Screenwriting software is a rapidly growing market that’s expected to reach $235.8 million by 2026. As a screenwriter or scriptwriter, you need a specialized tool to help you in writing killer screenplays efficiently.
If you are a screenwriter, having access to the right screenwriting software should be your top priority. Why?
Because it has now become an industry norm. When all the other screenwriters are using tools and software to write better scripts, you have to use the best screenwriting software to be at the top.
This article covers everything you need to know about screenwriting software, what features to look for when choosing one, and a list of the best screenwriting software to help you choose the right one.
Let’s get cracking.
Table of Contents
What is Screenwriting Software?
Screenwriting software is a writing tool (like word processors) designed specifically for writing screenplays and scripts. Normal word processors (e.g. Microsoft Word) can’t handle the special needs of screenwriters.
For example, screenwriters deal with several characters and they need quick shortcuts to type character names. Similarly, screenwriters have to take notes, collaborate with other writers, and need access to outline quickly.
Microsoft Word has macros that make it easier for screenwriters to use these features but it’s a painful process. Dedicated screenwriting software provides you with all the features and benefits that you need to produce awesome scripts quickly yet comfortably.
Most importantly, screenwriting software comes with templates that is a huge plus. Templates make writing super-easy. Select a template based on the script type, make the edits, and you are done. Having the best screenwriting software will help you stay organized, save time, write quickly, and focus on what’s essential instead of dealing with the technicalities of the tool.
Features & Benefits of Screenwriting Software
Screenwriting software offers you with several features and benefits that make them essential for writing screenplays and scripts. Here is an over of the major benefits that you should expect to see in the best screenwriting tool:
- Easy-to-use interface that requires minimal or no training
- Ready-to-use templates
- Outlines and mind mapping assistance
- Story maps
- Drag-and-drop builder
- Real-time collaboration with other writers and stakeholders
- Distraction-free writing
- On-screen sidebar to quickly access characters and scenes
- Note-taking tool
- Auto-correct, spell check, and grammar recommendation
- Quick draft import and export
- Sync and integration with third-party apps (e.g. cloud services)
- Multiple device support
Here are the top three features that you must consider before choosing any screenwriting software:
Screenplay templates help you plot your story quickly. Templates provide you with the basic elements of a screenplay that you can tweak as per requirement. For instance, you'll find headline, action, character names, dialogue, transition, shot, and other elements in the template. This saves a lot of time and makes your job easier.
2. Ease of Use
If it requires training and you have to spend a lot of time learning how to use a screenwriting tool, it isn’t worth it. The interface and layout should be simple and easy-to-use. This is one of the core features that you should look for in a screenwriting program.
The user interface should be self-explanatory with icons and buttons clearly visible. A graphical interface is ideal with a drag-and-drop tool.
Real-time collaboration is an essential feature that you shouldn’t miss. You have to collaborate with fellow writers, editors, and several other stakeholders during the writing process. Collaboration feature helps you collaborate with peers within the screenwriting software, you don’t have to use another tool. This keeps everything streamlined and organized within a single platform.
You also have to take notes (private and shared) related to characters, story, outline, and writing projects. The easier it is to take notes while writing, the better.
What screenwriting software features you prefer is more of a personal choice, but these three features should be your top priority as it will prove handy in the long run. So always look for these three features when evaluating software options.
The Best Screenwriting Software 2021
Here is an overview and review of the best screenwriting software available in the market to choose from in 2021.
These include both free screenwriting software and paid ones. Let’s dig in.
Squibler is the #1 and top-rated screenwriting software that has a powerful yet easy-to-use text editor for screenwriters. It comes loaded with 30+ screenplay templates that help you in getting started hassle-free. The drag-and-drop user interface makes it extremely easy to add headings, beat boards, and other elements. With its collaboration feature, multiple writers can work on a single story simultaneously. This saves you from the hassle of sending story to multiple peers and then waiting for them to add their section.
- Easy-to-use scriptwriting software
- Drag and drop interface
- Distraction-free mode
- More than 30 templates to choose from
- Powerful built-in collaboration feature
- Comes with several handy tools for writers such as plot generator
- Works on web, pc, Ipad, IPhone, and Android
- Integrates seamlessly with Google Drive and Dropbox
- 30-days free trial
Squibler screenwriting software is an all-purpose platform that is suitable for all types of scriptwriters, authors, and fiction and non-fiction writers. It is perfect for screenwriters who need easy-to-use and reliable software to produce quality content with peace of mind.
Squibler is multi-purpose feature-rich screenwriting software that’s a perfect choice for any writer. It has all the features that you need in the best screenwriting tool. It has templates, easy-to-use, and has amazing collaboration and note-taking features.
Importantly, you can try it free.
Squibler offers the following plans:
- Free Trial – enjoy the 14-day trial period providing basic features (creating drafts, customizing templates, sharing options, etc) for free.
- Squibler Pro (monthly plan) – use its advanced features by upgrading to Squibler Pro for $9.99 per month (billed monthly).
Claim your free trial today.
2. Final Draft
Final Draft screenwriting software is best in the game. It is extensively used in the entertainment industry and it has won several awards over the years. It has more than 300 templates to choose from that make your work easier than ever. You can use Final Draft on Windows, Mac, and mobile devices making it a perfect multi-device software.
- More than 300 templates
- Story mapping tool
- Beat boards that let you visually organize ideas
- Distraction-free writing
- Speech to script tool
- Real-time collaboration
- Easy-to-use interface
- Powerful formatting options with revision mode
- 30-day free trial
Final Draft is best for the motion picture market. It is widely used by leading TV shows for screenwriting so if you are planning to write stage plays following industry standard for a television show or a Hollywood movie, Final Draft is your best bet.
Final Draft screenwriting software is professional and reliable that is used by some of the leading companies like Netflix, Pixar, and BBC. If you are working in the motion pictures industry, it is a great option. However, it is expensive than most of the other software in this list.
Good news: You can try it free for 30-days and see how it goes for you.
Final Draft Pricing
Final Draft offers the following plans:
- Free Trial – download and install the trial version and use and enjoy a 30-day free trial.
- Full Version – purchase the full version for $99.99.
Final Draft has a special upgrade pricing for its current customers who can purchase it for only $79.99.
You can try Final Draft here.
3. Fade In
Fade In screenwriting software that’s specifically made for motion picture screenplays and is perfect for writers who are associated with the film industry, television, and gaming. It comes with a lot of handy features that make it suitable for scriptwriters of all genres. It is a cross-device software that works on Mac, Windows, mobile, and Linux.
- Simple user interface
- Supports multiple languages
- Real-time collaboration
- Autocomplete tool
- Distraction-free typing
- Support multiple file formats including images and PDF
- Works on Mac, Windows, Linux, and mobile
- Support for cloud services
- Comes with a free demo
Fade In is suitable for screenwriters who are working with film, TV, or gaming industry. The tools and features support motion picture screenplays.
Fade In screenwriting software is the best choice for people who work within the film industry. The real-time collaboration and its rewrite and revision tools help several people work on a single story simultaneously.
You can grab its free demo and check it out, but you won’t be able to download or use any content developed with the demo version.
Fade In Pricing
Fade In offers the following plans:
- Free Demo Version – download Fade In’s fully functional demo version (3.0.636) for free and check out all the features it has to offer.
- Full Version – if you like the software, get registered as a permanent user by purchasing the full version. You can purchase the full version for $75.
Registered users can download Fade In using the personalized download link sent via email or by checking for updates from the application.
Looking for a free screenwriting software? Trelby is one of the best free open source programs for screenwriters. Being an open-source scriptwriting software, Trelby is updated and improved quite often by developers. Based on input from screenwriters, the software gets regular updates. It is multiplatform that works on Windows and Linux.
- Easy-to-use interface that’s like any text editor
- The interface is configurable and can be customized as per need
- Multiple view options
- A comprehensive database of character names
- Supports multiple file formats including PDF
- Import and export files in a wide range of formats
- Free for life
Trelby screenwriting software is flexible, customizable, and free making it a perfect choice for writers who are on a budget. It is suitable for new screenwriters who are just getting started and don’t want to spend money on screenwriting software.
Trelby is open source free software that’s exceptionally easy-to-use. It doesn’t have any learning curve. You can find scripts and codes free of cost on Github. However, it doesn’t offer you features that you'll find with some of the other screenwriting programs on this list.
If you are a newbie screenwriter, using Trelby should be your preference as it will give you a good idea of what your requirements are and will help you find a better paid screenwriting software in the future.
Trelby is a feature-rich screenwriting tool that you can download for free. You can download the current version (2.2) on your Windows and Linux systems.
Celtx is a multi-purpose scriptwriting and production tool that is designed specifically for large teams and companies that want to plan, write, and shoot with from a single platform. The interface is user-friendly and straightforward making is easy for screenwriters to get started. It offers several tools that help with writing, script format, production, cost management, reporting, collaboration, and more.
- Simple and intuitive user interface
- Real-time team collaboration
- Supports storyboard and index cards for story development
- Works offline
- Revision tracking
- Multi-purpose software that also supports production and budgeting
- Supports team and multiple members
- 30-days free trial
Celtx screenwriting software is suitable for screenwriters who work within a team. It is mostly used for pre-production by companies that wish to handle everything from scriptwriting to production management.
Celtx is a powerful and feature-rich screenwriting platform that comes with an easy-to-use interface. It is a multi-purpose program that is focused on both screenwriting and production management. As a screenwriter who is working alone on a single project, it doesn’t turn out to be a great option.
If you are working with a team that is interested in production management too, Celtx will work great. You can use its free trial to explore features and interface.
Celtx offers the following pricing plans:
- Scriptwriting Plan – $7.50 / month for the first year (billed annually) and $10 / month for the first three months (billed monthly).
- Celtx Pro – enjoy Celtx Pro’s 30-day free trial. Contact the sales team for purchasing this version.
- Education – request a quote from the sales team to get the pricing.
You can also combine plans based on your production needs.
WriterDuet is simple yet effective screenwriting app that is focused on real-time collaboration. It was developed in 2013 as a collaboration tool for writers. It has now transformed into a full-fledged screenwriting software. It comes with templates, outlining tool, and tagging features. It is a cloud-based software so you can access it from anywhere in the world.
- Real-time collaboration
- Easy-to-use interface
- Customizable software that comes with plugins and scripts
- Comes with templates
- Ability to create your own templates and workflows
- Tagging and outlining feature
- Can be used from any device including mobile and offline desktop app
- Comes with a free plan
WriterDuet screenwriting software is best for professional screenwriters who work with writing partners. If you have a team of multiple writers and you want to write and edit script simultaneously without ruining other’s work, this is the software you must use. Real-time collaboration is its real strength.
It is a simple and easy-to-use screenwriting tool for teams. It offers almost all the essential features that you need to write great scripts. However, it is most suitable for real-time collaboration for scriptwriting and sluglines. You can use it for collaboration and simultaneous writing, editing, and revision.
You can try WriterDuet free and see how it works for you. However, the free version comes with limited features, so you'll have to switch to a paid plan to fully explore all the features.
WriterDuet offers the following three plans:
- Plus – $7.99 / month (billed monthly) and $5.00 / month (billed annually)
- Pro – $11.99 / month (billed monthly) and $7.42 / month (billed annually)
- Premium – $15.99 / month (billed monthly) and $9.992 / month (billed annually)
Switch to yearly plans and you can save 38%.
StudioBinder is a complete cloud-based production management software that offers professional screenwriting as one of its many in-demand solutions (such as, script breakdowns, shooting schedules, script sides, etc).
It allows production companies and other creatives to stay organized, connected, and informed, throughout the pre-production process all the way to post-production under one single platform.
- Simple dropdown interface
- Clean layout
- Import scripts (fdx, pdf, doc, etc.)
- Industry standard auto-formatting and predictive features
- Real-time online collaboration with instant updates, feedback, and revisions
- Easy to create, duplicate, and navigate script versions
- Sync and resync to make pre-production tasks hassle-free
The best part about StudioBinder is its holistic approach to photo and video production while retaining its simplicity. There is nothing complex about the entire software, and anyone from filmmakers and photographers to freelance creatives and big production companies can benefit from its well thought out features.
You’ll never need any training to understand how to use StudioBinder. It allows you to focus on creating without distractions by taking away your worries about planning and organization.
Most of all, its free plan allows you to work on one project with a range of features for free.
StudioBinder offers the following plans for entire companies:
- Free Plan (forever) – access to 1 project per company account with features such as, manage contacts, add tasks, and call sheets.
- Indie (monthly plan) – with $29.00 a month, you can access 50GB of file storage for 10 projects, and advanced features like call sheets, shooting schedules, shot lists, and storyboards.
- Professional (monthly plan) – 75GB of file storage for 25 projects, including all the abovementioned features, script breakdowns, and production calendar for $49.00.
- Studio (monthly plan) – unlimited projects and a 100GB file storage, for $99.00 including advanced features like invite collaborators, and custom branding.
You can also switch between plans depending on your company needs.
Scrivener is the go-to app for not just screenwriters, but writers of all kinds including, novelists, journalists, academics, non-fiction writers, and more. Scrivener offers screenwriting templates for screenwriters and also allows them the freedom to write and organize the way they want.
However, it does require a bit of learning to understand how to access all its functions.
It is available to purchase and use on Windows, iOS, and macOS.
- Drag and drop interface
- Create or use premade templates
- Flexible organization and formatting
- Corkboard mode to access notes and synopses for every screenplay scene
- Customizable full-screen composition mode for distraction-free writing
- Accepts multiple import and export formats (Word, PDF, Final Draft, EPUB, etc.)
- Easy to navigate sectioning that can be treated as one document
- Industry-standard editing with modifiable toolbars
- Structure drafts in folders and subfolders
- Set word limits and character targets for each section
- Version history to track edits and revisions
- Auto-save and auto-backups
Scrivener has tailormade versions for different devices, Mac, Windows, and iOS. Screenwriters prefer writing their first drafts on Scrivener because it makes the entire research process easy, from the brainstorming of ideas to adding references, including audio and photos.
Your screenplays on Scrivener are always ready to be printed, published, and exported. You can access your documents in any format, anywhere, just by syncing them across all of your devices.
Moreover, planning and restructuring of sections of a screenplay is just a drag and drop away in Scrivener.
Scrivener has a 30 days free trial version, and is available for one-time purchase separately:
- iOS – $19.99 to access Scrivener on your iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, requires a Dropbox account for sync features.
- macOS – $49 (standard licence) and $41.65 (educational licence)
- Windows – $49 (standard licence) and $41.65 (educational licence)
You can also buy Scrivener in a bundle purchase option (for macOS and Windows) for $80 with a separate licence for each platform.
9. Highland 2
Highland 2 was created by screenwriter John August keeping the struggles of a screenwriter in mind, which resulted in the effective, easy to use interface it’s known for.
It takes hardly 5 minutes to master Highland 2. It offers 4 main screenwriting tools, the navigator, the bin, live margins, and revision mode.
The navigator keeps a record of your screenplay scenes, notes, sections, and synopses which can easily be re-ordered with drag and drop. The bin keeps your go-to alternate ideas, improvisations, and backup plots in bits of text. Live margins allow you to visualize your formatted screenplay, and revision mode tracks your changes in different colors.
It is available to download for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android.
- Clean and simple user interface.
- Screenplay tutorial on how to use Highland.
- Editor mode and preview mode that separate writing and auto-formatting.
- 10 templates including Screenplay, Multi-Cam, and Manuscript.
- Assets tool for images and files imported into your document.
- Scratchpad tool for keeping notes outside the document.
- Sprints feature to set time limits and increase productivity.
- 5 dark and 5 light visual themes for writing.
- Allows dialogues from different languages.
- Easy to create sections and subsections.
- Full-screen mode for distraction-free writing.
Highland 2 can take any of your draft file (even plain text) and automatically convert it to a proper screenplay format with a single click. It’s considered to be a worthwhile alternative for Final Draft (the screenwriting software for professionals), at a smaller price.
Finally, Highland 2 hardly has any redundant features.
Highland 2 is the simplest way you can write a professional screenplay that is ready to go into production.
Moreover, it’s the first screenwriting application to enable gender analysis. It can tell you how many times and how many words each of your male and female characters speak, and what would happen if the roles were reversed.
Highland 2 Pricing
Highland 2 offers two versions:
- Highland 2 (free) – lifetime access to limited features.
- Highland 2 Pro – $49.99 upgrade that gives access to all features.
The free version of Highland 2 is generous enough to fulfill your basic screenwriting needs.
10. Movie Magic Screenwriter
Movie Magic Screenwriter has been the screenwriting software used by professionals for decades. Its latest version Movie Magic Screenwriter 6 has geared up all the screenwriting tools and features you can imagine under one platform. At the same time, it is simple, easy to learn, and doesn’t require any training on the screenwriters’ part.
However, if you still want to understand all of Movie Magic Screenwriter’s features, it not only offers you a paper manual, but an electronic manual, sample documents, and a 35-page production PDF guide to get you writing.
- Simple installation and automatic updates
- 100+ screenwriting templates
- 8 instructional templates
- Real-time formatting
- Easy to track edits and revision history
- 4 navigation panels for outline, scenes, notes, and bookmarks
- Spell checks, dictionaries, and thesauruses for multiple languages
- Quick import and export feature for multiple file formats
- Text-to-speech feature to hear dialogues
- Auto backup installed
- Online collaboration enabled
- Production breakdown with industry-standard colors
Movie Magic Screenwriter offers the best user experience for professional writers by allowing them customizable features and tools that make screenwriting process flexible. It saves time and enables writers to have a seamless editing experience without having to worry about the technical aspects of the script.
Movie Magic Screenwriter 6 doesn’t leave out any important feature in the screenwriting game. It separates script navigation from the writing screen in order to make toolbars user-friendly and clean.
Moreover, if you have a production company and want a lot of collaborators to work on the same draft, the software guarantees you the ease of access you need.
Movie Magic Screenwriter Pricing
Movie Magic Screenwriter 6 is available for macOS and Windows for:
- Regular Version – for $249.95, you can access Movie Magic Screenwriter version 6 with all of its features on any of your devices (Mac, Windows)
- Academic Version – if you are a full-time student or teacher at an accredited high school, college, or university, with proof of identification you can buy the Movie Magic Screenwriter for $99.95.
- Upgrade – if you have earlier versions of Movie Magic Screenwriter installed, you can upgrade to the latest version for $89.95.
You can buy the Movie Magic Screenwriter today at a special price of $129.
Slugline is the simplest screenwriting software as it only requires you to focus on the writing while it takes care of the rest. It uses the plain text screenplay format Fountain that can preserve your screenplay for any device.
It doesn’t require any kind of training or manual – just open the application and start writing.
- Infer formatting feature that autoformats when you type
- Supports common keyboard shortcuts for emphasis
- Invisible elements for real-time print preview
- Autocomplete popup when needed
- Customizable on-screen screenplay size
- Distraction-free, full-screen mode
- Write anywhere, copy-paste it on Slugline
- Supports collaboration
- Flexible outlining for any approach
- Drag and drop interface
- Simplified color-coded notetaking
- Live compare to track changes revisions
- Paging according to industry-standard rules
- Preview before print
The best part about Slugline is that it keeps everything minimal. For any screenwriter who hates the technical process of screenwriting, Slugline is the right way to avoid all sorts of clutter.
It makes the entire process organized and clean from breaking down a script to outlining, synopses, and making notes.
Slugline’s Fountain support makes it the most accessible application for screenwriters. It’s best for screenwriters who new to screenwriting because of its simple, elegant, and attractive interface.
It takes care of every formatting aspect of screenwriting and gives writers creative freedom and the time to solely focus on their craft.
Slugline is available for download on macOS and iOS devices:
- Free Version – it has a 6-page limit for writing, your short films will never need an upgrade.
- Upgrade Version – unlimited writing upgrade for $49.99.
You can try Slugline for free today.
Storyist is not only a screenwriting solution but it’s also the place where you can carry out the entire story development process from researching and planning to writing and editing. Even though it’s available only for iPad, Mac, and iPhone users, it’s still worth mentioning.
- Color-coded index cards and photos for brainstorming
- Story development forms for plot, character, setting, and section
- Word count and deadlines tracking
- Text snippets shortcut
- Educational resources, guides, and tutorials
- Theme builder including dark mode
- Print-ready pdf tool
- Project organizer to keep all your screenwriting documents
- Create or use pre-existing templates
- Import and export enabled for multiple formats
- Comment inspector for real-time feedback
- Autosave and duplicate versions
Storyist keeps the screenwriting process simple by only giving us the basics of editing and formatting. It offers users a distraction free mode and the flexibility to choose themes including dark mode.
It organizes the screenwriting process from preproduction to postproduction by giving it structure through its text, outline, and storyboard features.
Storyist is best for writers who want the smoothest screenwriting experience from the first draft to production instead of just writing software. It keeps everything neat and structured, while also giving you the liberty to save time, track your performance, and create without distractions.
Storyist is available for one-time purchase on iOS devices for $19 and on macOS for $59. Storyist also supports a free-trial.
How to Choose the Right Screenwriting Software?
It isn’t impossible to write scripts and screenplays without a tool, but it will be one heck of a task if you try doing it without the help of appropriate screenwriting software. That’s how the industry works.
Selecting the right screenwriting software will get easier if you know your project requirements and your personal interests. Here are a few basic questions that you should ask yourself before choosing a screenwriting program:
Do you want to get started quickly and need assistance with templates?
Are you a newbie screenwriter?
Are you working on a script with multiple other writers?
Are you working alone?
Do you want yourself involved in production management?
Your answers will help you select the best screenwriting software from the list above.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here's a list of answers to some of the most common questions about screenwriting software:
What is the best screenwriting software to use?
The best screenwriting software to use is the one that suits your needs and helps you improve productivity. Keep in mind screenwriting software can be a bit expensive, but the investment will pay off as it'll save you time and effort writing scripts or screenplays for movies, television shows, video games, and more. With that said, some of the best screenwriting software includes Squibler, Final Draft, and WriterDuet.
What software do script writers use?
The software that script writers use includes programs like Final Draft and Squibler and the many more listed above.
Can you write a script on Microsoft Word?
You can write a script on Microsoft Word, but it's not recommended as screenwriting software like Squibler is more suitable for writing scripts.
Do I need screenwriting software to write a screenplay?
No. You can just use word processing if you want to write a screenplay without any type of special program needed - though make sure to format properly so everything looks professional and neat.