Nowadays, for a career break as a screenwriter, you are no longer required to brush your elbows daily with producers. All you need is a computer, a literary agent, a knack for writing, and screenwriting software that will help you perform all sorts of edits and formats required in scripting.
It helps you stick to industry format and suggests better actions, dialogues, and slug lines to make your work praise-worthy by the producers.
In short, it takes care of your formatting requirements while you focus on the actual creative work.
We have created a definitive list of the best screenwriting software that you can buy in 2020. We have divided our article into two sections; one for free software and one for paid.
Check them below, pick what works for you, and start creating engaging scripts right away.
Best Screenwriting Software
Popular among a number of professional screenwriters, StudioBinder is our top pick when it comes to the best screenwriting software.
This software is more of an end-to-end production management platform. That means it will take care of all your screenwriting needs starting from pre to post-production of the project that you are working on.
Just sign up and use its services for free.
Once you are a member, you can just focus on your writing, and the intuitive software will take care of the formatting part. This implies that your script file will be modified into a shooting script, which will be further broken down into scene by scene shooting schedule, timelines, and milestones.
Additionally, your screenplay can also be used to create shot lists, storyboards, and even call sheets.
The best feature of this software is that it allows you to collaborate with your team, create and share documents while giving them access to edit and comment on the shared files.
Owing to its real-time confirmation tool, managing cast and crew also becomes really convenient.
- Quick and easy sign-up
- Free access to proprietary features
- Auto Cloud sync
Next in our list is another cloud-based free scriptwriting software called WriterDuet. This software allows you to collaborate with your team using premium features like real-time co-writing, intuitive commenting, and in-app chat and video call options.
Apart from that, it combines and rearranges your beat sheets, characters, and plot outlines to save you from unnecessary copy-pasting while rewriting a draft.
WriterDuet allows the import and export of files in the Final Draft, Word, PDF, and Celtx formats. It also creates a mind map, scene cards, and tools to deal with every aspect of your project, which you can later customize and manage.
However, if you prefer working on your own and the collaborative feature it is of no use to you, opt for WriterSolo instead. WriterSolo is a subsidiary of WriterDuet, where you can pay only for the features you actually use.
Both the softwares come with full SSL Certificate integration, ensuring a secure and encrypted connection to keep your script super safe.
- Multi-device and browsers compatibility
- Allows tracking edits
- Free tutorials
- Works both online and offline
- Mac OS
Of all the free screenwriting software that made it to our list, Causality is perhaps the most unique one.
It is different, in the sense, it presents you with the beats of your story in a visual format. No matter how layered or complex your plot is, Causality will rearrange your plot as you move your beats along the visual narrative.
The rearrangement is done based on three components: the script, the story logic, and a timeline.
When you start visualizing these components and the overall structure, it becomes easier to shape your ideas into well-rounded plots.
Causality will automatically evaluate the actions of your story as you write to figure out possible loopholes and plot errors. It will also provide smart suggestions for a rational action sequence.
There are both free and paid versions available for this software, with the free version having some limits related to writing, export, and printing.
This is a great software for new screenwriters as it provides a visual representation of the often overlooked causal relationship between events.
- Auto-formats of scripts into a standard screenplay
- Provides scene sequencing, character notes, and team collaboration
- Provides translation
For writers who are beginners or work under a shoestring budget, Trelby is the perfect companion. It is not only free but also an open-source screenwriting software.
The previously popular ‘Blyte’ is now Trelby, which also has incorporated new features.
The user interface is fairly easy and clutter-free, thereby allows you to customize it as per your writing needs. As the company itself advertises, this software is true “infinitely configurable.”
It encourages screenwriters and software developers to contribute to the software, which allows for continuous improvements and configurations.
Trelby has an integrated screenplay editor that enables features like spelling check, auto-formatting into standard scripts, page order, etc.
You can trust this software to assemble all your documents into reports based on scene, character, location, and dialogue. It will also allow you to compare all your drafts and identify the changes.
However, if you are looking for a free scriptwriting software for your mac, Blyte wouldn’t be an option available to you. The system requirements are such that it supports most old systems.
- Infinitely configurable and intuitive UI
- Create and use custom watermark
- Script comparison tool allows comparing two PDF script
Developed by the screenwriter John August (Go, Aladdin, Big Fish, and Frankenweenie) himself, Highland reeks of features that any screenwriter would fancy.
The software comes with templates of novels, scripts, plot outlines, and much more to choose from. This makes it the perfect choice for beginners.
The algorithm will ensure that you stick to the chosen format so that you can just focus on the writing.
Highland supports the Fountain file format– a plain text markup language often used in screenwriting. This allows the writer to access and edit their drafts from any device or any software meant for editing files (e.g., GoogleDocs, NotePad, etc.).
Your Final Draft and PDF files will be automatically converted to Fountain files upon importing.
Highland comes with an expansive character database, which will allow sorting characters by order of appearance or the number of dialogues they deliver throughout the work.
Additionally, features like Night Mode, Gender Analysis tool, Multi-language Support, and sprint timer make writing more convenient and fun.
- Based and built on set Industry Standards and protocols.
- Free PDFs to Fountain conversions
- Easy Video Tutorials
Best Paid Screenwriting Softwares
With about 6 million users from across 190 countries, Celtx bags the first position among best-paid screenwriting software.
It is a cross-platform, pre-production software that enables you to organize and map your ideas into a plot narrative. For dramatists, novelists, authors, and screenwriters, this feature becomes a boon.
It allows the writer to collaborate with other writers or the production team over one ‘master file’ thereby reducing the number of documents and the hassle of their management.
This master file is later broken down and rearranged into scene summaries, characters, locations, and sets. This feature-loaded software has a rather user-friendly interface that is free of clutter.
One of the most useful features of Celtx is its visual storyboard. You can choose from a plethora of images and drop as many figures or objects you want in the shot, and then layer them into a scene. This helps the visual planners to get a better understanding of the screenplay they are working on.
- Easy to learn UI
- Allows offline writing from an app
- Allows in-script elements tagging
- A one-stop destination for pre-production management
- Mac OS
- Scriptwriting – $20/m, billed annually
- Video Production – $30/m, billed annually
- Game Production – $30/m, billed annually
Our next pick is Scrivener, one of the top contenders in the screenwriting software market.
This software brings together the traditional methods of scripting and the convenience of modern-day digital writing.
It provides tools to mimic a ring-binder, a typewriter, and a scrapbook– something the old-school writers ought to cherish.
The convenience of using this particular software is that it allows the writer to view and edit two files simultaneously, that too, on a single screen. It also provides the option of toggle between two screens, which makes multitasking a piece of cake.
Scrivener comes to the rescue of all non-linear writers who come up with multiple ideas for a plot segment. It comes with a “Corkboard” that permits the writer to rearrange their plot simply by dragging and dropping the files at the desired spot.
Apart from that, importing documents from different word processors is also relatively easy. But in case should you face any issue, feel free to refer to its in-built video tutorials, which will walk you through all its features and functionality.
- Wide variety of writing and editing tools
- Affordable yet feature-loaded
- Clubs all features on one platform for quick reference
- Mac OS
For Windows and Mac versions of the software, one is billed $45/m while the iOS version costs $19.99/m. However, if you are a student, you can avail certain discounts.
3. Final Draft
Used by the major production houses such as Netflix, Paramount, Pixar, and NBC Universal, Final Draft is one of the best screenwriting software out there. First launched in 1990, this software has had numerous updates, and the current one is its 11th release.
So if you are in the look for a software that is up to an industry-standard level, go for FD 11.
What makes FD 11 a popular choice is its advanced visualization and brainstorming tool. It allows multiple members to participate in the process of writing in real-time.
If a visual storyboard is not enough, you can further make use of a “beat board” tool. This software offers you the option of customizing and organizing your ‘beats’.
Once you are done organizing, you can leave the formatting to the software. Your visualizations and beats board will be combined in your script, which will be further auto-formatted as per industry standards.
Other noteworthy features of Final draft 11 includes auto file back-up, a ‘Revision Mode’, 100+ templates, auto elements tagging, and a ‘Night Mode’.
- Save variations of a line using ‘Alternate Dialogue’
- Offers multiple keyboard shortcuts
- Fonts in 95+ languages
- Speech to script support
- OS X
A digital download of FD 11 costs $199.99 with a 1-month pre-purchase trial. However, if you are a teacher or educator, you can purchase an educational license for just under $100.
4. Fade In
If you are looking for a scriptwriting software that will offer you value for your money, Fade In will be your go-to option.
Compared to other premium writing softwares, Fade In provides all essential tools and its own unique features but at only one-third of the price.
Popular screenwriters, like those of The Last Jedi or Rogue One, swear by this software, and we tell you why.
It provides automatic formatting of a script into the industrial format, real-time team collaboration, sync with the cloud, auto-complete typing, script breakdown tool — all over an easy to use UI.
Other essentials such as the index cards and templates for writing, reporting, editing, and recording do also come out of the box.
However, Fade In has its own unique tools such as the Dialogue Tuner, which keeps a track on overused words or terms. It ensures that a character maintains a consistent voice and analyses the action-to-dialogue ratios with ease.
Using this software, you can import files in a number of screenwriting formats such as Final Draft, Scrivener, Celx, and Adobe Story. Additionally, you can export files directly as PDF.
- Organizing scenes, sequences and key plot points by color
- Uses open file formatting for greater compatibility
- Built-in ‘Distraction-free Mode’
- OS X
It has a one-time price of $79.95, inclusive of all future version upgrades. However, for students, it costs $49.95 only.
The app versions (iOS and Android) cost $4.99.
A free version of the software is also available, which watermarks all the PDF to be exported.
Movie Magic Screenwriter is perhaps the oldest and most trustworthy screenwriting software, with its first version dating back to 1983.
Known as a market competitor of FD 11, Movie Magic is equally popular amongst professional screenwriters as the latter.
This software offers almost identical features and tools to those of FD 11. However, the only point of divergence between the two is that Movie Magic uses a NaviDoc interface that maps out the plot outlines, scenes, notes, and bookmarks on the sidebar. This allows you to simultaneously glance at them as you continue working on the script.
With about 100 of writing templates to choose from, this software also offers import and reformatting options for Microsoft Word, PDF, RTF formats. These files are then auto-formatted to meet the standard Hollywood formats.
If you are looking for the features of FD 11 but do not wish to burn a hole in your pockets, Movie Magic will just do the job.
- Highly functional auto-formatting Tool
- Reasonably Priced
- Text-to-Speech feature
- OS X
Movie Magic charges a one-time fee of $249.95 for both Windows and OS X. Prior to purchasing, one can also check the software out with a 14-day free trial.
All these programs are meant to do the same things but differently. Choosing the right one will depend upon a number of personal and subjective factors. So, try any of these software applications and see what fits your requirement better. Cheers!