This article provides a look at the best script writing software (both free and paid) available to screenwriters in 2020.

A screenwriter creates the storyline, characters, and dialogue that will be made into a movie. The script they write becomes the blueprint of the film — without it, production cannot begin.

In order to be taken seriously as a screenwriter, you will need to compose your script in the correct industry-standard format. Scriptwriting software helps you organize your story and automatically formats your script for you so that you can focus on the writing.

In short, what software you use doesn’t matter as long as your screenplay is in the correct format. However, with so many options out there it can be hard to understand which platform is best for you. Below you will find a list of the highest-rated software available for screenwriters and their features:

Free Basic Formatting

1.Text Document (Mac and Windows)

Yes, it’s true when you are first starting as a screenwriter you don’t need to spend any money. The standard document format for a screenplay is PDF. So basically you can write your screenplay with any text document.

Most screenwriters begin with a simple text page and learn how to format manually. And you can learn the industry format by reading screenplays and from scriptwriting blogs.

Any text document will do such as TextEdit for Mac, or NotePad for Windows PC. Then save your finished screenplay to PDF format. And for free team collaboration, you can use Google docs to upload and edit.

Scriptwriting software makes the writing process easier by placing the screenplay into format composition for you. All of the software options below have automatic script formatting. However many of them also come with additional features.

What software you choose depends on what type of projects you are writing and how you prefer to work.

2. Fountain (Mac and Windows)

The first most popular screenplay writing format is Fountain, a simple markup syntax for writing and editing screenplays. This allows you to write in script format on any device and transfer it to any additional software.

Fountain is not an app but a set of rules for writing a screenplay in plain text. So, if you are using a plain text document to write your screenplay use fountain formatting. By formatting, in Fountain, your script can be uploaded in the future on any screenplay software.

The syntax rules for writing in Fountain are simple, make your text look like a screenplay. So start your page with a scene header, place character names in capital letters and follow a name with dialogue.

Many screenwriters learn Fountain formatting and save their screenplays in plain text. Scriptwriting software formats for you, but it can be difficult to transfer and collaborate with different programs. One other advantage of Fountain is that it allows you to edit your script anywhere so from a mobile phone or iPad for instance.

Since the creation of Fountain more software has been made that has these additional features. However, many professional programs still don’t allow as much versatility as Fountain. So, even if you are editing with software, saving your screenplays as Fountain plain text makes sense.

Free Script Writing Software

3. Trelby (Windows)

When you understand the basics of scriptwriting, you might want to try a free automatically formatting software. Trelby is one of the first screenwriting programs to be created, and it’s completely free.

When you type into Trelby, it will format your script into the correct industry format. It also has a wide number of formatting options. So you can import and export your screenplays in Plain text, Fountain, Final Draft, and many others. Additionally, it has a watermark feature, that allows you to create a watermark when you send off your scripts.

If you are looking for a simple free software without a lot of nuts and bolts then Trelby is for you. It’s very easy to use and beginner-friendly, but unfortunately only works on Windows PC. Best For budget screenwriters who want free software that is easy to understand.

Features:
  • watermark generator
  • script formatting

4. Drama Queen 2 (Mac and Windows)

Another free scriptwriting software that is easy to use is Drama Queen. The free version will format your script for you and is compatible with many other programs including Final Cut.

One unique feature is the Ideas panel, which allows you to collect your ideas whilst you are editing all in one place. There is also a preview page so that you can read your screenplay and test your formatting before export. Unlike other free software, Drama Queen will also place your story into steps. This means that it breaks your story down into sections making it easier for you to write.

You can do pretty much everything on the free version but there is a paid option that has additional features. Drama Queen is similar to Trelby in that it a beginner’s platform, but works on both Mac and Windows PC.

Features:
  • script formatting
  • ideas panel

5. Arc Studio Pro (Mac and Windows)

As of the writing of this article, Arc Studio Pro is currently being given away for free.  (Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the developers decided to help writers create during the lockdown. This free offer will run at least until the end of July but might be extended further.)

Arc Studio Pro is a new and stylish scriptwriting software that does automatic formatting. It also has additional story crafting features. You can break your script down into beats, acts, and sequences. And real-time collaboration, which means you can edit your script with a team member online and see the changes they make live.

At some point, Arc Studio Pro’s free version will not include the additional features. But if you sign up before the offer ends, you will still be able to edit your scripts. Best for beginner screenwriters who are looking for more professional features.

Features:
  • story organization
  • real-time collaboration
  • script formatting
  • night mode

 

Best Paid Script Writing Software

1. Final Draft 11 (Mac and Windows)

$199.99 one-off payment

You won’t be able to avoid Final Draft if you are a professional screenwriter. That is because Final Draft is used on 95% of all film and television shows. It’s the industry standard of scriptwriting software and many major Hollywood screenplays have been created on it.

Final Draft might be the industry standard but it is expensive and perhaps too complicated for a beginner. It does a bit of everything from script formatting to comprehensive story organization. Unlike free script software, it supports all languages and script formats.

There is also a free fully working 30-day trial available. Even though it is the most popular software, another might have features more suited yo your needs.

Features:
  • story organization
  • real-time collaboration
  • watermark generator
  • script formatting
  • discounts for students
  • night mode

2. Movie Magic Screenwriter 6 (Mac and Windows)

$169.99 one-off payment

Slightly cheaper than Final Draft is Movie Magic Screenwriter, and it’s the second most popular scriptwriting software. It not only supports film scripts but TV series, novels, plays, and comics too. It’s been around for a while and is also considered the industry standard.

Like most professional programs it comes with a full range of features and a 14 day fully working demo. It also has a full collection of screenplay, TV, radio play, and comic book templates. One feature it doesn’t come with is a night mode and its clunky design is not as sleek as other programs. On the plus side, it’s said to be easier for beginners to understand.

Features:
  • story organization
  • real-time collaboration
  • watermark generator
  • script formatting
  • discounts for students

3. Fade In (Mac and Windows)

$79.95 one-off payment

This is another big contender when it comes to professional script writing software. Fade In has been used by many Hollywood films, TV, and game writers. However, it is much more affordable and unlike Final Draft and Movie Magic, all future updates are free.

One unique feature is its script breakdown and production report generator. This could be especially useful if you are both writer and producer. It also has a page-only feature that allows all tools to fade into the background to avoid interface distractions.

You can download a free fully functional demo but it leaves a watermark on your saved PDF’s. Fade In is best for screenwriters who want to focus on the writing.

Features:
  • story organization
  • real-time collaboration
  • watermark generator
  • script formatting
  • discounts for students
  • script breakdown generator

4. Highland 2 (Mac)

$49.99 one-off payment

Highland is a more modern and stylish script writing software. Unlike all other programs, it was developed by screenwriters. In particular screenwriter and blogger John August (Big Fish, Aladdin). It allows you to easily focus on the writing and automatically formats for you.

Unlike other software available, Highland comes with advanced character organization. You can easily list and keep track of your characters. A recent unique feature is gender analysis, which allows you to see how much screentime is split between male and female characters.

Another feature is it’s goals and stats tracker. Which allows you to give yourself word or page count goals each day. Highland is also not just for scripts but can be used for writing articles, novels, blog posts, and pretty much anything.

The free trial allows you to write unlimited scripts but saves PDF files with a watermark. Highland is a more affordable platform but is unfortunately only available on Mac. Best For screenwriters who are character-focused and like analytics.

Features:
  • advanced story organization
  • real-time collaboration
  • watermark generator
  • script formatting
  • gender analysis
  • discounts for students

5. Writer Duet

$7.99 monthly subscription (Mac and Windows)

This software is all about collaboration, with real-time editing functions. You can use Writer Duet with any file format and edit with another writer anywhere in the world.

Writer Duet is a cloud-based platform, and your files are saved locally via Google Drive, Dropbox, or iCloud. You own the screenplay rights and everything is kept secure within the online system.

Unlike other professional platforms, each writer doesn’t need to own the same scriptwriting software. For example, to use real-time collaboration in Final Draft both writers need to own the same software. Most script software collaboration features don’t support mobile phones. With Writer Duet, you can edit and video chat on both desktop and mobile.

There is a free version that allows you to test it out on up to three screenplays, then various monthly plans. This software is primely for screenwriters who are working with a team.

Features:

  • story organization
  • real-time collaboration
  • script formatting

6. Casualty

$7.99 monthly subscription (Mac and Windows)

 

The majority of scriptwriting software is geared towards screenwriters just wanting to format their screenplay. Casualty gives writers a more visual outlook, with advanced story organizational features. This lets you see clearly how your plot and scenes tie together.

Some writers might prefer a more basic layout, this is an alternative for writers wanting a more visual program. It is especially for scripts with a lot of characters or complex stories (such as a TV series). It also breaks your story down into beats and visual storyboards. 

The free version allows scripts under 10 pages, for longer projects you will need to subscribe. This is for you if you want a platform more comprehensive that allows you to visually map out your story.

Features:
  • advanced story organization
  • script formatting
  • night mode
  • script breakdown generator

7. Celtx

$20 monthly subscription (Mac and Windows)

The final software on our list is a little bit different. Celtx is not just for screenwriting but is an all in one system for movie planning.

Its basic screenwriting plan allows you to format your script and organize your story with index cards. The video production plan allows you to not only write your script but organize your film’s entire pre-production. Including script breakdowns, shot lists, storyboarding, and budgeting software.

Furthermore, Celtx is not used prominently for film production, it’s main focus is on gaming and VR development. Celtx boasts of having 6 million users worldwide, so it’s a very popular program. This might be a good option if you are going to use all of the features, but it will be too complex for the everyday solo screenwriter.

Features:
  • story organization
  • real-time collaboration
  • watermark generator
  • script budgeting
  • script formatting
  • night mode
  • script breakdown

 

Final Thoughts

This list narrows down the most popular and highest rated script writing software. Many of these companies have free trial periods and demos. So you can always try out a program first before committing to it on a project.

If you are making a film in the future we have a selection of free film production templates that you can download. Also be sure to check out a tool like SetHero which helps you manage and organize your film projects.

What screenwriting software on the list is most appealing to you? Let us know in the comments section below!

Need to storyboard?

Download our free storyboard template which works in Google Drive and Word!

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