best free screenwriting software

Best Free Screenwriting Software Options

If you want to get a start in the film business without spending a dime, there is free screenwriting software to do just that! But don’t forget, getting your start means more than putting words on paper. Study the craft and learn how to tell a story first. But that’s why you’re here, right? You already have one rattling in your head and you want to put it in a script. Congratulations! Now you face the technical task of formatting your writing to the industry standard for screenplays. As you probably already know, formatting your script is crucial, not only for writing it but if you want to have it read by a professional and you want to have a career as a Screenwriter, it’s absolutely mandatory. Luckily, there is screenwriting software to help! But before you spend any money, take some programs for a test drive first. And beyond looking into software, make sure you learn the elements of a screenplay and formatting rules before you dive in.

Most screenwriting programs come with tools for organizing your ideas, mapping your stories, and keeping track of characters, among other things, while others offer full production suites for you to take your script through production. Some are cloud-based programs and others are downloadable. (In case you don’t know, cloud-based software is accessed online like Google Docs, so you need an Internet connection to use it.)

Our picks for the best free screenwriting software:

  • Trelby
  • Writer Duet
  • Page 2 Stage
  • DramaQueen
  • DubScript
  • Highland 2
  • Story Touch
  • Fade In
  • Causality

As you shop, assess your needs as a Writer. I, for example, prefer to do my prewriting away from the computer with a pen and paper, so I don’t use a lot of the in-program tools. I also like to unplug when I write, so I don’t like cloud-based programs. On the other hand, if I were collaborating with another Writer, I would opt for a cloud-based program, so it just depends on what you need for your project. Maybe you want a TV pilot template instead of a feature film template. Maybe you like to customize your windows. Find a tool that works for you. If you have no idea what you want, try them all!

One of the things to look for in a scriptwriting program is one that is compatible with industry-standard software like Final Draft or Movie Magic. That way, if you have the opportunity to get the script into the hands of someone who can make it, you can export a file that can be imported into other industry standard programs used by various department heads. I will touch on this a little bit below.

So let’s look at the free screenwriting software currently available in 2019. Some of the sites I discovered are not secure, which I will note in my description.

Trelby

Trelby is available as a download and is designed for Windows and Linux. It offers writing and editing tools and many of its features are customizable. It also has story tracking and revision tracking tools, which allows you to compare drafts. It also offers many export options that include .pdf and Final Draft.

How Free is It?
It’s totally free. You can even contact the programmers and make suggestions on how it can be better.

Writer Duet

Writer Duet has a cloud-based and a downloadable version, but the download is only available with a subscription. The biggest selling point to this program is that it is designed for collaboration. You can work with writing partners on the same document at the same time. You can also fly solo with Writer Duet, which is what you will do with the free version, which is the bare bones program that has feature, TV pilot and stage play templates with basic writing and editing capabilities.

How Free is It?

Your first three scripts are free, regardless of the length. You can export as many .pdf files as you want with these three scripts, but once you start your fourth script, you will be asked to buy in for $11.99 a month. Once you unlock this “pro” version, you will have more features, like the collaboration tools, unlimited scripts, Final Draft export capability, version tracking, and other tools. However, it does not require that your writing partners are “pro” users, so it won’t inhibit collaboration if you are the only one to purchase it.

As you shop, assess your needs as a Writer. I, for example, prefer to do my prewriting away from the computer with a pen and paper, so I don’t use a lot of the in-program tools. I also like to unplug when I write, so I don’t like cloud-based programs. On the other hand, if I were collaborating with another Writer, I would opt for a cloud-based program, so it just depends on what you need for your project.

Page 2 Stage

Page 2 Stage is another program available only for Windows. It appears to have standard writing and editing capabilities, but the website does not specify export options. It does offer multiple languages, which is a plus for non-English Writers. One of the features it offers is called “Advanced Auto Cheat” in which you tell the program how many pages you want your script to be and it will make the script that length. This may sound like a good idea, but script pagination is a serious thing. It shouldn’t be cheated. If you are new to screenwriting, one page equals roughly one minute of screen time. In order to properly pace your film, you need to pay attention to page numbers. I wouldn’t cheat.

How Free is It?

It’s totally free, and like Trelby, it encourages program feedback. However, it comes from an unsecure website.

DramaQueen

Drama Queen is compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux. It is a download with a free option, which has basic writing and editing capabilities, as well as tools to write a novel. You are able to export several formats, including .pdf and Final Draft. Unfortunately, in the free version you are unable to track changes.

How Free is It?

There is a free version, however, it has limitations and comes from an unsecure website. They have two additional tiers with pricing ranging from $99 to $297, with upgrades costing $38 and $78. The differences are clearly mapped out here.

DubScript

For those of you using Chrome or who have an Android phone, Dubscript is your option. It has standard writing and editing capabilities, with a version tracker and other story tools. You can use it on your tablet, phone or Chromebook and it offers .pdf and Final Draft export capabilities.

How Free is It?
Free!

Highland 2

Highland 2 is a Mac-based suite of downloadable tools for both Screenwriters and Novelists and is a favorite among some professionals. It has many customizable features as well as tools to help you track changes and organize your thoughts. However, export seems to be limited to only .pdf or Highland files. They argue that Final Draft is not necessarily the industry standard and that most people read a .pdf when they read a script. However, reading a script is a fraction of the life of a script. If your script turns into a movie, it will need to be in either Final Draft or Screenwriter in order for the crew to use their programs, from budgeting to script breakdowns. For example, the popular Script Supervisor program ScriptE imports only Final Draft or Screenwriter files.

How Free is It?

There is a free option. Most of the bells and whistles (including an export without a watermark) are unlocked with the “pro” purchase option, but the cost is not indicated on their website.

One of the things to look for in a scriptwriting program is one that is compatible with industry-standard software like Final Draft or Movie Magic. That way, if you have the opportunity to get the script into the hands of someone who can make it, you can export a file that can be imported into other industry standard programs used by various department heads.

Story Touch

Story Touch is another downloadable program for Mac and Windows. It has basic writing and editing capabilities but also has a lot of tools to help you organize your thoughts and ideas. It does not specify the export options but the benefits of this program are the organization and analysis tools that it offers.

How Free is It?

There is a free option, with the “pro” version costing $270. The comparison of the two are here. This is another unsecure site.

Fade In

Fade In is my favorite. It can be used with Mac, Windows, Linux, Android, iPad – you name it. I took this program on a test drive and purchased it when I needed to make an export without a watermark. I find it to be intuitive and it has all the tools I need, from writing and editing to version tracking and exporting in Final Draft. It also offers real-time collaboration tools. It’s the best of all worlds. It is a favorite among many film professionals and is inching toward being an industry standard.

How Free is It?

They have a free trial version that exports with a watermark and is missing a few bells and whistles. The “pro” version is only $79. That’s it!

Causality

Causality is another program worth exploring. Though they have a free option, it’s only good for ten pages, so in my opinion, that doesn’t count. But it does have some amazing tools, so I will mention it here, anyway. It is very user-friendly and you can purchase it yearly for $71.88 or purchase a permanent license for $279. Though I do all of my pre-writing by hand, Causality piqued my interest with its rewriting tools that make moving scenes around a breeze.

How Free is It?

Your first ten pages are free, so if you are writing a short, I’d try it.

Summing It Up

As you explore free screenwriting software, you will see that the basic functions of each program are similar. They keep things formatted as you write and edit and help you keep track of your pages and revisions. As I mentioned above, you must find what works for you and what is compatible with the rest of the industry, because after all, that script of yours should live beyond that .pdf output.

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