[Kept updated as much as possible]
All About Software
One question new writers always ask in the B2W Facebook group is whether they should buy screenwriting software. So hello to Michelle who asks:
“I’ve heard mixed advice from everyone on the screenwriting software issue… Some advise getting it, others say there’s no need for expensive software, at least not until you’re in the thick of it. What’s your take?”
Biiiig question! Ready? Let’s go …
There’s lots of software choices now
Some people like screenwriting software; others see it as an excuse for a company to make shedloads of cash.
That disclaimer aside however, I think you’re bonkers if you don’t use *some sort* of screenwriting software. For one thing, it looks better on the page than manually formatted MS Word. It also takes a hell of a lot less time to hit “return” than it does to go back and painstakingly move the text about the page into the right place.
What’s more, a script in MS Word is often that bit longer than your automatically-formatted screenplay, so your page count may go up and give you essentially a false reading of how long it really is.
So I’m a fan of screenwriting software, defo. But which one?
Here’s an overview of those software packages that have crossed the B2W desktop in the past decade and a half, both paid-for and free.
1) Final Draft
I’ve been a Final Draft user now for aeons and updated to FD11 in 2019. It’s my favourite version yet, for sure. What’s more, everyone I know and work with regularly uses Final Draft. I don’t have to worry about converting files, I can just attach and “send”, no faffing about. Since I am allergic to faffing and want to do everything RIGHT NOW OR BUST, this floats my boat.
Lots of Bang2writers are big fans of this one. I have test driven it and it wasn’t for me. But it remains the most widely used screenwriting software after Final Draft with my Bang2writers. Check it out, plus pricing, HERE.
3) FADE IN Pro
This turned up in 2014 to VERY enthusiastic endorsements from the Bang2writers. I have not test-driven this one, but Bangers say its functionality is ace, the programmer is approachable (apparently someone asked for a radio template to be added and it was, almost immediately). It’s also affordable at $49.95. It counts Hollywood’s Rian Johnson (Knives Out, Star Wars The Last Jedi, Looper) amongst its fans. Check it out HERE.
4) Writer Duet
This one can be used free online, or upgraded to $79 per year, or $159 for a lifetime. There’s also a Screencraft version that comes with a variety of extras for $99/$199. Now I have not test driven but but I really do rate Screencraft and have talked to the guys there about it and believe they offer a good product. Check out the details, HERE.
This one comes in at $39.99, plus you can try it for free. I found this via Google; I’ve not test driven it. No Bang2writers have recommended it, but none have said it’s terrible either. If you use it and want to share your thoughts in the comments of this post, please do. Check it out HERE.
6) John August’s Highland 2.5
Bang2writer Aydrea reviewed Highland 2.5 last year at his launch party. As I’m sure you know, John is a Hollywood screenwriter himself, so he knows what we need to get writing done! Highland 2.5 software sounds great and is actually free. I would wager that if you’re going to use a free app, this one is the one to go for. The downside it is only available for Macs currently. More on freeware, next.
Here are some other free screenwriting softwares that have turned up, since writing the post
- Script Buddy
- Trelby. You can read an in-depth review on this blog of this software, HERE.
- Adobe Story
If you use any of the above (or any other type of software), let me know what you think of them and I’ll add your thoughts to this post. If you would like to write a review, CONTACT ME asap.
NB. Since writing this post back in 2009, it would appear one of the key advantages of paid-for software is it is not suddenly abandoned by its developer! Something to think on, perhaps?
- BBC’s Script Smart. The second fave amongst them is the BBC’s Script Smart. I downloaded it once to try it and didn’t understand it. Nothing appeared to work – at least in the way I wanted it to and/or expected it to. Perhaps I got a dodgy download, ‘cos I appear to be the only person in the universe this has affected. Whatever the case, I didn’t like it and haven’t been back. [EDIT: No longer supported].
- Sophocles. There was a brief interest in Sophocles amongst my Bang2writers and I took a look too: it seemed interesting, but by then I had already bought software. [EDIT: no longer supported].
- Scripped. Another one Bang2writers seem to like is Scripped, principally for its online collaboration feature (which CeltX also has). Whilst I applaud the idea, I’m simply not interested in online collaboration in this way. I gave the actual software a try and it seemed fine – but there appeared to be loads of stuff that I didn’t need/wasn’t interested in and though I still technically have an account, I haven’t opened it in yonks. [EDIT: GONE ALTOGETHER!! There was an EPIC data loss and users’ scripts got deleted, detailed HERE. Listen to John August’s podcast with Scripped about it HERE. Something else to think on perhaps, re: freeware].
Why I like Final Draft
(EDIT for 2020). I updated to Final Draft 11 in 2020. As you know, I NEVER endorse products I haven’t used myself. As both a script editor and a writer, I use Final Draft and have done since I started, waaaay back. I like the general interface, plus its versatility on various platforms for writing and editing on the go.
Also, rightly or wrongly, it is the standard in the industry – agents and producers have always assumed I use FD, which is handy because I do! I like FD11 the best of all its versions and find it to be its most stable.
I also find Final Draft useful because of its report function, as well as its colour-coding and ‘beat board’. As someone who advocates writers understand as much as possible about plotting and structure, I find these Final Draft features absolutely essential. They have personally saved me countless hours. Working with other writers, I have found the same.
So that’s why I recommend Final Draft to Bang2writers. But there’s loads of choices here in this post, to suit every budget and concern.
Over on Twitter (follow me to join in!), my mighty tweeps are making the following recommendations, including some for novel writers.
- Apparently Scrivener is ace. I’ve never used this, so can’t say one way or another, but it’s a paid-for software costing $39.95 and of course you can have a trial first to find out if you like it. Downside: it’s only available to Mac users at present. [UPDATE: Now available for Windows as well].
- Others are recommending Writers Cafe as well as Allen here, principally for its “storylines” function. I’ve heard mixed tales about this software and I took a look a while back and it didn’t appeal to me, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a go, especially if you find outlining a real pain.
- Meanwhile, over at Facebook, there is MUCH love for both Final Draft and CeltX too, with just a couple recommending Movie Magic – I wonder why it hasn’t caught on over here? Our American cousins seem to use it more.
- Join Bang2writers on Facebook to join in the conversation and find out what the B2Wers recommend RIGHT NOW for software.
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