One of the advantages of being a writer is that the bar of entry is low. You don’t need to invest in a bunch of expensive equipment to write your masterpiece. All you REALLY need is a pen and paper (or if you plan on making lots of mistakes, like I do – a pencil with a good eraser).

And what if your plan is to be a screenwriter? Sure, you can pick up a used typewriter and drive your neighbors batty with the tsssk tsssk tsssk of the keys. Or, you could type up your script in Word. Of course, trying to format your screenplay in Word will be a big chore. So annoying, in fact, that you may even give up screenwriting altogether!

Free Script Writing Software Online

Fortunately, you can still embark on your career as a screenwriter without spending hard earned cash on screenwriting software. After testing various movie script writing software for Mac and PC, we’ve assembled a list of our favorites.

Read on and find out what your free script writing software options are and feel free to share your own script writing software reviews and tips in comments.

Free Script Writing Software Reviews

Celtx Review

celtx

The lowdown: Celtx offers a free “basic” plan for screenwriters. This is a cloud-based screenwriting program; features include scriptwriting, snippets, FDX Import, and online support.

Celtx is free script writing software for Mac. A mobile app is also available for iOS.

In-depth: Supply your basic information (first/last name and email address) to set up a new Celtx account and start using their free script writing software online. The great thing about Celtx is that once you open a new file, you don’t have to worry about formatting. The software ensures your screenplay is formatted to industry standard, whether you are writing from the feature screenplay template or the tv template. Simply by pressing a combination of the “enter” and “tab” keys on your keyboard, your work will be properly formatted. BTW – you can also create Audioplays, A/V, and comics in the free Celtx version, cool!

What the heck is that grey bar? Once you create a new screenplay or teleplay document in Celtx, you’ll notice a grey bar at the very top of the page. This grey bar represents the SCENE HEADING. You’ll input “Interior” (INT.) or “Exterior” (EXT.) as well as the scene location, and time of day. Here is an example:

celtx_review2

After you hit “enter”, you will be automatically bumped down into the next line of the script to write the “scene description.” This is where all of the action takes place.

Characters: After you write your action, you can press “enter” and then “tab.” This sequence takes you to a new line, where you input your character name. Celtx auto saves all of your character names in the file. This makes your job easier – you can save your typing muscles for actually writing.

Dialogue: After inputting your character name, press “enter” and write some dialogue.

As you can tell, with Celtx you don’t have to spend a lot of time thinking about screenplay formatting. With a few simple keyboard shortcuts using the “enter” and “tab” keys, you can quickly navigate through the formatting process quickly and easily.

Cheat sheet to most commonly used keypad shortcuts:
Press “enter” after the scene heading to write action.
Press “enter” and then the “tab” key after action to write character name.
Press “enter” after character name to write dialogue.
Press “enter” after dialogue to create a new character.
Press the “tab” key twice to write action.
Press the “tab” key thrice to create a new scene heading.

Celtx free scriptwriting software also gives you shortcuts to create transitions from scene to scene (such as fade out, fade in, and smash cut), as well as parentheticals (within dialogue) and and shot direction (close up, zoom out, POV).

Of course, all of the other formatting accouterments you’ve come to expect in any standard writing program also apply. These include bold, italics, and underlining features.

Snippets: Celtx also gives you the option to share a short snippet of your script via social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter. This is a great way to generate interest in your project, fish for feedback, compliments, or both!

One thing that is absolutely crucial in my opinion is the ability to import/export screenplays from other formats, such as Word, Final Draft, and PDF. Why? When you work with as many clients as I do, it’s necessary to be able to import a client’s file into a standardized format. In years past, I spent MANY HOURS reformatting from FDX to say, Word (for a client who doesn’t have FDX). Needless to say, I don’t waste my time with that anymore.

Celtx provides for the import/export of the following file types:

  • Final Draft (.fdx)
  • MS Word (.doc and .docx)
  • PDF
  • Text (.txt)
  • Rich Text (.rtf)

I wanted to do a test and see how well the formatting was, particularly from Celtx to text. Check out this export, from Celtx to text:

celtx_review1

Pretty good, eh? This is a great tool to provide clients who don’t use screenwriting software an opportunity to open the file and add their two, three, sometimes four cents!

How to import a file into Celtx? Create a “new” project in Celtx, and then selected the “Import from File” in the drop down menu. And then? What, eat an ice cream sundae? Nope, you sit your butt in the chair and start writing.

Short Script Gods Review Score: Solid A.

At $0.00, Celtx is a steal for any entry-level or intermediate screenwriter. What particularly endears Celtx to my writerly heart is the ability to shift scenes around within the “scene navigator” panel. If the script’s flow isn’t quite right, sometimes all that’s needed is a quick reorder of scenes, which is what the scene navigator is perfect for thanks to the simple “drag and drop” function.

I also love the ability to add notes within the document. These notes are hidden from view post-it notes, and are not printable. However, when working with other writing partners, it’s great to be able to make comments on changes, etc. An additional feature that comes along with this free script writing software is the ability to track changes within the document. Any new changes made by you or your writing partners are denoted by a different color. When it comes time to print, these changes will have an asterisk after the word.

Should you upgrade to Celtx Pro? There are a lot of other cool features if you upgrade to the next tier at $8.25 per month. Screenwriting-wise you get the added benefit of reverting to previous drafts. This is nice if you have spent too much time in your story and getting a bit of tunnel-vision. Maybe you had a friend read your script, they they’re like… “Hmmm… It was so much better five drafts ago…” Well, fear not. You can simply revert back to that last draft. And maybe also give yourself some space from the script to return with fresh eyes, eh? In addition to this cool feature, you also get a bunch of other benefits such as storyboard tools, shot lists, scene breakdowns for various film departments, and budgets.

Fade In Review

fade-in

The lowdown: Fade In offers a free plan for screenwriters that includes everything they offer in the paid version. This is a cloud-based screenwriting program, equipped with screenplay templates, offering a clean workflow.

Fade In is free script writing software for Mac and PC. Mobile versions for iOS and Android are also available.

In-depth: I’m a fan of the clean look of the Fade In interface. The software keeps track of character names and scene descriptions. However, the workflow was a bit foreign to me. You see, Action is represented by an “A”, Character by a “C”, Dialogue by a “D” – okay, so writing it out here, it’s pretty intuitive, right? But for whatever reason working in the script mode, I had to think a split second longer than usual. And I really need that split second. Another thing that took me a bit of time to process was the trashcan icon. Apparently, when you finish writing out a line of dialogue, or description, or whatever element it is – and you don’t want to keep that line, you hit the “trashcan.” A bit counter-intuitive for me, as I usually consider trash equals tossing the entire document in the dumpster. Not the case with Fade In. I presume this will simply become second nature, and within 24 hours I’d probably grow to love the set-up.

Here’s a screenshot to show you what I mean:

FadeIn_review

 

Fade In provides for the import of the following file types:

  • Final Draft (.fdx)
  • MS Word (.doc and .docx)
  • PDF
  • Text (.txt)
  • Rich Text (.rtf)
  • Scrivener
  • Adobe Story
  • Celtx

Fade In provides for the export of the following file types:

  • Final Draft (.fdx)
  • MS Word (.doc and .docx)
  • PDF
  • Text (.txt)
  • Rich Text (.rtf)

In terms of importing other file formats, for the Fade In free version, you must login to Dropbox to import pre-existing material. While this isn’t a biggie for most people, I really like to streamline my process. If I neglected to import one of my drafts into Fade In it may slow me down in the writing process. Not a bother for most, but having to login into Dropbox feels like a ball and chain for me. Otherwise, the free software is great.

Short Script Gods Review Score: A

Should you upgrade to Fade In? At $49.99 the price is right. With pro, you are able to print your pages without the Fade In watermark, which definitely boosts up your professional reputation. Overall, I’m pretty happy with this free software, although it would take me some getting used to. With the pro version, all future updates are included (unlike some other screenwriting software programs). Plus, the folks at Fade In do frequent updates, so it’s nice to know this isn’t a fly-by-night kind of outfit, these developers really seem to want to make their product a good one.

Writerduet Review

writerduet

The lowdown: Writerduet’s main attraction is the ability to collaborate with your writing partner in real time. Hence, the name “duet” – has a romantic ring to it, don’t it? Like Celtx, Writerduet is an online script writing software, meaning you write your screenplay within your browser. There is no software to install and the program runs for both Mac and PC. While Writerduet works on a variety of browsers, the developer says that it’s best-suited for Chrome.

In-depth: The free version offers a clean screen with a scene navigation bar on the left hand side of the browser. To get started, create a new document and start typing. I found the shortcut keys rather limiting. As a disclaimer – I often write on my iPad with a keyboard. While shortcut keys work for Celtx and Final Draft (which is the software I usually use), shortcut keys didn’t seem to work for me in Writerduet. I’ve yet to test it out on my regular laptop, so perhaps there are shortcuts? Anyway, Writerduet presents you with the crisp white page from the get-go, albeit with a somewhat thick sidebar. Does the clean page scare you? Not me, whenever I open a new document, I can’t wait to soil the crap out of the page. Moving on…

There is an easy-to-read menu at the top of the page in which you can create scene headings, action, characters, lines of dialogue, etc. While Writerduet manages fine for writers who work on their own, the real draw is for collaborations. To invite your writing partner to create magic along with you, simply email them an invite from your project page. Once they accept the invite, they will join you and can make script updates, chat, add notes, and more on any page within the shared document.

Writerduet comes with all the other standards you’ve come to expect, such as parenthetical so transitions, shots, bold, italic, underlines, spell-checker, etc. Some of the real standouts, however is the opportunity to speak your script into the microphone. That’s right, you can feel like top dawg with your very own digital secretary to dictate to. Your words will come out of your mouth and be written on screen, like you’re some kind of magician!

Writerduet provides for the import of the following file types:

  • Final Draft (.fdx)
  • Celtx
  • Fountain
  • MS Word (.doc and .docx)
  • PDF
  • Text (.txt)

Writerduet provides for the export of the following file types:

  • Final Draft (.fdx)
  • Celtx
  • Fountain
  • PDF

Short Script Gods Review Store: B- (for loners) B+ (for those with a tango partner)

Writerduet is a great free solution for writing partners. As I said, I prefer to work on my iPad for the mobility, and perhaps this was the reason why I didn’t have much luck with keyboard shortcuts. Another thing I keep hearing about Writerduet is that the support system is absolutely stellar, encouraging of feedback that can be implemented into new versions.

Curious how Writerduet works for writing teams? Check out the interview with Nichools Winners https://writerduet.com/blog/AlishaAndScottInterview

Should you upgrade to Writerduet Pro? WriterDuet Pro for $7.99 per month offers some cool features, including client-side encryption. What the heck does that mean? It means your script will be stored on WriterDuet servers, however it won’t be readable by anyone else, unless they have an extra password. Pretty cool! If you enjoy working offline, then it may be worth upgrading to pro. With pro, you can work offline and then save your work when you find an Internet connection later. You can also backup your script to Dropbox, GoogleDrive, and your computer. Before going pro, do test out the free version and see if working in-browser suits you and your partner.

Trelby Review

trelby

The low-down: Trelby is free script writing software that offers easy automated screenwriting formatting features, as well as multiple screen view options and reporting.

Trelby is free script writing software for Mac and PC.

In-depth: Trelby includes all the bells and whistles you would expect from script writing software: industry standard script format, pagination, character autocompletion, bold, italic, underline, etc. and spell checking.

Since it’s not a cloud-based script writing software, your work is not stored on someone else’s servers; your script is stored on your local hard drive. As such, you have the peace of mind knowing your screenplay won’t go “poof” if there is some kind of Scribbed.com scenario. Additionally, Trelby allows for multiple view options. View your script in “draft” view, WYSIWYG mode (“what you see is what you get”), or even full screen to block out other screen distractions.

Another neat thing – Trelby has a built-in character name database. As you are brainstorming or writing your script, you can search through the name database through over 200,000 names from many different countries. Be careful with this feature – you may sink into that “distraction” tunnel and when you finally come up for air realize that hours have passed and you haven’t written anything!

Trelby also offers scene, location, character, and dialogue reports. I use this feature a lot in Final Draft, particularly after the first draft. With a quick character report, you can read through each of your character’s dialogue. It helps you figure out if you’ve captured the voice consistently over the course of the script. You might even find that some lines of dialogue said by one character would be better suited to another character. Basically, it gives you a great bird’s eye view on dialogue.

Trelby offers the opportunity for you to compare scripts. How did your opening scene for draft three compare with the opening scene for draft two? Compare them and find out.

Keyboard shortcuts: While your script will be automatically formatted to WGA industry standard, there are a handful of keyboard shortcuts to memorize:

To write dialogue, press “ALT” + “d”.
To write action, press “ALT” + “a”.
You can right click your mouse to get a full menu of the various element changes, such as transitions, parenthetically, and scene headings.
To move between scenes, press “Ctrl” + up arrow key or “Ctrl” + down arrow key, depending if you want to move up to the previous scene or the next scene.
Press “F1” to enter fullscreen mode. That means no distraction (spshhh… So turn off your smartphone!)

A bit complicated, right? Having said this, Trelby does provide for the option to alter the keyboard shortcuts to whatever you want. You can make these alterations by going to “file”, then “settings”, and “change.”

There are other a few other shortcuts that may be useful to some and not so useful to others. For example, Trelby has typing intelligence. This means the first letter of every sentence will be upper cased. Fine. There are also typing automations, such as “i” will be automatically changed to “I”.

While Trelby does not provide for the import of word docs, FDX files, or PDFS, it does allow the user to export files as a PDF. However, it’s important to note that when exporting your PDF the script font within the program. To select your script font, you must choose it from your default within whatever program you open the PDF file in. Yeah, free often comes at a cost, right?

Trelby provides for the import of the following file types:

  • Final Draft (.fdx)
  • Celtx
  • Fountain
  • Adobe Story
  • Fade in Pro

Trelby provides for the export of the following file types:

  • Final Draft (.fdx)
  • Fountain
  • Text (.txt)
  • Rich Text (.rtf)
  • PDF
  • HTML

An additional note to PDF export: You can embed your chosen script font. Also included is the ability to create a custom watermark in case you want to track the shared drafts.

Short Script Gods Review Rating: B-.

Trelby is a fine free movie writing software. I like that it is not cloud-based, and that my work will always be saved to my personal hard drive. Trelby also allows you to have a “distractions free” full screen mode. This is a cool feature that a lot of other software downloads and cloud services don’t provide. Simply press F11 to enter this full-screen mode. However, I do find some of the autocorrect features a bit cumbersome. The last thing I want when writing a script is to feel micromanaged. It really takes me out of the writing process! One of the nice features of Trelby is the ability to find script errors in your draft. By typing “Ctrl” + “e”, Trelby will isolate blank lines, empty parenthetical a, and other empty elements for you to correct.

As Trelby states on their website, the software was written for users with keyboard and mouse. Since I write on the go, often from various locations – this set-up is less practical for me. However, others may find it useful.

Script It Review

scriptit

The low-down: Script It is a screenplay text processor with a variety of different features. Do everything from outline, script, and add notes. The program also offers a glossary where you can look up technical words.

In-depth: The objective of Script It is to… Well, script IT. It’s screenwriting software based on text processor that helps you write your script to industry standard. The software also comes with a bunch of additional tools to help you get started. Use the Outline mode to write up a short synopsis or story summary. You can easily refer to this outline, or modify it at any point during the writing process. There is also a section to write notes. Perhaps there is something you want to add to your script down the road. Or maybe you want to make some changes to some scenes or reorder them.

One of my downfalls is getting stuck down the research vortex. As I’m writing, I make a running list of things I want to go research later. I’ve learned that I work best when I save all my research after I’ve written pages that day. Breaking momentum during the writing process to spend on research is a major killjoy. So, I could really see myself using the notes feature of Script It.

Short Script Gods Review Rating: C+.

Script It Is a decent place to start. I like the ability to outline, add notes, and also other tools such as word count. I’m giving Script It a “C+” because I don’t like that you can’t print or export your script with the free version. To print or export, you must upgrade. With so many other great free script writing software online, I feel like the ability to print and export should be included.

ScriptBuddy Review

scriptbuddy

The lowdown: ScriptBuddy is another web-based screenwriting software that lives within your browser. After opening an account on ScriptBuddy, you can start writing an industry-formatted screenplay.

In-depth: All of your projects are stored within your account, accessed only by your password. Like the other screenwriting programs, ScriptBuddy is WYSIWYG – your script looks in the browser is how it will look when you go to print or export. In addition to the to-standard script format, you can also outline your screenplay with numbered scenes.

Short Script Gods Review: C+

ScriptBuddy is a basic free program that has the added trick of numbering your scenes. Something unique to ScriptBuddy is the opportunity to publish your screenplay to the ScriptBuddy community for feedback.

PlotBot Review

plotbot

The lowdown: PlotBot is an online free scriptwriting program. After a simple sign up, you can quickly get started writing your automatically-formatted script directly in your browser.

In-depth: As a browser-based screenwriting program, PlotBot allows you to write your scripts online whether you are the only writer, or if you are collaborating with others. Each co-writer can make saved edits – at different times or simultaneously. If someone writes something that doesn’t move the plot forward, or it isn’t so dashing, PlotBot allows you to undo and revert to a previous version. Since you can write a script on your own or with others, the project you create is private and only viewable by those you’ve shared it with.

PlotBot allows for the export of the following file types:

  • Final Draft
  • RTF

Short Script Gods Rating: B-

PlotBot caters to writer collaborations. Similarly to WriterDuet, the program functions entirely within your browser. As it is stored on the PlotBot server, you will only be able to write while you are connected to the Internet. This can be a downside for those you have a difficult time ignoring distractions. There is a workaround for those wanting to work offline, as your project can be exported to Final Draft (which isn’t free) or RTF. The program works well as you can revert to earlier versions, make edits,and add comments. A new feature is forthcoming, allowing writers to vote on which sections of the screenplay they like.

I hope these free script writing software reviews have given you some ideas on what screenwriting software may fit your requirements best. This list have provided a good mix of script writing software for both Mac and PC, as well as a few iOS and Android app options. While most of these programs are cloud-based, there are a couple that do give you the option to write your screenplay while offline. Always my personal preference.


Written by: Mich Medvedoff