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Female Cinematographer examines her shotAn actress in front of the cameraA writer works in a coffee shopFilm Producer works with teamA woman and a man edit a film in the studioPeople on an action film set
Female Cinematographer examines her shotAn actress in front of the cameraA writer works in a coffee shopFilm Producer works with teamA woman and a man edit a film in the studioPeople on an action film set

Free Screenwriting Software: Writing Your Script Without Paying a Fortune

Author: Anna Keizer

Date: January 27, 2020

Reads: 416


Anna Keizer is a Los Angeles-based Screenwriter and filmmaker. She has been writing for film and television for 15 years. She holds a B.A. in Film/Video from Columbia College Chicago and an M.A. in Film Studies from Chapman University. She has been an Academy Nicholl Fellowships Quarterfinalist and an Austin Film Festival Script Competition Second Rounder.
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Free screenwriting software gives emerging Writers a key advantage that nearly every other facet of filmmaking lacks—the chance to explore their passion at absolutely no cost.

For virtually every other role in the film industry, it takes money to begin on the path to success. Actors, Directors, Cinematographers, Composers. . . the list goes on and on of other specialists in their fields who typically need equipment or other costly resources to get their careers off the ground.

In contrast, Writers can choose from several top-notch free screenwriting software programs and immediately try out their hand at creating that next great feature script.

If all these free screenwriting software options are so great, why exactly are there so many of them? Well, keep reading! The following provides a breakdown of some of the more popular—and did we mention free—screenwriting software programs and the nuanced advantages that each provides for users.

But let’s not forget the most important part of free screenwriting software. . . actually using it! After all, that next great feature script isn’t going to write itself.

CeltX

Let’s begin with one of the more well-known free screenwriting software programs, Celtx, which is an acronym for crew-equipment-location-talent-XML. This particular option boasts millions of users in large part because of its flexibility options.

For one, Writers can import work that’s already been created in another format. And two, for all those Writer hyphenates out there, it even offers perks like shot lists and call sheets once production begins.

Filmmaker Elvira Ibragimova likes Celtx because “it’s interactive and can be shared with teams.”
Disclaimer: As we go along, it’ll become clear that many free screenwriting software programs give users the option to use more advanced features—for a fee—and Celtx is no exception.

That’s right. Sometimes “free” isn’t entirely free! But don’t be discouraged. Especially for Writers just starting out and exploring their options, Celtx, as well as the other programs described below, is more than qualified to get the job done with only the no-fee features.

DramaQueen

It’s no secret that Final Draft is largely considered the go-to screenwriting software program for emerging and professional Writers alike, but the unfortunate truth is that it comes with a cost. For Writers who may want to one day get Final Draft—but just don’t have the funds for it right now—DramaQueen might be a great temporary alternative.

Believe it or not, DramaQueen is absolutely free, so reason number one why it’s a fantastic screenwriting software program. And reason number two?

Because it has been created to sync well with Final Draft1. So if or when a Writer is ready to take the Final Draft plunge, they won’t have to worry about compatibility issues. Plus, this particular program has been made to work for both PC and Mac users.

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DubScript

A Writer can edit and edit and edit their script all day long to the point where they feel pretty confident that they have a masterpiece on their hands. But until a script is actually read out loud, it’s honestly still a question mark.

For all those Writers who don’t feel comfortable being at the mercy of a group of people reading their script, though, they can use DubScript, a mobile-based option for non-iPhone users2. (Sorry, Mac lovers.)

This nifty free screenwriting software will read scripts out loud so that the Writer can hear for themselves how it flows minus the opinion of others on whether or not the script works. Other than this great perk, the program doesn’t have a ton of bells and whistles—and beware of its watermarked PDFs—but it still can be an invaluable tool for Screenwriters.

Fade In

As already mentioned, free sometimes comes with a catch. Case in point, Fade In.

This well-respected screenwriting software program is indeed totally without cost—as a demo3. So Writers can give it the proverbial spin around the block, but if they like it, they will have to actually buy it. That being said, this particular program is known for its professional features and it’s a solid option for both PC and Mac users.

One more thing that’s pretty neat about Fade In: It’s useful for all kinds of Writers. So for that emerging Screenwriter who might also be interested in writing plays, graphic novels or other types of work, Fade In can definitely be used as an all-in-one software program.

Highland

Truth be told, not everyone is keen on Final Draft. To each their own, right? Well, one of those people is Screenwriter John August. Don’t know John? This talented scribe penned the scripts for such films as Go, Charlie’s Angels (2000), Big Fish and Corpse Bride just to name a few. Bottom line: This guy knows what he’s doing.

And what he did—outside of writing some truly fantastic movies—is create his own screenwriting software! Hence, Highland.

Like Fade In, this program is free as a demo. What sets this free screenwriting software apart from the others is that it works with Fountain file formats, which essentially means just plain text4.

So Writers can write whatever they want whenever and wherever they want and then import into Highland for a nicely formatted script. Not too shabby! Heads up, though, that it’s only for Mac users.

Page 2 Stage

Filmmaking and Hollywood often seem like synonymous terms, but Los Angeles is hardly the only place in the world where an emerging Screenwriter can thrive. Countries around the globe have their own filmmaking hubs, making it possible for anyone anywhere to find success.

Enter Page 2 Stage. This free screenwriting software comes in dozens of different languages. That means individuals who don’t know how or don’t have a need to write in English can still go after their screenwriting dreams.

And if you do write in English? Well, given that there are multiple nuances between U.S. English and that of Canada, the UK and Australia, this handy piece of software can be extremely useful for those outside the States to make sure that their scripts conform to U.S. English if that’s what their ultimate goal is.

Trelby

Hey there, PC users, looking for a free screenwriting software program that doesn’t come with a catch? We got you! Welcome to the world of Trelby, which is 100%, no-strings-attached free for users. . .as long as you’re Windows-friendly. (Again, sorry, Mac lovers.)

But that aside, Trelby is incredibly accommodating for Writers who have been using other programs from Final Draft to Fade In to Celtx. Import away without worrying about formatting issues! And like we mentioned, Writers can take advantage of this free screenwriting software without the concern that they’ll be asked to pay once they hit a script limit or need an advanced feature.

WriterDuet

And last, but certainly not least, we have WriterDuet. As its name implies, this is a fantastic screenwriting software resource for writing partners.

Why? Because probably one of the more frustrating aspects of writing with a partner is not knowing what changes they might be making on their end regardless of whether they’re in the same room or across the globe.

But with WriterDuet, writing partners can rest easy, as one of the program’s biggest perks is allowing for real-time edits to be made. Another convenient bonus is WriterDuet’s filtering system so that both Writers can see the when and where of the edits just in case they need to go back to an earlier draft.

Like many of the free screenwriting software options already discussed, WriterDuet has some limitations for its no-cost usage. Namely, Writers are permitted to only work on up to three scripts. To do more through this particular program, they will have to pay.

But regardless this option is widely popular among those in the industry. Says Actor and filmmaker James Tang, “I quite like WriterDuet. I feel like it covers all the basics and also allows more than one person to work on a project simultaneously.” And there you have it.

In Conclusion

When it comes to free screenwriting software programs, it’s important to test out options. While true that no one program is likely to check off all of a Writer’s requirements, certainly some will be a better fit than others depending on that Writer’s particular needs.

After all, most people wouldn’t even consider buying a car without test-driving it first. So too should Writers give a few programs a try before settling on one.

For one thing, everyone has a different writing preference. Some want to immediately write in the universally approved screenwriting format of 12-point Courier. Others would rather draft their script in plain text. The bottom-line is that the choice of screenwriting software that adheres to that preference can have a significant impact on a Writer’s success.

Writing takes dedication and persistence. And anything that might discourage a Writer from sitting down at that desk and getting those words down could mean the difference between a finished script and just the hope to finish a script.

Writers should also be mindful that if they’re not feeling particularly inspired to write, the type of screenwriting software that they’re using might be (at least part of) the reason. What’s great, though, is that as the above illustrates, Screenwriters now have options.

There’s no longer just one or two programs available, and given all the free screenwriting software options out there, it’s only a matter of time before that next great feature script does indeed materialize, providing a stepping stone to future professional success.

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References

  1. 1Script Reader Pro Staff. "8 Free Screenwriting Software Choices for Screenwriters in 2020". Script Reader Pro. published: 1 December 2019. retrieved on: 24 January 2020
  2. 2Lynch, Ryan. "5 of the Best Free Screenwriting Software". Make Tech Easier. published: 12 September 2017. retrieved on: 24 January 2020
  3. 3Detisch, AJ. "9 Best Screenwriting Software Tools to Use in 2020". Studio Binder. published: 18 September 2019. retrieved on: 24 January 2020
  4. 4. "What Is Highland?". Screenwriting.io. published: . retrieved on: 24 January 2020
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