If you’re a filmmaker, you know there are tons of different script writing software options out there to aid your writing process.
Even if you have your go-to screenplay writing app, you might still have a nagging "FOMO" when you hear about the cool ones your industry friends use.
Fear no more! We broke down the best screenwriting software on the market so you can find one that fits your goals.
Get ready to tour through the best screenplay writing apps available, their features, and -- in some cases -- how they can make you a better writer.
The importance of script writing software
Why use a script writing software at all?
If you’re a Game of Thrones fan you might know that George R.R. Martin uses a 1980’s DOS-based Wordstar 4.0 software to write. And he loves it.
He clearly prefers his word processing to be simple and without the bells and whistles of modern writing apps.
You do you, George R.R. Martin. After all, no one needs to use screenwriting software to complete a screenplay.
...But it can make your life a lot easier if you do.
So take a second to think about your goals for your project.
Chances are, there are software features (like collaboration, compatibility, and integration with other pre-production steps) that will get you there quicker and and with less friction.
If that’s you, keep your needs in mind because we're about to unleash the apps!
Script Writing Software Apps
You can’t discuss the best screenwriting software without mentioning Final Draft 10.
It’s been an industry standard for decades, and is used by top writers and filmmakers.
And its features show why:
Its SmartType function remembers scene elements like characters and locations, which you can reinsert as you write.
Final Draft 10 also includes robust tagging and reporting tools. This means you can break down scene elements (actors, wardrobe, props) to feed into production reports later.
It also includes organizational tools like Story Map (for outlining), Beat Board (for beat sheets) and Alternate Dialogue (for storing additional dialogue options).
Even if you’ve got a keen sense of writing dialogue, it can a great help to give yourself options later on.
Other Final Draft 10 features include real-time collaboration, an index card view to aid scene arrangement, over 100 templates, and a mobile version (sold separately).
Final Draft writing software has just about everything you need, barring some pre-production tools like storyboards, and shot lists.
But if it’s out of your price range ($249.99 at the time of of this writing) there are other robust options to consider.
Like Final Draft, Movie Magic Screenwriter is well-known in the industry, and is the preferred screenwriting file format of the Writer’s Guild of America West.
If you want a high-end screenwriting software used by top names in the business, this is a good choice.
Its feature set is powerful, diverse and includes formatting for film, television, plays, books and even comic books.
It includes a custom NaviDoc interface, which juxtaposes your script with organizational materials like outlines, scene cards and more.
It also comes with real-time collaboration, professionally authored templates, an index card view, revision tracking, breakdown reports and more.
If you’re looking for something a little more affordable, Celtx is one of the best options.
It’s a cloud-based screenwriting tool that boasts 5 million users. It comes with a wide variety of template formats and you can convert them from one to the other.
If you’re working from an existing script, it offers a variety of import formats including PDF, Final Draft, and Microsoft Word documents.
Among its other features, Celtx screenwriting integrates with other pre-production tools like call sheets, storyboards, shot lists, and a scheduling solution.
It also allows for collaboration, although it’s not real-time (you will need to refresh to see a collaborators edits).
This is definitely a solid (and more affordable) alternative to Final Draft.
As its title suggests, this is a great screenplay writing app for remote writing partners.
But WriterDuet offers more than real-time collaboration. It also includes an in-app chat box and a commenting feature (which can be private or shared).
It also has an admirably thorough revision tracking feature, which breaks down script changes by calendar date.
Other cool WriterDuet features include asset tagging, mobile integration, templates, alternate dialogue storage, draft saving and organization.
Highland software works with the Fountain file format, a text-based file compatible with several of the best screenwriting software options.
Fountain documents are plain text, so when you write one you don’t fiddle with formatting, and can write it anywhere (GoogleDocs, NotePad, etc).
That’s where Highland’s free screenplay software comes in.
Highland is a formatting tool that takes in the Fountain file and exports it to Final Draft or PDF.
It will also import Final Draft or PDF files and “melt” them down to the universal Fountain format.
Highland software was developed by top screenwriter John August (“Big Fish”, “Go”) with the goal of getting writers focused on the actual writing as much as possible.
Fade In is a more affordable alternative to Final Draft and Movie Magic screenwriting software, and comes with many of their features.
It offers robust customization tools, so you can very hands on with the format of your screenplay (including margins, spacing and the like).
It also gives a script breakdown tool, index cards, templates, revision tracking, and reports including cast reports, dialogue reports per character, and more.
One really cool Fade In feature is an action-to-dialogue calculator within their script statistic reporting tool.
You’ve probably heard to “show don’t tell” as you write, but this will actually quantify how well you did it.
So Amazon has deliveries, digital media, grocery stores and a free screenplay software?
Yup. And if you are looking for no-frills and totally free script writing software to use, it’s pretty darn good.
Amazon Storywriter is a free, easy-to-use and cloud-based script writing software.
So all you have to do is log in on a browser, and you’re ready to go.
You can host as many projects and drafts as you want. And it features an extremely minimal UI to get you focused on the writing and nothing else.
It lacks the heavy-lifting tools of its competitors like index cards, reports, outlining, etc.
However, if you just want to import and/or write a screenplay for free, this is a great tool.
And if you get a polished draft that’s good enough to shop around, you can submit yours directly to Amazon Studios through the app!
Up Next: How to use the 16 classic character archetypes
As you tour through the features of various screenwriting software, think about how you plan to use them.
Will you collaborate with others as you go? Will you roll right into production after you’re done writing?
Script writing software doesn’t have to be fancy, but if you know how to use the functions, it can save you time and help you focus on the quality of your writing.
Hopefully exploring these screenplay writing apps helped you find a better solution for your own projects -- or reaffirmed why your trusty app was the right one all along.
Let us know in the comments below which screenwriting software you use -- even (and especially) if it’s Wordstar 4.0!