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The Best Screenwriting Software of 2017

Write Life Into Your Characters
The products you'll see throughout our Buying Guide

We chose to focus our screenwriter software lineup on programs that provide a mix of writing features, production assistance and strong community support. Proper formatting is essential. Producers, agents and contest judges may simply throw away a screenplay that isn’t uniform. For this reason, we forgo free software you can find online. Many different scene types may occur in your movie, so versatile software with a high level of support is key. We've also created informative articles about screenwriting software to help you along your writing journey.

Best Screenwriting Software for Students

You may have a great idea for a movie script, but proper formatting of a screenplay is daunting. The margins and spacing have to be uniform to separate scenes that require action shots and dialogue. The headers also have to signify the location and time of day for the shoot. If you’re a student or just beginning your first screenplay, getting a readable plot together is hard enough without having to worry about putting it on the page in the proper format.

Celtx is the best screenwriter software for beginners. The program provides automatic formatting as you write and saves your characters. For more complex direction, the menu includes tutorials that guide you through writing your scenes. Celtx also includes an index card view, which reminds you of important points in your screenplay and character attributes.

Celtx Plus

Celtx Plus is full-featured screenwriting software that works for more than just screenplays. This application has the ability to format stage plays, AV scripts, audio plays, comic books and novels. Additionally, you can convert stories from one format to another. For example, if you're writing a movie and decide that it may work better as a stage play, Celtx can easily convert the screenplay to a stage play format. This can save you a lot of time, because it means you don't have to retype your entire manuscript or reformat it by hand. All you need to do is convert it and revise it.

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Best Screenwriting Software for Working Screenwriters

There are many important jobs that require screenwriter programs. Beyond writing movies, these programs are useful for directors, writer’s assistants, playwrights and even marketers creating a video to sell a product. If you plan to use screenwriting software for your work, you should consider a program that provides versatile tools to make your job easier.

Final Draft is the most widely used screenwriting software for a number of reasons. In fact, FDX, the universal format for screenplays, is a proprietary format created by Final Draft. Even apart from formatting, though, Final Draft is made for working writers. The software comes with the ability for you to collaborate. This means that more than one writer can work on the screenplay at the same time. This is essential for a large production that requires several eyes on the same script. Final Draft also tracks all the revisions that occur over time. So, if a line has changed, you can search the history and find out who made the change and why. More importantly, it keeps the previous line. Dialogue may look good on paper, but it may not work in front of the camera. Final Draft logs the way the line was written before for quick reference.

Final Draft

Final Draft is simple, powerful screenwriting software that is the industry standard for professional screenwriters. Final Draft formats your words into Hollywood's rigid screenplay standard, including font, margins and abbreviations.

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Best Screenwriting Software for Writer’s Block

Proper formatting and the ability to collaborate are great, but none of that matters if you’re having trouble getting the words on the page. Some of the best screenwriting programs can guide you from the first page to the last.

Movie Magic Screenwriter is a program that understands your voyage. Notes tools allow you to jot down distracting ideas that pop in your head. An outline view helps you keep track of characters and scenes. For example, you can filter out a character to remind yourself what they were doing five scenes ago.  This is a huge advantage. When you’ve been writing a long time, details get cloudy. Movie Magic Screenwriter also allows you to color-code scenes, characters and actions. You can filter by a color and look at characters from a certain family or group.

Movie Magic Screenwriter

Movie Magic Screenwriter is screenwriting software that is officially endorsed by the Writers Guild of America East. The software automatically formats your script to industry standards. It supports Screenwriter's Notes, which is an index card mode of organizing scenes. The software uses a customizable outline column called NaviDoc, which allows you to track the progress of each scene as you write. If Notes and NaviDoc are too distracting, you can easily change the layout of the user interface to suit your needs.

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The Importance of Outlining Your Script

Outlines are vital for all writers, whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned professional. Trying to write a full-length screenplay without an outline is like trying to navigate a ship without a map and compass. If you know where your story is going, your ability to reach that destination is much smoother.

The best screenwriter software understands the value of outlines. The notecards should be intuitive and easy to find. Before you begin writing the first line of dialogue, you should outline every scene from start to finish with a logline, the motivation of the characters in the scene and why the scene is useful for moving the plot. Color coding and scene breakdowns are valuable for production as well. A good program will isolate specific locations so that the cinematographer and director can shoot multiple scenes that aren’t necessarily in chronological order. 

Other Valuable Features of Screenwriting Software

For more advanced production, there are many other tools that improve the process of bringing your words to life. Script breakdown tools allow you to highlight specific items on the page. Props, for example, could be highlighted in one color so a prop supervisor can easily find them. In-depth reports let crew members know about location changes and scheduling conflicts.

Another great resource is an active online community. As you write, questions will come up. How do you write a montage? What if two people are talking at the same time? How do you set up the page if you're constantly jumping in and out of two scenes? A vibrant community online can answer all these questions, whether it’s on the manufacturer's website or a third-party forum. The more you feel like part of a group, the better chance you have of finishing your script.