus are usually geared toward story STRUCTURE, and how to take your story and structure it in a way that is going to be attractive to the industry, as well as place your plot points for maximum impact. In my personal experience, it's actually pretty amazing at how many writers dismiss the "gurus" and "how to" writers because they think they are going to somehow fall into a formula that will prevent them from being "original" and following their personal muse. STRUCTURE is not the same as CONTENT. It doesn't matter if your story is about a puppy that lost it's way home, a hardened NYC copy tracking down a terrorist cell, a young woman coming of age in Victorian New England, or galactic battle between good and evil. Unlike books, which can be of any length - movies are finite spans of time in which a story will be REVEALED, and it is exactly how you pace those reveals, twists, and turns that will make for an engaging script. The "gurus" really focus on that part- the structure. Imagine how much less impact something like Star Wars would be if they started the story by telling you that Darth Vader was Luke's father, explaining all that back story up front. Would it be as memorable? If we already know a character lives through something, will we ever really believe they are in danger? If the stakes aren't high enough, will we really root for them to overcome their obstacles? If Rocky actually WON in the first film, would it have had a lasting impression on us? Some writers seem to do a lot of this instinctively, but most of the screenplays that I have read that seem to be "lacking" something are almost always (in my experience) missing some of those key things that the "gurus" focus on: A hero without a ghost, a poorly paced set of revelations that require contrived exposition, insufficient consequences or stakes, A lack of change in the character, no thematic argument, etc...these are universal story SUPPORT structures that deepen plotlines, enrich characters, and engage audiences and readers. While I do agree that good stories seem to start with things that writers are passionate about, WELL TOLD stories are something else that require shaping, guidance, and structure - and that is what the so-called "gurus" really focus on.

David O'Brien

Bryan the point I'm making here is that storytelling is a craft that comes from emotional intelligence, a sense of structure, a very deep understanding of character, a commitment to theme and a whole bundle of human qualities. Some of them can be taught and some have to be lived to be known. Those that can be taught are outlined in the books and by the gurus and the whole 'how to' industry. But their value is limited. There seems to be vigorous promotion of the idea that studying them will make you a writer. The only thing that will make you a screen or theatre writer, a novelist or short story writer is passion for craft and skill and more than a little talent and above all, persistence, the ability to recognise failings and mistakes. Anyone who starts Star Wars with the announcement that Darth is dad or has Rocky winning upfront would seem to lack basic storytelling instincts that no book will ever correct. I recognise that everyone has a story to tell and hope they find a way to tell it. I got more out of Campbell than from any of the structuralists and am not averse to a little formula. But surely the purpose of formula is to explode and subvert it. I'm personally weary of the endless heroic journeys pumped out by Hollywood. And yes! Its important for potential writers to learn the rules before breaking them. But can we put the emphasis back on the hard work of writing and re-writing and finding your own way and style and form? Can I suggest that spending time in a bar or an emergency ward or just on the street will probably teach you more about people and their stories and, above all, how to tell them? Were the great writers of Hollywood in the thirties and forties dependent on anything other than their lifelong understanding of storytelling traditions and what makes a story work? I don't know about you but I'm not hiring an electrician who comes to my house with a book about how to put two wires together. Okay! I said it was a dummy spit. Maybe we should just agree to disagree and the world can keep on selling its books and the unwanted scripts can rise like pillars of salt.

Joseph Anthony Hammond

David, well said.

Bryan Michael Block

I don't really disagree with you David, I've just experienced too much "from the heart" art in my life that could have benefited from grounding in practical technique, and especially among writers there tends to be an outright dismissal of these "gurus" when they actually have a lot of valuable information to impart, IF, and this is the big IF - if you are looking to write screenplays that are attractive to the industry. The old saying in the music business used to be "If you are strictly writing for yourself, then congratulations! You've found your audience." And I believe that holds true in writing as well. What you may take for granted is that " someone would seem to lack basic storytelling instincts that no book will ever correct." And I'm saying that that is EXACTLY the kind of thing that many people would be helped by if they read a book that said "When preparing to structure your story, pick the one thing about the character's past that would devastate you if you knew it. Now place an index card at the end of your second act with that fact and write a scene around it." or something of that nature because experienced creative people, at least the successful ones, have usually developed a process for getting feedback, re-writing, and opening up to what their own blind spots. Inexperienced creative people usually haven't, and that one note in that book might save them a couple of re-write sessions, or ultimately unlock that one thing that they just can't put their finger on. While a night in the emergency room might be great for injecting some real human drama into your screenplay, it probably won't tell you that you haven't developed the impact character enough in your screenplay so that your hero can complete their inner journey in a meaningful and realistic way. Of course, some will dismiss that as hogwash - yet I'm certain that an evaluation of their own personal favorites would show that same structure at work. The thing about structure is that when it is implemented well, it is invisible, and those that rail against it will point to films and say "see, they don't use that silly old structure!" and usually- they are wrong. It's there - and the beats and turns can all be pointed out. All at the right times, too. But they are done with subtlety and the WRITING itself makes use of the structure in such a way that it is just accepted as the natural progression of things. My only point is that the "baby should not be thrown out with the bathwater" regarding these gurus- there is a LOT to be learned that can help you move forward.

Tim Lane

Bryan, that's why one of my favorite books is William Aker's "Your Screenplay Sucks". It really hits those little things that can make screenplays so annoying to read.

Tim John

I know several self-appointed "gurus" seem lacking in soul, but some others do have useful observations. I always bear in mind that many great sports coaches weren't sports stars themselves - but they often make observations which make stars out of others. I agree with Bryan, there's no point in expecting your writing to take off if all you have is craft. Of course you need a voice and a great story, but I know from bitter experience, and some not-so-bitter experience, that if you want to take off in that bizarre arena called Hollywood that you do need to be aware of the rules, even if you decide to break them. For a start, virtually every exec and producer you pitch to will have gone one one of those guru courses and will have a checklist of things they expect to see regarding structure, reversals, etc. If they think you've ignored those points, or don't even know about them, they are very unlikely to employ you. Far better to be like Tarantino - give them a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order.

Bryan Michael Block

It's all good, really. Practicing a craft is a lifelong journey and different tools will serve you differently at different stages in your development. IMHO it is important to remain open to things, which is why I was "defending" the gurus as it were. I also think it's important to focus not just on the exceptions (Tarantino, Shane Black, Diablo Cody, etc...), writers that have supposedly (but in many cases...not really) "broken the rules" but on the many writers that make a living at it on a day to day basis. It depends on your personal goals - if you are planning on making the movie yourself, then write whatever you want - it's your project, it will be self-contained, and however you need to organize it is up to you, but if you intend to SHOP your screenplay, get representation, sell it, or have others make the movie- you might want to consider following some tried and true techniques. It's always difficult to point to films and the "published" scripts of many of our "auteurs" such as Tarantino, Scorsese, Kubrick, Coppola, etc... because they are in essence "writing for themselves" - they know they will be heading their own picture, they know they can revise and re-write on the fly, they know they have established themselves enough to warrant the risk. And things can always be "retro-scripted" to fit what happened during the filming before the script is published for public consumption. Anyway, these are just my perspectives as a struggling artist - just another anonymous guy on the internets, and we all know what that is worth ;-) Happy writing everyone, I wish you all great success! -b

David O'Brien

I agree Dan. I've spent the last four years on three feature scripts, each of them going to between ten and twelve drafts until the reader was urging production. Something might happen in the next year but there's no guarantees. If I could buy back from the producer one of these scripts I'd put it straight into production. Its the best thing I've written. What I take from the experience is a heightened knowledge of structure that no guru can give me. I have read and absorbed and taught theory with the suggestion that you take what's useful and toss out the rest. Theory is great but only practice seeps into the mind by osmosis. But there's something else, a growing need for my scripts to communicate to an audience rather than a selection of readers. I've recently gone into production on ultra low budget shorts that give me much more satisfaction than any script that might easily lie dormant in someone's bottom drawer for want of several million dollars. And the script I write for my own production will be even better than those I wrote for a producer, simply by writing and continuing to write and continuing to discover my own style and ability. Above all else is persistence along with the memory of seeing a produced feature and feeling the contradictions of pride in creating the source mixed with distress at its production limitations.

Tim John

I totally agree. I think nearly all my script sales and commissions for polishes and script rewrites came from "selling" myself more than much else. Afterall, these people get offered scripts all the time. If they are going to have to spend weeks and months working with a writer, they are often far more interested in their personality than their writing, (as long as it's not atrocious of course!). People buy people. Simple as that. That's why I go on about pitching yourself so much in my book, just as much as any scriptwriting tips.

Brian Stevens

Final draft is probably one of the best but many use movie magic screenwriter as well. both are good in their own way. You could also just use Microsoft word if you know the format. like center paragraph for character name. Hit the tab twice for the beginning of the dialogue. Before I purchased Final Draft I looked up all the formatting and made a toolbar just for word to use for writing scripts. I love Final Draft now. Just got Final Draft 9 for windows. and it's a tad bit different than 7 or 8 so taking time just playing with the new version. I hope this helped you a bit with your answer.

Nancy Ahern

Thank you for the info, I appreciate it!

Simon Morice

We use Celtx, which was and still may be free. It is cross platform and works on iOS devices too. It has scheduling and breakdowns built in along wih a useful database and storyboard function. It is at home with fiction as well as with documentary - usually not well supported by other products.

Nancy Ahern

Thanks so much to everyone for your feedback. I certainly appreciate the time you took to respond. I have decide to use Final Draft.

Rick James

Celtx is a nice program, I tried it, but I like Final Draft better.

Nancy Ahern

Thanks Kathy!

Brendan Faulkner

I've used Movie Magic Screenwriter

Eric Sparks

I use Trelby.

Kevin Carothers

Just a note from the wilderness here... I sometimes write in odd fonts (like a dialog snippet in Greek or Russian or something like that) - Make sure the program you settle on can do everything you anticipate writing.

Debbie Croysdale

I have tried ALL screenwriting software. All of them were frustrating because at exactly the moment I was gleefully typing something of interest, a banal key sprang up, reminding me of other dull duties. Artists have been writing for decades, probably they had it easier on pen and paper or ordinary type keyboard. Plod on with the story. The most user friendly is Final Draft......But to myself still frustrating to use.....If cannot afford Final Draft I would go straight to Celtx free version. Or better still I just asked a Producer "Can I have an Audio Secretary". The story needs to come out. Shakespeare had pen quill feather and today a Best Seller. GOOD LUCK NANCY.

Aray Brown

Fade In!

Keith A Jessop

Fade In. Without a doubt.

Roberta Jarrett Iervolino

I just downloaded fade in and transferred my first act into it and it's really not that unlike celtx, my original screenwriting program. Undestand, however, I was told it was a compulsory absolute to use Final Draft in the above-the-line world of Hollywood professionals. I hate this. Any one know if there's a way around this? The person who informed me of this is a very successful line producer / and producer producer. (sigh)

Aray Brown

There are Hollywood pros who use Fade In. There are Hollywood pros who use Movie Magic. There is no "one industry standard software". All of them do what you need them to do, when it comes to formatting your script the right way. It all comes down to comfortability. I'm so tired of these misconceptions

Peter Roach

Thank You Aray. Use whatever software feels comfortable. I used to be a photographer, the endless argument about Canon or Nikon was not productive.

Bill Costantini

FinalDraft is the industry standard, and it's documented, and it has the highest amount of professionals, studios and networks that have it in their buildings. That's why it is known as The Industry Standard. Ask any pro who you may know who is working for a studio, or on a TV/cable show, and the vast majority of the employers have a FinalDraft system in their office/complex.

I also love MovieMagic Screenwriter. The two dudes who created that product many years ago are film lovers/writers/techno geeks, and they've won awards because of the innovations they have achieved in the screenwriting software field. I don't have it now, but when I did, it was the easier system for me to learn and to navigate. I'll probably get it again before the year is up. I love the Write Brothers who created it. They are very witty and funny-as-fuck to talk to, as long as they don't get all techno-geeky super freaky on you.

Every other product is second-tier compared to these two systems, in terms of industry usage. Both of these have deep sets of additional features - too many to even attempt to list here. Each one has many testimonials from known writers and entertainment companies. MovieMagic gives 3 activations, and FinalDraft gives 2. Both are similarly priced. It's interesting to note that the company that acquired FinalDraft has many other software products for the entertainment industry - from production workflows to accounting software. And the company that owns MovieMagic Screenwriter is family-owned, and only makes products for writing. Both are top-tier writing softwares, and not just for screenplays. I love them both, and us creatives are fortunate to have them.

Bill Albert

Started using Celt but didn't like it very much. Will do some research and check out the others. Thanks.

Raymond Zachariasse

I use FadeIn. It is cheap and flexible.

Jon Griffin

Nancy Ahern I use Writer Duet myself. I have written twelve screenplays and a few television scripts with it. I have loved the way it helps you write your scripts in either screenplay, television or even play form.

Aray Brown

Fade In is similar to Movie Magic. Prolly one of the reasons why I love it. You can easily export it to fdx if need be

Peter Roach

Thank you for the long post Bill. One of the reasons I like MM is that you need to know two keystrokes to start; tab and enter. No manual ( keep in mind I have written tech manuals) needed. Boom, you are off to the races.

Bill Costantini

Peter: I hear you on that. I remember loving MM because it's more visual than FD, and I respond better to tech stuff that is more visually-oriented. I haven't seen it in a while, but I remember loving their Dramatica product, too. I'm gonna call them and see if they'll give me a sweet price on a bundle. Those brothers like to deal, and I love to play.

Peter Roach

Bill...their MAC product is awesome. The Windows version is several releases behind. Ask them why.

Dan MaxXx

https://twitter.com/johnaugust/status/1055520712860073986?s=21

40% off Highland 2 pro software. That means cost is $30!

Dan Guardino

I am wounder how a question that was asked five years ago pops up now.

Tony S.

New search on the topic brought up an old post.

Dan Guardino

Oh, that is how it happens. I was just curious. Thanks Tony.

John Iannucci

The best one is the one you like best and gets you too sit down and be productive. Nothing else matters - we either send PDFs or hard copies most of the time - so it doesn’t matter if it’s FD or fade or movie magic. Go with what you like. As long as you format you can use is up to snuff - you can use Billy Widler’s old Remington typewriter. Only the end result is important.

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