11 Best Screenwriting Software of 2021 (Free and Paid)
The streaming wars are in full swing and there’s more global film talent than ever before.
If you’re a professional screenwriter looking to break into the film industry, you no longer have to be located in Hollywood or brush elbows with movie producers daily.
Today, all that you need is a computer, screenwriting software, a literary agent, a knack for writing, (and a lot of luck). To get your script from page to screen, you need the best screenwriting software.
Essentially, screenwriting software helps you perform composition, editing, formatting, and printing of scripts used in films, television, or video games.
It helps scriptwriters in meeting the stringent formatting guidelines of the industry, study and correct language and grammar, and keep back-ups of their documents. This software eliminates the need for manual formatting to get your script in line with industry standards.
With simple keyboard shortcuts, screenwriters can add action, dialogue, sluglines, scene headings, transitions, parentheticals, character names, and more. However, there are hundreds of screenwriting programs available on the market today.
To help you go from the dreaded blank page to a full script, I ranked and reviewed the best screenwriting software to use this year.
Let’s get started.
Here are my picks for the top 11 best screenwriting software to use:
1. Final Draft.
Used by 95% of Film and Television Productions.
Final Draft is a multi-award winning screenwriting software, initially released in 1990. In 2013, it was awarded a Primetime Emmy Engineering Award and is famously used by Netflix, NBCUniversal, Paramount, ABC, Pixar, and more.
With its wide range of features, Final Draft 11 is best suited for those looking to use the same industry-standard screenwriting software that major television shows and motion pictures use.
- Advanced brainstorming and visualization tools to collaborate with writing teams.
- Automatically paginates and formats scripts to industry standards.
- It allows you to organize and customize “beats”, including character arc, plot points, location ideas, research, and more.
- Story maps connect your visualizations and beat boards into your script.
- You can visually plan key milestones and plot points.
- Alternate dialogue lets you store as many versions of lines as you want.
- Keyboard shortcuts like Tab and Enter allow you to switch between dialogue and action quickly.
- It provides automatic file back-ups so you never lose your data.
- Revision mode provides a history of all changes when taking a script through production.
- Its fonts support over 97 languages.
- Text-to-speech support.
- Over 100 different templates to choose from.
- Available on and compatible with Windows, OSX, and iOS.
Final Draft is currently on sale for $199.99 as a digital download and allows two activations per purchase. They also offer a 30-day free trial to test it out. If you’re an educator, you can purchase an educational license for just $99.99.
Overall, it’s a great price to learn the most important piece of screenwriting software on the market.
Purchase Final Draft 11 today to start your screenwriting journey and get $50 off.
Celtx is a cross-platform, cloud-based screenwriting and media pre-production software. With 6 million global users, it is one of the best screenwriting apps in the market.
From script to shoot, this software provides you with tools that help you create better content quickly. The fact that it is a cloud-based software makes it easy for you to access your accounts from anywhere you want. Moreover, you can take advantage of Celtx’s powerful reports to gain actionable, production insight.
Celtx is best for screenwriters. It helps to turn simple, scattered ideas into full-fledged plans quite easily. It is also quite useful for playwrights and novelists.
- Has a simple, easy to learn, and intuitive user interface
- You can work online or offline with mobile apps for iPhone, iPad, and Android
- A single master file (for better organization, you can work off a single master file)
- Uses a rich text editor module for novel writing
- It can support the creation of production calendars and strip-boards
- Allows directors and writers to tag elements within each script
- Fully cloud-based solutions
- Designed for real-time collaboration
- All-in-one pre-production management
- Team tailored production workflow
- No longer available for free
- Focus is more on the whole pre-production process (in-depth screenwriting features aborted)
- The Copy paste option needs improvement
- PDF scanned scripts are not exported without OCR software
Celtx comes with three pricing plans.
- The ‘scriptwriting’ plan costs $20 per month, payable annually.
- The ‘video production’ plan costs $30 per month, payable annually.
- The ‘game production’ plan is $30 per month, billed annually.
If you pay monthly, you can save up to 33%. You can also obtain educational discounts by contacting the customer support to get an estimate.
WriterDuet is an excellent screenwriting software for writing and editing screenplays and other forms of mass media. It caters to a wide range of requirements and, apart from screenwriting, can be used in case of video editing and gaming as well.
The USP of the software is that it allows real-time collaboration of writers from remote locations and writing from different devices. Although it is not a free software tool, it allows three free scripts upon signing up.
WriterDuet is best for screenwriters and professional writers who require real-time collaboration to write down their ideas. It is also useful for educational tutorials.
- Allows you to install various plugins for better customization (for example an offline, traditional, file-based desktop software experience)
- Supports mobile devices and multiple browsers
- Signing up is free
- Supports a wide range of formats (offers high customizability here as well by enabling changes in script template)
- Fully integrated with SSL certification (scripts aren’t shared except through user request and authorized guest codes)
- Allows back-up copies to cloud storage services like Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, and your system
- Offers seamless services both online and offline
- Allows you to track all your edits
- Intuitive and user-friendly software
- Provides free, in-built tutorial upon sign up
- Only three free scripts (further scripting requires subscription)
- While offline working is possible, collaboration is not (you must be online to collaborate real-time)
- The primary focus is on the ‘Pro’ accounts
With WriterDuet, you get three free scripts. After that, you need to upgrade to a paid plan. The first plan is ‘Pro,’ which is available for $11.99 per month, payable annually.
You get a discounted price of only $79 if you take an annual subscription. For the second plan, you need to make a one-time payment of $199 to purchase the software.
With this plan, you get all the updates free for a lifetime.
Trelby, previously known as ‘Blyte,’ is a free and open-source screenwriting software. As of now, it operates on both Windows and Linux platforms and is currently available on Github.
Licensed under GPL, Trelby welcomes developers and screenwriters to collaborate and make the platform even better. Moreover, it comes with a built-in, highly configurable PDF generator.
Trelby is perfect for screenwriters and individual writers who are on a budget since the software is entirely free of cost. It is also suitable for educational purposes, demonstrations, and tutorials.
- Extremely user-friendly and intuitive user interface (infinitely configurable)
- Comes with an in-built screenplay editor (enforces correct script format, pagination, and spell checking)
- Compatible with multiple platforms
- Multiple choices of views to choose from
- Reporting options (scene/location/character/dialogue options)
- In-built ability to compare scripts (to identify changes, if any)
- Allows you to choose from a multitude of options while importing (Screenplay formatted text, Final Draft XML (.fdx), Celtx (.celtx), Fountain (.fountain), Adobe Story (.astx), and Fade In Pro (.fadein))
- Can generate PDF with custom watermarks adding to increased flexibility
- Has a rich, fully in-built character name database
- System requirements for the software to work are minimal, making it easy to run even on old systems
- The revision tracking feature needs some improvement
- Available only on Windows and Linux (not compatible with OSX)
- No bold, italics, or underlining option
- Long term support lacking (most recent updates are many years old)
- Online collaboration option is not available
- Supports the English language only (no characters outside the ISO-8859-1 set are compatible)
It is an open-source software tool and comes entirely free of cost. The codes are available on Github.
Initially released in 2007, Scrivener is one of the best screenwriting software tools for authors and novelists. One of the best screenwriting software in the market right now, it offers a wide range of activities, including organizing notes, drag-and-drop features, and editing multiple documents at one go.
It’s compatible with Windows, Mac, iOS, and Linux. The best part is that you can use it as a project management tool as well. On top of that, it can mimic a typewriter, ring-binder, and a scrapbook.
Scrivener comes with features like footnote support, MathType integration, and the ability to refer to a research library. Thus, it is an excellent screenwriting software for historical, fictional, and non-fictional authors. Templates for writing general and academic non-fiction are also available.
- You can switch instantly from editing a section of your document to editing the entire document
- Has a user-friendly and intuitive interface
- Familiar text editing (allows you to use bolds, italics, and other formatting options)
- You can import your files from numerous Word processors and extensions, including Microsoft Word docs, text files, PDFs, and more
- Includes an in-built ‘Corkboard’ that allows you to rearrange files using a simple drag-and-drop option
- Pools all features onto a single platform for easy reference
- Easy compilation of documents into one chapter
- 30-day free trial period
- You can choose your own font
- Video tutorials available for easy understanding
- It takes time to learn the software
- The same license isn’t applicable for different platforms
- There are some paid updates
The price varies depending upon the platform you will use it on. The Mac and Windows versions will cost you $45, while the iOS version is $19.99. You can also access some student discounts.
6. Fade In.
First released in 2011, Fade In is one of the best screenwriting software tools available in the market currently. It is widely used in the film industry and is compatible with multiple platforms like Mac, Windows, Android, Linux, and iOS. It is also one of the most affordable software tools on the market, offering great features.
Boasting of attributes like support for multiple languages, action-to-dialogue calculator, and well-rounded functionality for rewrites and revisions, it is becoming very popular as the new industry standard. In fact, it has been pitted as a direct rival of the software ‘Final Draft.’
Best for screenwriters who want seamless integration between their thoughts and the software they use. Fade In is primarily used by screenwriters working on major motion pictures in the film industry.
- Universal, state-of-the-art application interface
- Automatic script formatting
- Comes with an in-built autocomplete typing feature (suggest words as you type)
- Offers real-time collaboration (you can work on projects with multiple collaborators from remote locations)
- Provides complete image support (allows you to insert images directly into the document)
- Page-only, no distractions, full-screen mode available
- Support multiple file formats (text, HTML, and more)
- Offers cloud storage service (easy access from any location)
- Free software updates
- May cause compatibility issues between working from inside and outside the film industry
- The free version comes with the company watermark
You can use ‘Fade In’ for a limited time for free. After that, you need to purchase it by paying a one time fee of $79.95, which is one of the most reasonable rates in the market as of now. A distinct advantage is that the software updates in the future will be free.
7. KIT Scenarist.
Most users claim that KIT Scenarist is one of the best screenwriting software tools currently available in the market. It offers one of the most exceptional full scriptwriting experiences.
The best part is that it is free and open-source software that provides a very high degree of customizability. Moreover, it is used by more than 3000 authors worldwide and keeps up with the latest technology by providing updates nearly every month (more than 70 updates to date).
Very useful for high-level scriptwriting work in feature films and television series. It is also useful for authors and novelists and perfect for writers with a requirement in multiple languages, and statistical analysis.
- Compatible with Windows, Linux, Mac, iOS, and Android
- Has an all-in-one research module (collect necessary information, manage a list of characters, and store a variety of materials)
- Provides in-built card module (helps you build story development, providing you visualizations to work with)
- Comes with an in-built, rich formatting tool with script editor so that you can concentrate only on writing
- Offers services in multiple languages
- Export scripts in multiple formats (PDF, FDX, Fountain, and Docx)
- Option to use multiple themes (dark or light)
- Provides in-built statistical tools
- Fully integrated with in-built character and set management
- An online collaboration between multiple users is possible but at a subscription fee
- Cloud service use is a paid feature, after an initial 30-day free use
- Although it supports Android and iOS, the compatibility comes is not available free of cost
KIT Scenarist is a free software tool, available on the internet for use. However, if you want to use cloud services, you need to subscribe to a paid plan, after a 30-day free trial.
Movie Magic Screenwriter is an award-winning software that is perfect for screenwriting, novels, comic books, stage plays, musicals, and a lot more.
It offers free online videos to improve ease of use, and also enables users to download a free demo version to try the software out. It has been used in many Hollywood movies, including the hit series ‘Pirates of the Caribbean.’
Although Movie Magic Screenwriter is best for the film industry, it can also be used in the educational sector for assignment and research paper writing and submissions. However, despite new features, the high price makes it difficult for small organizations to use it.
- Very intuitive and flexible
- Automatically formats scripts to current industry standards (real-time, intelligent formatting)
- Allows you to tag characters and locations (when exporting to a scheduling program
- Has built-in collaboration tools (real-time)
- Color-coded features for easy reference and organization
- Highly customizable (changes the layout and modify interface)
- Includes a custom ‘NaviDock’ interface (this can contrast your script based on a variety of factors)
- Offers professionally compiled templates
- The option of real-time collaboration with multiple stakeholders from remote locations (iPartner feature)
- ‘Text-to-speech’ transformation feature
- Has a notes commander that allows you to quickly organize, access, view, and script your ideas
- One of the most expensive screenwriting software tools (although features are not as great as Final Draft)
Movie Magic Screenwriter has multiple pricing plans. The Movie Magic 6 is $169. The upgrade is priced at $89.95 (for Windows and Mac), whereas the 6.5 upgrade costs $69.95 (only for Mac). All of these have 3 activation options per purchase.
The ‘academic’ version has 2 activation options per purchase and costs $99.95.
9. Highland 2.
Highland 2 is one of the best screenwriting software in the market currently. However, as of now, it is compatible only with Mac. It has a user-friendly interface that is easy to navigate so that you can focus solely on your writing.
Additionally, it offers high customizability and is excellent for individuals or teams that have diverse requirements. It has a free version with minimal features. To access better, more advanced features, you need to upgrade to a paid version.
Highland 2 is an excellent software for Mac users, individuals, and bloggers who have a constant need for images. The numerous shortcuts that the software provides are also handy for blog editors and screenwriters who are just starting out.
- In-built automatic formatting mode (so that you don’t have to format)
- Take advantage of the ‘Sprint’ feature that allows you to track time while you get your work done
- Offers an in-built gender analysis tool (first script writing software to introduce this)
- Regular updates so that you are always abreast of the latest technology
- Feature-laden free version (5 PDF templates, two built-in editor themes and much more)
- Get automatic plain-text back-up at the frequency of your choice
- Provides excellent customer support
- ‘Scratchpad’ feature to take and leave notes about projects, much like using index cards or beat boards
- You can design your own themes with the ‘pro’ upgrade
- You get plenty of keyboard shortcuts
- The free version has watermarked PDF
- Only available for Mac
- Complaints of bugs with dual dialogue in PlayScript mode
Highland 2 currently has offers a free version with basic features. However, if you are looking for enhanced features, you can purchase the paid version for $49.99.
StudioBinder is one of the most popular screenwriting tools on the market right now. Known for its modern design, it comes with an easy-to-use interface.
Plus, it provides useful, fully customizable solutions for photo and video production companies to better manage their work, by pooling everything on to a common platform. It is trusted by thousands of companies all across the globe, including leaders like Spotify.
StudioBinder is best suited for large scale companies or expert individuals working on high-profile motion pictures or television projects. It is a bit difficult for small companies to afford. The free plan provides great options for educational use.
- Call sheets (create and send personalized call sheets and track RSVPs). You can add personalized call times and upload attachments
- Script breakdowns (import scripts and tag elements)
- Robust, highly customizable shot lists and storyboard builder
- In-built drag-and-drop interface
- Collate and send messages to the crew, vendors, and clients, all at the same time
- Offers a free version for use as long as you want
- The price is not feasible for small scale companies
- Too many options to choose from, which might get confusing for a beginner (the software is designed keeping experts in mind)
StudioBinder offers an instrumental free version that can be used indefinitely.
However, they also offer paid subscriptions for individuals and businesses.
- The individual plans start at $29 per month and go up to $99 per month, payable monthly. If you pay annually, you can save up to 15%.
- For businesses, the price starts at $249 per month and goes up to $1499 per month, payable monthly. Again, if paid annually, you get a chance to save up to 15%.
11. Page 2 Stage.
Initially released in 2004, Page 2 Stage is one of the best screenwriting software on this list. It appeals to a vast global audience as it offers its resources in 30 different languages. Initially a commercial product, now it’s completely free scriptwriting software.
It was formed to cater to people writing screenplays, scripts, and plays.
Since it is an open-source software tool, it’s best for individuals, businesses, and small agencies that are running on a smaller budget. You can also use it for educational, tutorial, and demonstrative purposes. Finally, it’s useful for writing basic scripts for television and movies.
- User-friendly and intuitive interface
- Unobtrusive copy protection (you can install it on as many computers you want)
- Four views (for multiple viewing types)
- Full editing capabilities for each view
- Zoom up to 200%
- In-built grammar check (automated corrections)
- Advanced auto-cheat feature (you can input the number of pages you require)
- Auto-save feature (saves content automatically after 20 seconds of no typing and 10 minutes of continuous typing)
- You can view the features page or download a demo to get hands-on experience before you start using
- Compatible only with Windows as of now
- Since it is free screenwriting software, no official around-the-clock support is available
It is free, open-source software available for download online. One other professional screenwriting software not yet included on this list is Script Studio.
One software option won’t make you the next Quentin Tarantino, Aaron Sorkin or John August overnight. However, professional screenwriting software can make things easier by assisting you in your journey towards producing a clean, formatted, error-free, pitch-ready script.
My ultimate recommendation is to use the tool that 95% of TV and movie studios use and go with Final Draft.
Is there any script writing software I didn’t mention on the list? Let me know in the comments.