Screenwriting software can make all of the difference, but you want to choose carefully — there is a lot of ‘generalized writing’ software that isn’t what you need. Find out what software is best for actual screenwriters so that you can save time and get started right away!
Those of you out there who have tried out some writing software know that it can make a huge difference.
Instead of fiddling with Word and keeping notes in a notepad, good writing software can give you index cards, dialogue corrections, and more.
The problem is that there are so many out there, and you don’t want to waste your time and money on software that seems great but doesn’t really deliver the goods.
Today we’ll review some of the best screenwriting software options out there so that you can make an informed decision when it comes to what you’ll be using to write that screenplay you’ve been cooking up for so long!
Great and free screenwriting software for beginners
If you are looking for something that will get you started and catch you up on screenwriting basics, then Trelby might be a good fit for you.
It doesn’t look like much on the surface, but this open-source and FREE screenwriting software lets you get to writing and takes care of the formatting for you.
Aside from its correction functions, Trelby is going to automatically arrange your text into a scripting format.
This not only saves you valuable time, but it is exceptionally instructive if you are relatively new or even a complete novice in the world of screenwriting.
Trelby is relatively basic for features; however, this can be a good or a bad thing, depending on your needs.
Trelby additional features
Here are some of the features which Trelby brings to the table:
Trelby has a names database you can draw on for your characters with over 200,000 names from around the world.
For many, this is a bit of inspiration, as some like to choose a name and then see what forms about the character in their mind from there on out.
A name says a lot, and you’ve got a lot to choose from with Trelby.
Draft comparison – Trelby lets you compare your current Draft with previous ones, which can allow you to see if you are going astray or help to resurrect some of those good ideas that couldn’t make the latest Draft – until now.
Script-centric reporting – While it’s relatively basic, Trelby has some useful reporting that can give you statistics on how active characters are, how much they are speaking, and how many scenes they are in.
This helps to keep from forgetting all of your players or, worse, overusing the ones that aren’t so important.
FDX file support
If you need to import or export in the popular scriptwriting software format of FDX then you are in luck, as Trelby fully supports this.
While it doesn’t have many bells and whistles, with the features that it does have and its ease of use, we recommend giving Trelby a try.
After all, it’s free, so what have you got to lose?
Bells and whistles a-plenty!
Some of us don’t like to start with software that is considered for ‘beginners’, either due to having lots of experience already or merely a desire to start with the best.
This is where Final Draft comes in. Final Draft has been around for over 30 years now, and because of this, it’s got all kinds of features that can really make your life easier.
There is a learning curve, of course.
So what does it do? There are screen template actions you can use to select items like ‘cast list’, characters, actions, and more!
This allows you to build a properly formatted skeleton of the formidable beast of a script you are looking to make.
It also remembers characters and other scene elements so that it can plug them in as you go.
Yes, it takes a little bit to learn how to use it, but there is a reason why Final Draft has become an industry standard. When you know how to use it, it packs a punch.
Final Draft can also run a formatting check geared specifically for scriptwriting, finding anything from extra spaces to missing dialogue for those times when you get carried away in the story and moving so fast that you miss a thing or two.
Final Draft additional features
Here are a few of the popular features that Final Draft has to offer:
Index cards – Fairly standard to writing software, index cards help you keep a basic note of your story flow so that you can stay on track.
Character-centric editing – If you want to change something to do with specific characters, such as dialogue, names, or actions, then you can do so ‘globally’ throughout your document in an instant with this powerful feature.
Great stuff if you hate editing as much as we do!
Beat Board – Taking the index card function up a notch is the Beat Board. This lets you put pictures and notes about your script in an artfully-arranged way to help inspire creativity while you stay on track with your plotting.
Collaboration – Final Draft has a collection of collaboration tools for working with friends of fellow professionals, and this includes a chat room so that you can converse as you plot together.
Progress status – Reporting is built-in to Final Draft that lets you keep track of your progress, so that you know if you are working at a good pace and if you are struggling, it can help you see that the finish line is slowly approaching after all.
Story map with image support – Aside from Beat Board and Index Card functions, you can create a story map that helps keep you on track.
You can add images, as you like, and give you a ‘timeline’ of the events you are crafting.
This is incredibly useful, so you’ll want to get to know this feature.
Tagging to keep up with the plot and the subplots – Tagging lets you create custom markers in your story for many different elements so that you can keep track of plot items or even budgetary or scheduling concerns with your screenwriting.
This is professional software, indeed.
While we’ve only covered some of the highlights, as you can see, Final Draft brings a lot to the table.
While this software isn’t free, there is a discount for students and if you are not a student, then take the discount from this software in the form of all that time that you will save.
It really can do that much for you.
Our final featured screenwriter’s friend is WriterDuet, which has the tools you need for screenwriting by yourself or with a collaborator.
Screenwriting duos have produced many famous works, such as Orson Welles and Herman J. Mankiewicz for Citizen Kaine, so if you love dialogue but have action scenes problems. At the same time, your friend has the opposite problem, then WriterDuet might be just what the doctor ordered.
WriterDuet is cloud-based and allows for real-time collaboration. This means that you can both make changes as you go, but it’s not going to lose your information.
You can see these changes as they happen, and even if you are working on the same section, you can collaborate on what changes to keep and what gets discarded.
The ‘Time Machine’ feature ensures this, keeping track of all changes and preserving the original text.
Formatting is made simple with some buttons assigned for different tasks, which tags them and is suitable for things like description, dialogue, transitions, and more.
You can also create your tags if some of the predefined options just don’t fit in for what you have in mind.
If you are collaborating and don’t like to share the process, you can work offline or use ‘Ghost Mode’, which hides your edits until you are ready to share.
This is especially useful if you have some ideas that you think would spice-up the work, but you want a little more time to build them up or see how they would affect the overall flow.
You can also take advantage of the ‘Graveyard’, which is a place to put script elements that you have that don’t have a home in the script yet.
It’s useful, especially in that it gives you a place to put those fantastic ideas that always come along so that you can incorporate them later or save them for another story. That lets you get back to work at hand, so it’s an appreciated feature.
WriterDuet has a lot of unique features like this, but it is a tier-based subscription product.
This means that the tools you get with the ‘free’ version will be a bit stripped down but are certainly enough to give you a ‘taste’ of what WriterDuet can do to decide if you wish to upgrade or not.
WriterDuet additional features
Upgrading can get you many other advantages depending on which tier you select, such as ‘Plus’, Pro’, or ‘Premium’, with Premium being the fully unlocked version of the software.
WriterDuet Plus – Script statistics, Unlimited scripts to write, delete text, and tracking history. A few extra features to get started.
WriterDuet Pro – Pro includes many more features for your writing, such as watermarking and encrypting your files for protection, Tagging, filters, Autosynch of work you’ve written offline when connected, as well as desktop and mobile writing apps. It’s a much more full-featured collaboration architecture.
Writer Duet Premium – This is where things get fancy, as you can incorporate computer voices to recite lines to test out how they sound, you get language translation and extra columns for incorporating VR or ‘documentary’ aspects into the work.
The free version is out there to give you a taste of this software, so if you would like to get started on writing up the next great screenplay with a friend, then WriterDuet can make this happen.
As you can see, whether you are a beginner, expert, or prefer collaboration over ‘flying solo’, there is software out there custom-tailored for your needs.
Be sure to give one or all of these programs a try, and you can see for yourself what all the fuss is about.
Just supply the creativity and let your screenwriting software do the rest!
Lori Ballen is a real estate agent in Las Vegas. She’s a digital marketing specialist, speaker, and marketing coach and loves to share her “Ballen Method” to generate website traffic and leads online. Lori’s specialties are SEO content writing (ranking on the search engines), social media strategies, and affiliate marketing. Need a website? Contact Lori’s brothers Jeff and Paul Helvin at Ballen Brands.