Screenwriting : Final Draft vs. Fade In etc. by Tim Scharf

Tim Scharf

Final Draft vs. Fade In etc.

I think it's time I bite the bullet and get screenwriting software. I have been able to use Word, but it's terribly clunky. I'm trying out Fade In right and it is definitely better, but I'm wondering if it's really going to do the job. I'm sure this has been discussed to death, but I'll still love to get some input from writers out there about the pro and cons of the most commonly used software.

Anthony Moore

Celtx - The poor man's Final Draft.

C. D-Broughton

Celtx - it's actually a damn good program and is FREE. Let's all be honest: what's the difference between a valid word processor in the correct format and one that comes bundled with robotic, unlistenable voices to narrate dialogue? Hmm, only a fair chunk of change. If you're writing for yourself, then use Celtx... worry about having FD when someone's willing to pay you for your time.

Pierre Langenegger

I use Final Draft but I had a quick look at Celtx recently for client purposes and I must say, I was quite impressed (except for the fact that it doesn't automatically change the first character of a sentence to uppercase).

Tim Scharf

I guess my real question is; does Final Draft have any features that the alternatives don't that makes it worth the money?

Guy McDouall

Tim with regard to your question; 'does Final Draft have any features that the alternatives don't that makes it worth the money?" I would say no but with some caveats. Some of the cheaper alternatives lack features that are useful, in some cases necessary, for when other people (mangers, producers etc) are involved with the project. These are page locking and tracking changes functions. Fade In has these features. The free version of celtx doesn't but I'm pretty sure you that you can pay a wee bit more for an ungraded subscription to celtx and have these extra features added in if you need them.

William Joseph Hill

I've been using Movie Magic Screenwriter since 2000 and have loved it. Both that and Final Draft have been the industry standard since the 1990s. The biggest disadvantage to those programs is the need to have it installed on your computer -- you can't type in the cloud like you can with Celtx, or But I have my Movie Magic installed on my mini-laptop and use that for my writing as it's very portable and I don't need wi-fi to access it. Plus I find that the interface is easy to use and very similar to a word processing program, so the learning curve is very simple and you should have no time picking up on it.

Heath Vinyard

+1 for MM Screenwriter. I've been using it since almost the beginning. I originally started on Final Draft, but found the interface and usability of MMS to be a bit better for me.

Franz Salvatierra


JR Kingsbury

there is free software to be had...

Tim Scharf

Thanks for that link Pierre. Looks like it might be the best place to start. Also, ll the comments here are much appreciated. Thanks all.

Pierre Langenegger

No problems, Tim. I also want to include Highland which isn't in this list but I'm hearing good things about it and it was created by John August. I think it might be Mac only but not sure.

Danny Manus

If you are interested in buying final draft 9 which I highly recommend, use promo code NOBSNOV14 and its only $149!!! that's $100 off! but this is only good thru this Sunday the 16th

Molly N. Moss

I'm with the Celtx fans. The software is free, anything you can't figure out on your own how to do is easily learned with an online search for info, and it generates a PDF of your script when you're ready to market it. An all-around win, in my view!

Barbara P. Shaidnagle

I use final draft also...and a book called THE SCREENWRITER'S BIBLE by David Trottier...

Eric Alagan

Final Draft it is for me too - good investment.

Laurie Ashbourne

Guy is spot on. And yes it has been discussed to death (a quick search in the lounge will give you more answers than you have time to read). I will add that I wish you all could have heard the final draft guys debate yet another newcomer to the screenplay software industry. The nut of it is when the studios go into production, they rely on Final Draft and Final Draft is on the hook if something goes wrong. Deserved or not, they are the go to platform for the pros and you can tell the difference when comparing a FD script with another platform. So, if you can at all swing it and you are serious about this as a job, then do it.

Adam Revesz

I'm a fan of Final Draft and have used it for years. I've also recently discovered Celtx. It's free and works quite well, although not all the bells and whistles of FD. BUT it offers a lot of support for the whole project like the ability to storyboard, make budgets, call sheets, and everything else you need for a production. I use it often for short scripts which I want to produce quickly and for corporate client videos. It streamlines the process. I used it to write a feature, but I prefer FD for that.

Cleo Walton Robinson JR.

I have used Final Draft one time to write my first screenplay. It helped me, but I have not used all the tools in the box and I am waiting for the first feedback on my humble efforts.

Laurie Ashbourne

Of course, Carolyn, they used an old manual typewriter. Reading scripts like Citizen Kane and Casablanca are fine examples. But the reality is, the industry has changed quite a bit and there's no reason to make the barrier of entry even more difficult.

Laurie Ashbourne

I love my yellow legal pads and start a fresh one for every project, but that's just for my tactile sensation. I recently got Tom Hanks' typewriter app for the iPad, it really encourages fun, free for all typing. But when it's time to deliver the goods they have to be up to par.

Terry Hayman

I use Word to play with ideas and outlines, but Final Draft sure makes the actual scriptwriting easy. Not a lot to learn for that. (FD does keep tweaking the product to add other functionality for people who want an all-in-one solution.)

Trey Wickwire

Download Celtx. Even if you are going to purchase Final Draft, still download Celtx and get to know it. I use Final Draft for the stuff I plan to try and sell to Hollywood but I do lots of work for some local studios, (webseries, shorts and demo reel stuff), and they all use Celtx because its free. I like Final Draft better the Celtx but the reasons are nit picky as opposed to fundamental differences in the program. So I advise you start with Celtx. If you end up writing for a small studio doing a webseries or the like, they will most likely ask for your scripts in that format.

Richard Toscan

Final Draft seems to be winning the format software wars in Hollywood, but Movie Magic Screenwriter -- at least in my opinion -- is bit more user-friendly. It really comes down to how committed you are to breaching those Hollywood hills as a screenwriter. If you've got the urge deep in your gut and can't think of anything else you'd rather do as a writer, the go with the pros and get FD. If you're testing the waters, Celtx is probably fine as an interim step.

Barbara P. Shaidnagle

I'm not a spring chicken, either, carolyn...

Michael Yurinko

I use Movie Magic Screenwriter. Not one complaint in 15 years of owning it. Nice linking to MM Scheduling and Budgeting. I tried a version of FD once - not sure if I had a version with bugs in it, but it took me less than a week to delete it and go back to MM. Just my opinion.

William Martell

I also use Movie Magic.

Sydney Cuthbert

Fade In Pro is the software I use. I have used Final Draft and prefer Fade In because it does everything that a screenwriter needs to do at a far more reasonable price. Also it will export your screenplay to Final Draft format if that becomes necessary, as well as importing a Final Draft or Movie Magic screenplay. At only about $50, with free upgrades when they become necessary, it's worth taking a look at.

Philip Sedgwick

Another on the Movie Magic band wagon. It's user friendly, very compatible with budgeting and scheduling software. When I write with it I am about a third faster than Final Draft. I have them all and am proficient in each. I write in this. If FD is needed, I flip the script over when done. Plus, the Movie Magic folks were good enough to kick in a full license product for the Prescott Film Festival giveaway in a writing workshop I did. Good writer karma points.

Jack Firestone

I have only used Final Draft and it is awesome... very easy to use interface and very professional results. JF

Tim Scharf

Glad I got this discussion going, lot's of good stuff.

Laurie Ashbourne

Carolyn as you can see by the thread, opinions vary greatly on what constitutes comfort and ease of use. For me FD and it's automated elements are second nature as hitting the return key, enabling me to concentrate on the story at hand. One thing that FD does automatically is the double space between scenes, it's one of those formatting pet peeves that falls through the cracks in other software but really does matter in overall page count, ease of read and script breakdown for production.

Trey Wickwire

Carolyn, start with Celtx. It's free. When you can afford it, get Final Draft. It's the industry standard. There are others out there but which is best is mostly personal preference. As far as standards though, Celtx is the standard free software and Final Draft is the standard paid software. Simple as that.

Trey Wickwire

Absolutely Dan. Unfortunately I haven't worked with Movie Magic so I hesitate throwing it out there when I can't attest to it directly. The price is about the same as Final Draft so no economic reasons to pick one or the other. One thing I do know about Movie Magic is it connects with production software better than Final Draft does so people who are more involved in the entire movie making process really like it. Final Draft will probably become an archaic tool used by the writer only crowd but we're a few years away from that.

Laurie Ashbourne

Actually, larger studio level productions use FD and cut a contract with FD for production support and assurance of reliability across licenses. Nothing like be responsible for a $200 million dollar crew using your product to make sure it's fail safe.

Bob Kathman

Having only used Movie Magic Screenwriter, I can't address the other software but I can say that when you get down to typing a screenplay, these specialized programs (compared to say, Word) have helpful, easy shortcuts. Such as, keeping track of your character's names & locations so, rather than typing them out each time, you use a hot key or dropdown to place them into your script. Or transporting to a scene by name rather than hunting for it through 100 pages. After writing only a few pages, these time-saving tricks become 2nd nature and you can have an almost stream-of-consciousness experience of typing a script from then on!

Leo Sopicki

I wrote my first screenplay in Word as well. I've used Movie Magic and experimented with some online tools, but a couple of times people have said to me something like "Send it to me in Final Draft format." If you don't have it it's embarrassing. I think Movie Magic was easier to use, but, I broke down and bought Final Draft, just so I could be one of "the cool people". It works and it's a standard.

Earl Hamilton

I've only tried Final Draft on a few demo occasions so I can't really comment on it except that I've heard a lot of people having problems with it (more so now on Windows 10), and it's hardly ever updated. I've used and really liked Celtx Desktop for years (the only one I know of that can be run from a flash drive!), but the lack of WYSIWYG, along with discontinued support forced me back to Movie Magic Screenwriter 6, which is what I started out on decades ago when it was ScriptThing & Screenwriter 2000. Even though M.M's updates are also far and few between it's still a solid program with great support! What drew me to Fade In was the $50 price, Reviews, Linux support and Frequent Updates, I just wish I could see/access all of my notes on the same screen (like M.M's. NaviDoc). I'm still learning Fade In (currently in Stage Play mode), I'm sure it has some great features that M.M. doesn't have, but for the time being I'll be using M.M. for Most of my work, it actually runs well under Wine for Linux! WriterDuet looks very strong (I've barley tried the free ver.), but I just don't need another screenwriting program/distraction right now.

Phil Richards

I've been using Celtix and except for a few minor issues, it works quite well. It's also free.

Craig D Griffiths

I have a pretty cool Celtx workflow from cards to script, even location shots. I use the apps on iPad as well as the website. Very happy with it.

Aray Brown

I use Final Draft, but I'm going back to Movie Magic Screenwriter

Kenneth W. Wood

Movie Magic Screenwriter is my weapon of choice.

Aray Brown

I love MMSW! My director friend has Final Draft, I installed it so we could use that collabowriter thing but we've never used it

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