Best Screenwriting Software 22 (Free and Paid)

January 17, 2022
Foluso Adebomi
Screenwriting
Credit: Premium beat by Shutterstock

Screenwriting software makes the creative process easier for screenwriters by reducing their need to focus on technicalities. As a screenwriter, when you have amazing story ideas begging to be written, the last thing you need is to be weighed down by the hassles of formatting. Screenwriting software makes that possible.

Asides from making it easier for you to write fantastic screenplays, it is the industry standard for screenwriters to write with screenwriting software and, you do not want to be left behind when everyone has caught up with innovation. The screenwriting software market is growing at a really fast pace. According to market projections, by 2026 (four years from now), it should be worth about $235.8million.

Screenwriting software is a writing tool much like word processors. However, it is designed specifically for writing screenplays and meeting the peculiar needs of screenwriters, so, it is different from normal word processors (e.g. Microsoft Word). Microsoft word has macros that make screenwriting possible but it is an uphill task. With specialized software, you have all the features needed to work efficiently and effectively.

Screenwriting software contains features that can help:

● map out or plot stories

● auto-format screenplay

● outline and reorder scenes

● add information about production and characters

● real-time collaboration with other creatives

Credit: The Film Fund

Some of the most popular screenwriting software in use today include Final draft, fade-in, movie magic screenwriter, script studio, writerduet, squibler, trebly, celtx, studio binder, scrivener, highland 2, slugline, KIT scenarist and, storyist.

This article gives you the scoop on what you need to know about screenwriting software, the pros and, cons of each software, as well as some insider information on which software your favorite screenwriters use.

1. HIGHLAND 2:

Highland 2 was created by a screenwriter- John August (creator of Go, Charlie and the chocolate factory and Aladdin.) - for screenwriters. So, it was created with an insider view of the struggles of a screenwriter in mind. This perhaps explains the user-friendly interface. Highland 2 is beginner-friendly. It has a screenplay tutorial on how to use the software and in about 5 minutes, you will get the hang of how to navigate the software. The major tools are;

- the navigator: Keeps an inventory of your notes, scenes, sections and, synopses. With the navigator’s drag and drop feature, you can easily organize your script.

-  the bin: this is where you store your life jackets. Alternate ideas, backup plots, improvisations, alternate dialogue, etc are stored in the bin in textual format.

- live margins: with this tool, you can visualize the final product; the formatted screenplay.

-  revision mode: in revision mode, changes made in the course of writing are color-coded making it easier to track your changes and backtrack if necessary.

Highland 2 is compatible and downloadable on multiple devices like Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. It is one of the best software for mac users.

Considered a cheaper alternative to final draft, highland 2 can convert text to script with a single click. It is also the first screenwriting software to enable gender analysis. You can easily get a report of how much screen time the male and female characters will get.

Highland 2 is recommended for writers whose work constantly requires a lot of images.

Credit: finaldraft.com

Pros

- Its ease of use makes it a lifesaver for beginners

- Highland 2 has a free version for screenwriters that cannot afford the paid version

- It provides automatic backup so your work is never lost

- With the paid version, you have access to fourteen templates and ten themes.

- With the free version, you have access to  5 PDF templates and,  two in-built  editor themes,

- The software provides support using a slack channel.

- With the full-screen mode, you can work without distraction from other apps

- Highland 2 allows for multi-lingual scripting

-  With the drag and drop feature, it is easier to re-organize the script.

- The sprints feature for setting time limits increases effectiveness and efficiency.

Cons

- Watermarked free version

- Complaints of bugs with dual dialogue in PlayScript mode

2. WRITERDUET

Credit: seamedu.com

The major selling point of this software is that it facilitates real-time collaboration of creatives from different locations on different devices, therefore, it comes in handy for those who need to work with a team. It is also recommended for educational tutorials.  It is a cloud-based software that can be accessed from anywhere in the world. Asides from its use for writing and editing screenplays, WriterDuet can also be used for video editing and gaming. Although you can write offline, if you want real-time collaboration and simultaneous writing, editing, and revision, you need to be online.

Pros

- Real-time collaboration

- Screenplay auto-formatting

- User-friendly interface

- Compatible with and downloadable on multiple devices

- Free sign-up

- Backs up your scripts to cloud storage services

- Free tutorial on how to navigate the software upon signing up

- Supports a wide range of formats

- With WriterDuet, you can track changes made in the course of writing.

 

Cons

- No free version. But you get three free scripts after which you must subscribe to use the software

- Expensive

- Limited templates

- Few tools for long-form works.

- Absent support team.

- Files are not automatically saved

Pricing

Although Writerduet is not a free screenwriting software, signing up is free. You get three free scripts upon signing up after which you’d have to upgrade to a paid plan. There are two versions of the paid plan

Plus: With this plan, a subscription costs $9.99 per month, payable annually. Annual payment entitles you to a 34% discount so you will pay $79 instead of the $119.88 that monthly payment would have amounted to.

Pro: With this plan, a subscription costs $11.99 per month. It is payable annually as well.

Premium: With this plan, subscription costs $15.99 / month (billed monthly) and $9.992 / month (billed annually)

Updates are free on WriterDuet.

3. MOVIE MAGIC SCREENWRITER

Credit: Entertainment weekly

This is the screenwriting software of choice for Shonda Rhimes (creator of Hollywood blockbuster Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, Bridgerton, etc). It is used by top Hollywood directors, screenwriters, novelists, movie studios, television productions. Movie magic screenwriter is the preferred software of the Writers Guild of America, West Online Script Registration.

It is suitable for all types of screenwriting and has professional movie and video production features. It can also be used in the educational sector for assignments and research paper writing. Its high cost however makes it unaffordable for small companies.

Movie magic screenwriter is easy to use and does not require any training, however, if you’d like to further understand all of its features, there is a paper manual, electronic manual, sample documents and, a 35-page production PDF guide to aid your screenwriting journey.

 

Pros:

- Real-time auto-formatting to industry standard

- In-built collaboration feature makes it suitable for teams and production companies

- Color-coding for ease of referencing and organization

- Very intuitive and flexible

- Highly customizable

- Automatic updates

- 100+ screenwriting templates and 8 instructional templates

- Automatic back up feature

- Spell checks, dictionaries, and thesauruses for multiple languages

- Quick import and export feature for multiple file formats

- Text-to-speech feature to hear dialogues

- Compatible with other programs for pre and post-production

- With the notes commander feature, you can organize, access, view, and script your ideas.

 

Cons

- Expensive

Pricing

Regular Version – for $249.95, you can purchase Movie Magic Screenwriter version 6 and enjoy all its features on your devices (Mac, Windows)

Academic Version With proof of identification from accredited schools, students and teachers can buy the movie magic screenwriter at a subsidized price of $99.95.

Upgrade – older versions of the software can be upgraded to the latest version for $89.95.

 

4. STUDIO BINDER

Credit: The Script Lab

Studio binder’s main selling point is its cloud-based production management feature.  Screenwriting is just one of its many features. It is also useful for script breakdowns, shooting schedules, script sides. It aids the organization, connection and, communication of production companies and other creatives from pre-production to post-production.

Pros

- User-friendly interface and simplicity. You do not need any training to know how to navigate studio binder.

- Allows importation of scripts in formats like fdx,  pdf, doc, etc

- Meets the industry standard for auto-formatting and prediction.

- Real-time collaboration and simultaneous feedback

- Ease of use

- Studio binder has a free version available for an unlimited time

- With the call sheets feature, you can create and personalize call sheets, and as well as track RSVP

- You can collate and send messages to the entire production team all at once.

Cons

- Not affordable for small companies. This software is best for large-scale companies and advanced filmmakers.

- The multiple options available can confuse a beginner (studio binder was designed for experts)

Pricing

Free Plan (forever) – with the free plan you can access one project per company account. This version has a wide range of features such as manage contacts, add tasks, and call sheets.

Indie (monthly plan) – the indie plan costs $29.00 a month and, gives you access to 50GB of file storage for 10 projects. You also have access to advanced features like call sheets, shooting schedules, shot lists, and storyboards. 

Professional (monthly plan) – With the pro version you have access to 75GB of file storage for 25 projects.  This version gives you access to extra features like script breakdowns, and production calendar at a rate of $49.00 per month.

Studio (monthly plan) – With the studio version, you can do unlimited projects and you have access to 100GB file storage at a rate of $99.00 per month. This version unlocks advanced additional features such as invite collaborators and custom branding. 

Depending on the needs of the company, you have the option of switching between plans.

The payment plans for individuals and businesses differ. While the price of individual plans ranges between $29.00 to $99.00, that of businesses ranges between $249 to $1499 payable monthly. Annual payment entitles both individuals and businesses to a 15% discount.

5. FINAL DRAFT SOFTWARE

Credit: Final draft.com

We saved the best for the last! Final draft software has been the industry standard and leading screenwriting software for over 25years. It is considered the best screenwriting software in the market and is used by 95% of film and television productions. It is the industry recommended choice for both professional and aspiring screenwriters, producers, directors, and industry executives for valid reasons.

Final draft software is used by heavy-hitters like James Cameron, J.J. Abrams, Aaron Sorkin, Jon Favreau, Robert Zemeckis, and Matthew Weiner to name a few.

It has a wide array of features that make it well suited for different uses while adhering to industry standards. The main strength of final draft software lies in the specificity of its design to meet the need of screenwriters. Its instant formatting feature makes it a very professional tool. It is very user-friendly and easy to use. It has a wide range of templates, much more than other screenwriting software and, supports real-time collaboration with other creatives. To use final draft, you must be registered and signed in.  Final draft is the best screenwriting software for 2022

 

Pros

● Formatting

- Its autoformatting features allow you to focus on the writing rather than the outlook.

- With simple commands and short-cuts, you can switch from action lines to scene headings with the right formats in place.

- It automates pagination and formatting of scripts to industry standards.

● Editing

- Final draft software has editing features like flags and notes that make it easy to collaborate with third parties. With these features, parts of the script that need changing can be marked and recommended changes can be added as a note.

● Organization

- Final draft software allows you to organize and customize “beats”, including character arc, plot points, location ideas, research, and more.

- With the index cards feature, you can move scenes around and reorder your script.

- The use of story maps aid the connection of visualizations and beat boards into your script.

- With final draft, you can visually plan key milestones and plot points.

Credit: finaldraft.com

● Collaboration

- Final draft software has advanced brainstorming and visualization tools that facilitate collaboration with a writing partner or partners across a network with a session ID.

- Collaboration mode requires an internet connection. And there is an inbuilt chat box that allows collaborators to communicate without leaving Final Draft

 

● Flexibility and ease of use

- With keyboard shortcuts like Tab and Enter, final draft software makes the switch between dialogue and action quicker.

- Its fonts support over 97 languages. This wide demographic coverage is part of why it is universally accepted as the best screenwriting software

- Final draft offers text-to-speech support.

- There are over three hundred templates to choose from, so whatever your unique need, you will find one that suits you.

- Final draft software is available on and compatible with Windows, OSX, and iOS.

 

● Storage

- Final draft has an alternate dialogue feature that lets you store as many versions of dialogue lines as you desire.

- With the automatic file backup feature, you will never lose your data

- Another key feature is the revision mode. This provides a history of all changes made during script production. This can prove useful if you ever need to undo or rectify changes made.

 

● Exporting

- If you use final draft software for screenwriting, then submission to studios and contests is made easier. Since most of the industry uses final draft, there is little danger of your formatting getting messed up when exported to different software.

 

Final draft software has other templates besides screenplays. This includes templates for; graphic novels, stage plays, and text documents for manuscripts and outlines. Therefore, its use is not limited to screenplays alone. Just as the screenplay template has an autoformat feature, each of these other templates has specific formatting tied to it to auto-format.

Credit: Finaldraft.com

Cons

 

● Free screenwriting software for only 30days

Final draft software does not have a free version for an unlimited time but has a 30-day free trial version. If you need screenwriting software for 30days, final draft comes highly recommended. If you are looking to buy, the trial period will help you familiarize yourself with the software and make up your mind about making a purchase.

● Final draft is one of the most expensive screenwriting software in use today

 

 

 

 

Pricing

The cost of a digital download of final draft is $249.99.  It allows two activations per purchase and a 30-day free trial period. However, it comes at a subsidized price of $129.99 for educators. Software upgrades cost $99.99. 

The pricing is a bit on the higher side when compared to other software. However, final draft’s unique features justify its financial cost. It is not a bad price to pay for the best screenwriting software in the market for 2022.

 

FINAL NOTE

Other screenwriting software in use today include: Fade in, Script Studio, Squibler, Trebly, Celtx, Scrivener, Slugline, KIT scenarist, Storyist.

Doing it all by yourself is possible, however, doing it with help yields better results. Writing is a skill and a profession. That means you have to work at being the best you can. You have to equip yourself with the skills and tools of the trade. Screenwriting software is one of them and should be in your toolbox.