Writing a screenplay is hard; making a living from it is even more challenging, but having screenwriting software makes it at least 50% easier.
Back in the day, famous film directors such as Quentin Tarantino would write their screenplay byhandon paper napkins. So yes, it’s possible to do screenwriting without software, but it’s like reinventing the wheel.
Even Quentin would hand over his pen scribbled scripts to a professional screenwriter to type it up in anticipation of studio pitching or production.
This article will list the best screenwriting software in 2021 but first, let’s understand why such tools are vital. Please read on to find out how I can land lucrative screenwriting jobs online.
Why You Should Always Use Screenwriting Software
The primary reason anyone should use a screenplay application rather than fiddling with their Microsoft Word document is that such apps make writing easy.
According to industry rules, one page of the screenplay will be equal to one minute on screen, which means that a one-hour screenplay should be about 60 pages.
Now can you imagine accurately formatting 60 individual pages in an MS Word document? Adding slug lines, keeping track of scene numbers, character names, and making sure they are all capitalized. You’d simply go insane.
If you had 30 days to complete a script, it would take you at least three months to write a screenplay without software.
Therefore, the reasons why scriptwriting software is necessary to include:
1. The software automatically formats your screenplay.
2. It saves you time with shortcuts, among other editing features.
3. The app provides examples in all genres to understand technical aspects such as pacing and how to write scenes such as split-screen scenes.
4. You can collaborate in real-time with writers in different geographic locations. 5. Some advanced applications offer script breakdown features to assist different production departments in understanding your screenplay.
The Best Screenwriting Software in 2021
The best screenwriting software for you will depend on either the popularity, cost, and individual preference.
There are free apps that will not have the same additional features as the paid versions but are adequate for anyone looking to write a typical screenplay.
Sometimes the software you choose will depend on the industry you are working in. For instance, Hollywood professionals may swear with Final Draft or Fade In while indie filmmakers around the world enjoy Celtx more.
But eventually, the decision has to be made by you, so here is the best screenwriting software that professionals are using in 2021:
1. Final Draft.
3. Studio Binder.
4. Fade In.
5. Writer Duet.
6. Movie Magic Screenwriter.
1. Final Draft
I have used Final Draft for all my screenplays, and I can say it is without a doubt my favorite script writing software on the market.
The program is also one of the most expensive writing software on the market. At least, it had satisfied customers ranging from students like myself when I started using it years ago to award-winning movie directors, as evidenced in the following photos.
You might be wondering, well, how can I purchase Final Draft screenwriting software for about $250, and yet I am a starving artist? Well, you could always try to use the60-day trial version ofthe application, which is free.
Once that ends, you could repeat the process of re-applying to trial versions until you’re in a position to afford a full version that can be discounted to $199 or less.
The latest version of the program is Final Draft 11, and the software has been around for a little over 30 years with notable projects written on it.
For the longest time, I was using version 9 until recently when I upgraded after realizing that you can’t open a project written in version 10 on version 8.
That becomes an inconvenience when you work on two different computers that have two different Final Draft versions. Despite that, the application offers some satisfactory service to any screenwriter.
The Notable Features of the Final Draft Screenwriting software
As you can see below, the app offers many industry-standard templates you can open and begin writing your play, commercial, graphic novel, feature film, or television drama.
Formatting in Final Draft
This software makes formatting a screenplay to industry standards simple.
For example, when you press the Tab key on your keyboard, a drop-down menu pops up, and you can easily choose whether you want to write;
● Scene heading.
● Character name.
● New Act.
● End Act.
This feature comes with an automatic formatting assistant that will check the capitalization and correct other mistakes.
Auto Fill and AutoCorrect
This feature is compelling because it is intelligent enough to remember the character names you used before and the story’s flow.
For instance, when using Final Draft, I noticed that the software offered accurate and logical auto fill. If two characters talk in a scene, say, Superman and Batman, once I wrote Superman’s dialogue, the software would autofill Batman in the replying dialogue.
I thought that was genius, and it saved me a lot of time.
As mentioned above, Final Draft provides many templates that are industry standards, from the 1900s screenplay formats to modern blockbuster and Oscar-winning script elements.
Interestingly, this means that anyone in the industry, from novelists, filmmakers to stage performers, can write their work in one screenwriting software.
There is also an option to download more templates meaning you could quickly get your hands on the structure of anMCU’s The Avengers screenplayand adapt to it. That is, of course, if you’re looking for inspiration and insight on how to write a superhero feature film script.
A template helps you toachieve the story structuresof any genre you’re writing on. That way, it’s easier for the reader to quickly identify your screenplay’s exposition, climax, and different acts.
Final Draft’s Index Cards
These are the same as physical note cards to help the writer outline the scenes before writing the screenplay.
This feature enables you to print out your virtual index cards, share them and make changes to them to suit your scriptwriting project.
Final Draft’s Character Features
Unlike other software, you’re able to highlight each character’s dialogue with a different color to make table reading easier.
This feature also allows you to change a character’s name, dialogue, action, and parentheticals in one location, and it will be automatically updated throughout the document.
The feature simplifiescharacter development, which can be a tedious task for both professional and rookie screenwriters.
Final Draft’s Writing Management
This feature provides you with a real-time report of every aspect of the screenplay. That will include:
● The number of pages.
● The number of words.
● The number of scenes.
● How many times your characters interacted.
● And overall progress of your writing.
Such information helps you know at what point of the story you are in your writing and what changes you might want to make.
Final Draft Supports Multiple Languages
This impressive feature saves you time and money in that you can write the screenplay in the original intended language without the need for translation.
If your screenplay was written in a foreign language, you could translate it with a click of one button without losing the formatting and structure.
The translation and multi-language feature open doors for foreigners to submit their work to Hollywood and other lucrative markets.
Final Draft’s Speech to Script Feature
Although this recently added feature is only available for Mac devices, it makes it possible to write an entire screenplay by dictating it through voice without touching the keyboard.
It is a hands-free capability that saves time for busy writers and enables the disabled to write an award-winning screenplay effortlessly. The applications for speech to the script are endless.
The Night Mode
The dark mode feature transforms the software into a black background recommended for people with sensitive eyes. Toggling between light and dark modes enables you to write your script day or night without straining your irreplaceable eyes.
The Tagging Features
The tagging features help you to break down any screenplay and determine its budget requirements.
Through tagging, you’re able to schedule and organize elements of your script to satisfy your project needs.
Final Draft Supports Images
In the new versions of Final Draft, you can insert an image in your writings. This feature enables you to include storyboard photos right next to the scenes to simplify the script breakdown process.
The software has an inbuilt functionality that enables two or more writers to work on the same screenplay in real-time. Such a feature is handy, especially during a pandemic where social distancing is a priority.
It also saves cost because instead of flying in that highly paid screenwriter,you can work with them remotely.
Final Draft’s Beat Board Feature
The feature is a drag and drop that helps you quickly develop storyboards, character arcs, and plot points.
With Beat Board, you will be able to take your screenplay bits without ruining the overall structure. You can color-code your beats and even export them as PDFs.
Writers use a story map to plan their story well. The feature converts your plot points into a visual map for easy editing and reviewing.
The Final Draft Student Feature
If you are a student, fill in your film school’s details to enjoy a much more discounted price for a full Final Draft Software. The feature enables students to have full access to the screenwriting application at a throw-away price.
Is Final Draft for You?
In summary, Final Draft is only worth it to artists who will use most of its features. If you’re a beginner with no money, you’re better off using the alternative free screenwriting software.
But I guarantee that it’s hard to use any other writing application once you try out Final Draft.
Celtx has been my go-to scriptwriting application when I need to work entirely online. This is helpful when I don’t have a computer of my own because then all that is required is a flash drive or cloud storage.
While Final Draft works best when downloaded onto a device, Celtx thrives as a cloud-based application. One advantage of that is you won’t lose your work in case of a computer crash, damage, or theft.
All your files are safe online, and you can access them anywhere anytime as long as there’s an internet connection.
The application is reasonably priced, as shown in the image below, and anyone can enjoy their limited free version.
The gaming industry professionals mostly prefer Celtx for its cloud functionalities. It also provides powerful real-time collaborating features.
Beginners also find it to be user-friendly and easy to learn. I would recommend it for anyone that’s starting tolearn about screenwriting.
The Main Features of Celtx Screenwriting Software
The application makes formatting screenplays easy with its customizable shortcuts that you can utilize to boost your writing speed.
The moment you press the Enter Key, the software automatically suggests a format for you. That way, you can concentrate on the story instead of the document structure.
The Navigation Feature
This tool automatically creates an outline of your script as you write. Using the navigation feature, you can access any part of your work without wasting time scrolling through endless pages.
Once you have a few scenes, this feature enables you to rearrange them using the drag and drop functionality.
The Catalog Feature
This is a powerful tool to manage any production from start to finish. You’ll be able to add departments, crew, and other professionals and assign deadlines.
Producers and other department heads can use Celtx to stay within budget and schedule.
The Media Feature
You can add videos, audio clips, pictures, and graphics to your script using this feature. The best thing is that you can search the web and upload media right inside the feature without leaving Celtx’s user interface.
Celtx’s Visual Storyboard
This feature contains a practical library of animals, vehicles, people, and anything you may find at a scene.
That enables creators to come up with elaborate visual storyboards that bring the screenplay to life before production. So, you’re able to convert a screenplay from words to stick people to stunningly complex concept arts.
A visual storyboard makes blocking easier and may reduce the budget because the shots will be fleshed out before shooting time.
The Breakdown Feature
The Breakdown is more like an outline that automatically creates the points below and displays it as a sidebar.
● Scene summary.
Therefore, as you write, Celtx will automatically break down your screenplay, and it’s accurate at it.
Celtx’s Note Feature
The note feature enables you to write any notes within your script, and anyone can edit or comment on it and vise versa. The notes contain dates and times they were created and edited, handy when exchanging feedback among collaborators.
These are very important when planning out a screenplay. Celtx allows you to attach an unlimited number of index cards to any scene.
Since the human memory may not be that reliable, index cards can be placed so that any other scriptwriter can continue where the previous left off without affecting the screenplay’s quality.
Who is Celtx for?
Celtx is capable of industry-standard screenwriting software that provides features for newbies and professionals from the gaming industry to audio-visual artists.
I recommend it for anyone that wants to work entirely online without needing to install writing software. That is also why it’s suitable for students because most don’t have the money to purchase devices and high-end alternative apps.
3. Studio Binder
Studio Binder is a powerful all-in-one production management software for TV and film professionals.
The platform also offers free learning resourcesthat anyone can download and use to advance their production career. The freebies include:
● Freebie lower third templates.
● Film budget and actualization template.
● Film casting sheet template.
● Pre-production checklist.
● Location tech scout checklist.
● Script breakdown template among many more vital production documents.
Studio Binder is mainly revered as atoolto break down your script effectively, but did you know that the platform also features afree screenwriting tool that is industry-approved.
The app has a modern look to it, and it almost works like drag and drop software, making it even more fun to write asellable spec scripton it.
The Notable Feature of Studio Binder
After you finish writing your screenplay, Studio Binder will enable you to generate storyboards, call sheets, shot lists, schedules, and storyboards from it in a few clicks.
You can manage an entire production from idea to releasing your blockbuster in theatres, all in the Studio Binder software. That is how powerful it is.
Who is Studio Binder for?
Studio Binder is designed with large production companies in mind. Yes, the free version is suitable for individuals and smaller organizations, but the paid version only makes sense for established high-grossing media firms.
If you’re working on multiple projects at once, then this app might be for you.
4. Fade In
Fade In has been around since the year 2011, and so far, many blockbusters have been written on this popular screenwriting software.
The application can be used on Windows, Linux, iOS, Android, and Mac platforms. You can also use it in multiple languages, and many professionals consider it the most significant rival to Final Draft.
There is a free version of Fade In, and when that runs out, you have to pay about $80, theone-time fee to purchase the software. Without a discount then it may cost you about $100.
The only problem with the free trial is that it comes with a watermark. Other than that, here are some of the critical features that Fade In Offers:
● A full-screen mode to minimize distractions when writing.
● The convenient cloud storage option can be accessed from anywhere on the globe.
● Fade In supports multiple text formats from HTML to DOC and more.
● You can add images to your screenplay.
● You can collaborate in real-time with anyone on a different continent.
● The software automatically formats your script.
● An easy-to-use application interface.
Who is Fade In for?
To put it simply, it is used mainly by big-name studios that are synonymous with big-budget movie franchises and blockbusters, as shown in the picture above.
So, the next time you land an interview in Hollywood, just say you write scripts on Fade In but make sure that you have thoroughly played around with the free version first.
5. Writer Duet
Writer Duet is capable screenwriting software that will allow you to write only three scripts upon your sign-up. After that, you need to subscribe to their reasonably priced packages, as shown in the image below.
This writing program offers all the standard features of typical screenwriting software, and here are the ones that stand out:
● You can collaborate remotely with other writers on different devices.
● It features a plugin system to add more functionality, such as offline features.
● Writer Duet supports a wide range of browsers and mobile devices.
● Comes with a free tutorial with every sign-up.
● The interface is user-friendly and intuitive.
● You can upload your files to cloud storage services such as iCloud, Google Drive, and more.
● Writers can make changes to the script template.
● Includes an SSL certification that prevents unauthorized access to your screenplay.
That last feature about privacy is beneficial if you are paranoid that someone with more resources may still need your script and make your movie while you struggle to raise funds or sell it.
Who is Writer Duet for?
Writer Duet is a practical tool for writers that love real-time collaborations and the exchange of notes.
From time to time, the platform offers screenwriting contests which I encourage you to enter. You never know; that is how big breaks happen.
6. Movie Magic Screenwriter
Movie Magic Screenwriter is an award-winning software best used to write books, stage plays, musicals, novels, scripts, and much more.
Most notably, this application was used in the production of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Apart from being a helpful tool for the film industry, Movie Magic Screenwriter has also worked wonders for research paper writing and the academic world.
This is because the application is a fully-fledged word processor, and here are its best features;
● Text to speech functionality.
● iPartner feature allows for seamless remote collaborations.
● The software is preloaded with more than 60 TV script templates.
● You can tag locations and characters before exporting to a Movie Magic scheduling software.
● Offers real-time intelligent script formatting.
● You can password protect your documents.
● It’s the official preferred software for the Writers Guild of America East and the WGA West.
● Contains a functional thesaurus.
● It’s an advanced word processing standalone application.
● Free internet, phone, and email support.
● Production breakdown reports.
Who is the Movie Magic Screenwriter for?
This software is more suited to industry professionals who have been in the game for a while. It is also ideal to be used for academic writing and other professional tasks such as authoring books.
The only problem is that the price of about $170 may be too high for the average screenwriter, and it doesn’t have as many features as Final Draft.
As one of the best screenwriting software around, Squibler is all about simplicity. Apart from screenwriting, the platform also provides tools to write novels, books, online journals, and even a plot generator for anyone suffering from writer’s block.
If you’re wondering how online articles on sites such as Wired look so elegant and unique, it’s because they are edited on Squibler or other alternatives.
Squibler features a drag and drop user interface that speeds up the writing process. That feature also works with beat boards and the collaboration function.
The software has a two weeks trial version, and then you have to upgrade at a monthly cost of about $10.
Here are some of the notable features of Squibler:
● It is user-friendly.
● The software has a distraction-free mode.
● It comes preloaded with more than 30 templates you can choose from.
● The real-time collaboration feature is powerful.
● The software will work on Android, iPhone, iPad, PC, web, and more.
Who is Squibler for?
This writing software was created to cater to all types of authors, both nonfiction and fiction writers. It is also a powerful tool for writing screenplays for both beginners and industry veterans.
The main selling point is that it’s an easy-to-use program, so why don’t you try it out today.
I have used Trelby before on my Linux machine and also when live booting on a USB drive. It is entirely free screenwriting software that would give Final Draft and the others a run for their money.
When I was using it about three years ago, it wasn’t as advanced as the current version, and that’s thanks to volunteer developers that keep making it better. Anyone is welcome to contribute to the project at any time.
At first glance, it may seem basic, but it’s a capable writing application.
The Problems with Trelby:
● There’s no online collaboration feature.
● There are no underlining, italics, and bold options.
● It only supports one language, English.
● It’s not compatible with Mac and OSX but works great on Windows and Linux.
● Updates are years apart.
The software is not perfect but delivers beyond expectations for free software. The limitations are understandable.
Here are the key features of Trelby:
● Works great on old computers and devices.
● You can generate custom watermarks if you’re paranoid about idea theft.
● You can import in almost all formats including the following; Fade In Pro’s (.fadein),(.celtx),Final Draft XML (.fdx), Adobe Story’s (.astx) and Fountain’s (.fountain).
● It has an advanced screenplay editor that automatically formats and checks spelling, among other corrections.
● Trelby is one of the most user-friendly in the screenwriting software space.
Slugline is perhaps the most straightforward screenwriting software on the market, but it doesn’t underestimate it because it’s still more capable than other alternatives on this list.
This writing app’s main advantage is that it uses the (.fountain) format, which means that your screenplay can be opened on any device.
It’s so easy to use that beginners don’t even need a manual. The first problem may be the price because it costs about $50. However, you can enjoy the free version, which has a six-page limit.
The second problem is that it is a powerful scriptwriting tool that’s only available for iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
Here are the main features of Slugline;
● It auto formats your texts into a screenplay structure as you write.
● You can use custom keyboard shortcuts for faster writing.
● The software comes with an advanced autocorrect pop tool.
● Has a distraction-free full-screen mode.
● It will convert any text you copy into a script format.
● Follows the industry-standard paging rules.
● You get to preview before printing.
● The interface is drag and drop.
● Supports collaborations with other writers and individuals.
● Supports color-coded note-taking.
Who is Slugline for?
This software is for non-technical writers who enjoy clutter-free workspaces and minimalism. Slugline is designed for people who just want to write and not waste time tweaking the script format.
I would advise people who are new to screenwriting to consider using this writing app because it’s simple, the interface is attractive and elegant.
Highland 2 is the only screenwriting software that features the gender analysis tool. This means the application can automatically identify the genders in your script.
That tool will tell you how many times each gender appears, how many words they spoke, and what actions they performed. The analysis will also reveal to you what happens if you flipped the gender of a particular character.
Highland 2 offers four tools which include:
● The navigator outlines the scenes, sections, synopses, and notes. You can rearrange this through drag and drop to suit your story.
● The bin is the place you place texts about backup plots, ideas, and improvisation.
● The live margins tool enables you to visualize your formatted script.
● The revision mode marks any changes you made while writing with different colors.
There is a free-for-lifetime version with limited features and unlocking all functionalities; it requires you to part with about $50 for the upgrade.
The free version of Highland 2 is enough to write basic screenplays, but the full version will feature the following:
● You’ll get a tutorial on how to use the software.
● Comes with ten templates for multi-cam, manuscript, and other screenplay formats.
● It has a distraction-free mode that’s full screen.
● Simple and clean user interface.
● You can add images to your screenplay.
● Supports multiple languages.
● It comes with five dark themes and five-light themes to protect your eyes when writing.
● Provides an editing mode for auto-formatting and preview mode while writing.
Who is Highland 2 for?
Highland 2 has the same functionality as Slugline in that you can copy-paste anything into the software, and it will format it into a screenplay.
The good thing about this application is that it’s available on Android, iOS, Windows, and macOS. It is also a capable alternative to Final Draft, and so it can be used by beginners and professionals.
I recommend that you take the time to use the free version and see whether it’s what you wanted in screenwriting software.
I Have a Screenwriting Software Now What?
In reality, people don’t win screenwriting awards because they used a particular software. Don’t expect that Netflix will pick up your spec just because you wrote it on the most expensive script app on the market.
What matters is the story and whether it resonates with the target audience. There is also formula on how to win a screenwriting competition, and the same applies to the Oscars.
Acquiring software is just the first step because what you need to do next is to get experience by writing and writing scripts until you can master the art.
How to Become a Successful Screenwriter, Beginner’s Guide
I have been a screenwriter since 2014 and have won a few awards at film festivals. However, my goal is for my work to be picked up for a big-budget production of over $1 million, optioned by HBO/ Netflix/BBC,or get a converted award such as aBafta,Emmy, or Oscars.
To achieve such high status in screenwriting, you need first to join writing guilds, both local and international ones such as the American Screenwriters Association or theWriters Guild ofAmerica.
I will offer the tips I used to earn consistently from my screenwriting craft because success to me means to make a decent living off writing scripts. So here we go.
Step 1: Find a Mentor
Before you approach a mentor, make sure that you have a written work or a sample to show them. The whole point of finding a mentor is to get your script analyzed for free.
The best way to find a mentor is to approach a film school lecturer specializing in writing screenplays. You have to get a film school teacher because they will give you free advice.
If you approached them outside school, they would probably charge you ridiculous consultation fees.
For those who can’t find a teacher, the next best thing is an experienced professional who is willing to mentor newbies.
Here are several places to find willing mentors;
● Facebook groups such asNew Screenwriters Writing ScreenplaysandScreenwriters andFilmmakers Group.
Once you join these forums, just post that you’re looking for a mentor, and you will get people replying to your inbox in no time. At this point, avoid anyone asking you for money in exchange for mentorship.
Step 2: Submit to Competitions
At this point, you should have used the expertise of a mentor to weed out all the beginner mistakes you might have been making in your writings.
I have had some success with the film freeway because it’s the place to be if you’re a screenwriter.
On this platform, you can search for your ideal film festival that will accept your writings. Feel free to experiment with the web site’s features and submit to as many festivals as you can.
Screenwriting contests can be found on social media, and even when you search for them on Google, it’s easy to find one that can accept your spec.
Step 3: Find Screenwriting Clients Online
It’s free to join the job site, and once you have an account, look for projects that you can handle. Avoid the cheaper postings because those are probably scammers who will block you once you submit a screenplay.
I had earned a few hundred dollars on the website before they banned me for some reason. The rules have changed, and so if you’re not careful, the website might suspend your account without warning.
Now I spend my time searching online for agencies and people who might need screenwriting services and then cold-emailing them a proposal.
Sometimes I will send out a thousand emails but only get two replies. If this happens, don’t give up, instead of double your efforts. The two replies might be gigs that pay thousands of dollars each.
Once you get work, no matter how stubborn the client is, overdeliver. Your success will depend in part on referrals.
Step 4: Continue Learning
Don’t forget to keep Learning by teaching yourself through mediums such asScreenplay,Lessons from the Screenplay, and the countless screenplay video essays on YouTube.
Industry Scriptswill send you scripts for classic movies so you can study them.
So, in summary, remember to always write as many projects as possible. Consider writing screenplays for free for your indie filmmaking friends because later on, those connections are the ones that will land you a big break.
Don’t expect to be lucky; work hard submitting to competitions, agents, clients, and anyone who seems interested in your project. In the beginning, stick to one genre, get good at it before diversifying.
Consider attending screenwriting seminars, short courses because that’s also a way to network. Lastly, remember that Google is your friend if you need help with your script.
All of these top 10 best screenwriting software in 2021 are similar in that they will enable you to write a screenplay. What differentiates them is the community behind each platform.
For example, Final Draft has a vast Hollywood community built around the app, and you can quickly get your big break by hanging around in those forums. On the other hand, the community behind Trelby is mainly made up of enthusiasts and probably indie filmmakers.
So, it’s up to you to choose where your passion is because before you succeed, it’s your love for the art that will stop you from quitting. Try the software out, and you’ll find the one that satisfies your writing needs.