With the rise of streaming platforms, the demand for good films and shows is assured. This has inspired many literary creatives to try and break through what used to be a very closed-off studio system.
The entertainment industry is more decentralized than ever. The spike in demand for content, along with the lessened costs of production has left room for new players to enter the game — and you’ll be happy to hear, there’s room for more.
Today, all you need is a computer (along with a metric ton of dedication) to write a screenplay that could change the direction of your career.
As exciting as that sounds, any writer with a wrinkle in their eye would know that in order to achieve literary greatness (or anything close to it), one must wrestle the titan that is perseverance. Missing plot points, loose ends and flat dialogue are all reasons to throw the towel and call it a day (with a day job at least I get to keep my hair!).
This is why screenwriters should set themselves up for success by acquiring the tools necessary for a well-rounded artillery — and no tool is more important, then the screenwriting software you choose to invest in both financially and mentally (look at those learning curves, baby!).
Just like a writer or storyteller, every screenwriting program remains unique while still serving a general purpose — in this case,to help you organize ideas and produce a finished script.
The screenwriting software industry has come a long way from the clunky text editors some writers have grown up with. Most screenwriters have learned to benefit from modern features included in a lot of screenplay software, so why should you deprive yourself of it!
From auto-formatted writing to features that help transition your script into an edited film, we’ll be exploring details and pricing from some of what I consider to be the biggest contestants in the story-development and screenwriting software world.
Here are my picks for the top 6 best screenwriting software to use:
It’s hard to discuss screenwriting software without referencing Final Draft. Having been here since 1991, it’s carved out a big piece of industry for itself — with most professional studio-writers using it as their go-to.
Final Draft and its wide range of story-development features is best used in the world of motion picture production. Since it’s an industry-standard, it's best suited for those trying to work with the same program that a lot of the big studio writers are using.
At the hefty price of $250 for a lifetime license, Final Draft has surely proven itself as an investment. Thankfully at that price you get two activations.
Final Draft currently offers an academic license at the price of $129.99, still with two activations included.
If you’re interested, you can try it out for free using their 30-day trial.
WriterDuet has been around for close to a decade and prides itself on being built for collaboration. With real-time co-writing, commenting, and in-app text and video chat, WriterDuet does a great job at simulating a writer’s room from the convenience of your laptop.
WriterDuet is best used for teams trying to collaborate on the same project. Having cloud-based capabilities allows this software to make it convenient for writers to work in groups — not to mention it has a pretty intuitive interface.
WriterDuet offers three different plans (Plus, Pro and Premium) ranging from $9.99 to $13.99 a month. If you decide to pay annually you can save 38%, with the plans ranging from $5.99 to $9.99.
If you’d like to give WriterDuet a try, they offer a Free Version of their software with limited features and a 3-screenplay maximum.
Teachers and students can get up to 50% off by reaching out to WriterDuet after purchasing a plan.
Pretend’s screenwriting tool is the newest on the market and is 100% FREE. Their focus is on providing an intuitive environment for the user to write and develop their stories. Their simple interface enables a distraction-free screenwriting experience, which is reinforced by their Auto-Formatting feature and simple keyboard shortcuts.
Done writing your script? You can even create shots directly on your screenplay and import footage into them once you’re done filming your script!
With their simple interface and auto-formatted screenwriting, Pretend is great for distraction-free writing sessions. They even have live chat on their website if you have any questions.
Since Pretend’s screenwriting tool is 100% free, that means you have access to all the screenwriting features and can write as many scripts as you want (and take as much time as you want to write them) without paying a dime!
Pretend’s Creative Cocoon Plan is completely free and allows you to use the screenwriting tools to their fullest potential—that even includes their shot-lining tool. You can register for an account here.
If you decide that you want to use Pretend’s video editing tools, that’s also free. You just have to purchase a Pro plan ($9.99/month) if you want to export watermark-free videos.
Having been around since 2007, Scrivener has established itself as one of the best software writing tools for writers of all kind including authors, novelists, journalists, academics and even non-fiction writers.
A very powerful screenwriting software tool, it offers revision tools so you can see changes made to your script.
Scrivener has amazing features to reference the writing material—like the ability to access a research library — which is why it’s best for writers embarking on a rather lengthy mission. They also have templates for academic non-fiction.
Scrivener 3 comes in at $53 for a lifetime license, however if they release a new version, you will have to pay for the upgrade.
You can also purchase their IOS mobile app for $19.99.
They also offer a 30-day free trial!
With more than 6 million users, Celtx is a popular app for screenwriters. Their writing tool is a part of a bigger production management web app that supports video productions and even game production!
Although they’ve focused on developing their production scheduling tools, they remain a strong app with plenty of useful features for story development and collaboration. Plans are subscription based so you can use it for as long as you need it!
Keep in mind that since they’re a web app, you need internet access to use most of their features.
This app is best for writers and directors working together on a screenwriting project in which they intend to be a part of the production.
They even offer features like a storyboard interface, revision tracking and progress reports so everyone involved can stay on the same page!
Celtx charges $20/month (or $15/month, billed annually) for their Scriptwriting Plan, which includes a “basic tool set for writing various video formats.” This plan does have a 10-project maximum—if you want to write more than 10 screenplays, the monthly price goes up.
They offer academic discounts for classrooms of 20+ students only.
A free trial lets you try some of their pro features for 14 days.
Arc Studio is one of the newer screenwriting desktop apps to enter the game, and is rapidly growing in the ranks.
With a minimalistic user interface that’s quick to learn, Arc Studio allows for a worry-free writing session, with tools to help you stay on track like “Sprint Mode” and customizable writing schedule notifications.
The Pro version features includes some impressive real-time collaboration and revision features.
All the tools to help you stay focused in Arc Studio Pro make it the best screenwriting tool for new screenwriters that need to stay focused on their train of thought.
The app auto-saves previous versions of your script so you never lose anything you’ve written.
Arc Studio offers three different plans.
With the free version you can still enjoy the distraction-free interface and automatic backups but you are limited to using their browser app as well as having a 2-script maximum and watermarks on your PDF exports.
The Essentials Plan, which comes in at $69/year (no monthly subscriptions available) allows for access to the desktop and mobile apps (with an unlimited amount of scripts) but you don’t benefit from any collaboration or outlining tools.For $99/year you can get the Pro Plan, which includes every feature available from outlining tools to real-time collaboration.
Depending on your needs, you might want to steer towards a screenwriting app that includes automatic script formatting, or perhaps an app that has real-time collaboration so you can stay in close contact with your team.
Still not sure which software is right for you? Why not give Pretend a try! The free plan has no restriction on their screenwriting tools and you can write as many scripts as you want! Click here to get a free Pretend account.
If you are not ready decide or purchase a plan just yet, try out some of the free trials listed above—or check out this article on the best free screenwriting software of 2022.