Script Writing Software: 5 Apps Better & CHEAPER Than Final Draft
Formatting a screenplay can be rough unless you write in an application that does it for you. This is where script writing software comes in. Now when working with script writing software the most important thing is that it saves you time so you can focus on the creative process.
Here’s a quick guide to five script writing programs I recommend.
Best FREE Script Writing Software: Arc Studio Pro
Click Here: Arc Studio Pro (Free)
The HartChart Storytelling App
A Dynamic, Everyday Writing Tool Created by Master Screenwriter James V. Hart & Francis Ford Coppola
Created by famed screenwriter James V. Hart, the writer behind films like Steven Spielberg’s Hook, Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula and Robert Zemeckis’ Contact. The HartChart is an indispensable story mapping tool to provide a practical, easy to use solution to your blank page fears and writing struggles. Import your existing scripts or start from scratch on a new story. As the HartChart enables you to analyze and visualize your character-driven narrative it will lead you through a process that helps you build a great story to a satisfying ending… every, single, time.
Click here for HartChart App ($89.95/year)
If you want to go deeper down the rabbit-hole with James you can check out his award-winning masterclass below.
Click here to gain instant access James V. Hart’s HartChart Masterclass
Highland is the award-winning screenplay editor that lets you focus on the words, not margins. Designed by screenwriter John August (Big Fish, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory) and his team, Highland is the better way to write movies and television. You write. Highland handles the formatting. Along the way Highland turns your words into a perfectly-formatted screenplay, ready for export as an FDX or PDF.
Quickly toggle between your text and your screenplay preview with ⌘-E, seeing your work in progress without your hands ever leaving the keyboard.You’ll love working in an editor designed for writing, not for mimicking a printed page. John August speaks in great detail on why he writes in Highland on his excellent podcast: ScriptNotes
Fountain screenplays are simply text files. They’re never locked in proprietary file formats or dependent on obsolete software.
A screenplay written in Fountain will always be readable in any text editor, freeing you to write anywhere and on any device. It’s as easy as writing an email.
Notes you’ll actually use
Fountain notes live inside double brackets
[[ ]] inline with your text. Hit ⌘-Y to quickly create a note in Highland. You’ll never miss a reminder, or lose an idea behind a tiny icon.
Learn more here: Highland & Fountain ($29.95)
Script It! is the lite version of professional screenplay development software Movie Outline which was created by a produced writer to take the complexity out of the screenwriting process. While Movie Outline can be used by both the novice and professional writer, Script It! has fewer features but is ideal for the first time writer learning the craft of screenwriting. Both programs use the simple technique of step-outlining to build your screenplay scene by scene, allowing you to focus on each key event of your script without losing sight of the bigger picture.
Industry Standard Script Writing Software & Formatting
Focus on your screenplay and let Script It! handle the formatting through “Tab and Enter” keyboard shortcuts. Auto-complete guesses character names as you type dialogue, suggests scene headings and transitions and automatically paginates your script to industry-standard layout. Script It! also auto-converts elements as you type, so if you enter a scene introduction or transition, the text will change to the correct element, saving you even more time.
Outlining & Story Organization
Many novice screenwriters make the mistake of leaping head first into a full screenplay without taking the crucial first step of outlining their story – otherwise known as “step-outlining”. A step outline is essentially a step by step breakdown of your story into key events and this means that each “step” can consist of more than one “scene”. Script It’s intuitive design helps you build and navigate your outline, script and notes step by step through an AV remote-style console.
Glossary of Screenwriting / Filmmaking Terms & Definitions
For beginners learning the craft of screenwriting, or professionals with limited understanding of film-financing and production terminology, Script It! has a glossary with over 250 screenwriting and film-making definitions. As a screenwriter, you never stop learning and there is no substitute for reading shooting scripts of produced movies which are now freely available in PDF format on the web and can easily be downloaded for reference. You can then compare various writing styles and see the professional use of terms contained in the glossary.
Overall Script It! is a great software for screenwriting. For more info goto: Script It! ($49.95)
Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft.
Writing a novel, research paper, script or any long-form text involves more than hammering away at the keys until you’re done. Collecting research, ordering fragmented ideas, shuffling index cards in search of that elusive structure—most writing software is fired up only after much of the hard work is done.
Enter Scrivener: a word processor and project management tool that stays with you from that first, unformed idea all the way through to the final draft. Outline and structure your ideas, take notes, view research alongside your writing and compose the constituent pieces of your text in isolation or in context. Scrivener won’t tell you how to write—it just makes all the tools you have scattered around your desk available in one application.
Scrivener puts everything you need for structuring, writing and editing long documents at your fingertips. On the left of the window, the “binder” allows you to navigate between the different parts of your manuscript, your notes, and research materials, with ease. Break your text into pieces as small or large as you want – so you can forget wrestling with one long document. Restructuring your draft is as simple as drag and drop. Select a single document to edit a section of your manuscript in isolation, or use “Scrivenings” mode to work on multiple sections as though they were one: Scrivener makes it easy to switch between focussing on the details and stepping back to get a wider view of your composition.
With access to the full power of the OS X text system, you can add tables, bullet points, images and mark up your text with comments and footnotes. Format as you go using the format bar at the top of the page, or use any font you want for the writing and let Scrivener reformat your manuscript after you’re done – allowing you to concentrate on the words rather than their presentation.
Who Uses Scrivener?
Scrivener is used by all sorts of professional and amateur writers, from best-selling and aspiring novelists to Hollywood scriptwriters, from students and academics to lawyers and journalists: anyone who works on long and difficult writing projects. While many other writing project management tools impose their own workflows or limit themselves to fiction-writing, Scrivener recognises that all writers of long-form texts often face similar problems, and provides an array of flexible tools that allow you to do things your way, no matter what kind of writing you do. Those currently using Scrivener include:
- Short-Story Writers
- Academics and Students
- Comics and Graphic Novel Writers
Click here for Scrivener ($45.00)
BONUS: Save The Cat! The Last Story Structure Software You’ll Ever Need
This is not a script formatting software but a hell of a story structure app. Structure your screenplay the Save the Cat! way, with the method used by one of Hollywood’s most successful spec screenwriters. Based on Blake Snyder’s best-selling book, Save the Cat! The Last Screenwriting Book You’ll Ever Need, this revised and updated software guides you through the complete story development process, step-by-step, from title to logline.
Use The Board, the fabled device seen in executive offices all over Hollywood, which allows you to “see” your movie when you create moveable, numbered, color-coded scene cards before you begin writing. The Board is broken down into four rows, 10 cards per row for a total of 40 (though you can add more) — a good average count for the number of beats in the average movie.
The Beats and Beat Cards – The scene cards that are automatically created for the 15 beats remain linked to the beat, so if you change the description for the beat, the description in the card changes—and vice versa. Plus, you can use these additional, optional beat cards on the Board from Save the Cat!® Strikes Back
- 3 Set-Up Cards – one each for “At Home,” “At Work,” and “At Play”
- Debate – “Home” and “Work”
- Fun and Games – 4 cards, alternating between B Story and Fun and Games
- “Internal” and “External” cards for Bad Guys Close In
- 5 Finale cards for the elements of Blake’s Five-Point Finale: “Gathering the Team,””Executing the Plan,” “The High Tower Surprise,” “Dig Deep Down,” and “The Execution of the New Plan.”
Click here for more on: Save the Cat ! The Last Story Structure Software You’ll Ever Need ($29.95)
I love Save the Cat. Check out my mind-blowing interview with Jose Silerio from Save the Cat: IFH 071: Save the Cat – Screenwriting Story Structure Made Easy
Oliver Stone, (Platoon, Scarface, Wall Street)
Eric Roth, (Forrest Gump, Dune, Benjamin Button)
John August, (Aladdin, Big Fish)
James V. Hart (Hook, Dracula, Contact)
Jim Uhls (Fight Club)
What Script Writing Software do You Use?
Everyone has their opinions on which is the best script writing software. I’d love to know your opinion. What do you like? What do you use? What doesn’t work for you? Let me know in the comments. Happy writing!
- Bulletproof Screenplay Script Coverage Service – Get Your Screenplay Covered by Industry Pros
- The Foundations of Screenwriting: Writing for Television & Netflix
- BPS Presents: Writing for Emotional Impact (FREE AUDIOBOOK)
REAL-WORLD STREAMING SCREENWRITING EDUCATION
- Indie Film Hustle TV (On-Demand Real-World Screenwriting Education)
- Storytelling Blueprint: Hero’s Two Journeys
- The Dialogue Series: 38 hours of Lessons from Top Hollywood Screenwriters
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Save the Cat Software Transcription:
You may be wondering why this article is called technique over technology and the reason behind it is that I feel today’s filmmakers rely more on technology than the technique of filmmaking itself. I recently wrote an article on why shot composition is so important. My film school instructors drilled this into us as it is a key element to filmmaking and telling the story. If you follow me on twitter then you would have seen a post I did earlier this week at how many different types of books I have in my closet on filmmaking. They ranged from technical books to directing the shot. Sure they many seem like paper weight to some but I still go back and look through them because I do learn a new technique everytime I do.
For 13 years I have been mastering the art of framing shots on over 200 Films, Commercials, and Live Events. Do I know how to light, yes I do but the framing and composition on top of the lighting tell’s the story. I love technology just as much as any other filmmaker, but we must not forget the technique of filmmaking.
I remember doing my internship at Panavision many moons ago and for 3 months straight all I did was load film camera magazines. I have loaded every 35mm and 16mm camera brand you can think of from Panavision to Arri to Moviecam. Once I mastered that I moved onto the inner workings of each camera and how is acts. These steps save my bacon on set 2 times so far in my career as I am watching the producer sweat bullets. These steps is what makes you stand out from other camera assistants and filmmakers. If you are not interning then find a local rental house near by and ask if you can play with some of their gear. This will show the other filmmakers in the prep bay that you have a willingness and drive to learn the equipment and do things the right way.
While still trying to get my foot through the door in the film community I decided to work in the audiovisual field where I would cut my teeth at properly loading and unloading 18 wheelers full of audio video and lighting gear stacked 7 feet high above me. Learning this taught me how to load a bunch of camera gear into much smaller trucks in a smart safe way. There is not a big difference between the film industry and audiovisual industry as one has more people working on the same project than the other. I have learned many different techniques from both film and audiovisual that I applied to both industries on many different projects.
Learning and practicing how to do things the right way is key because if you mess up then it shows you how to learn from that mistake. I am not saying that I am perfect as I am far from it as I am human too, but if you are on set or show site and you do mess up then let your leader or department head know immediately. It’s better to admit your mistake right then instead of after the fact. The one thing that practicing in your off time will give you are chances to mess up, on a real project if you mess up then you don’t get a second chance.
If you are able to go to film school then do it, if not then try to watch as many films as you can and take your camera out every day and practice different shots. It does not have to be a Red or a BlackMagic, it can be a handycam. If you are serious about becoming a filmmaker as a cinematographer, camera operator, camera assistant, etc..then learn the technique and practice over and over.
I remember when I was coming up through the business you had to do it the “Old Hollywood Way” which meant working your way up the ladder from a PA to a Camera PA to a Film Loader etc..That is is still true to this day on bigger projects. Shooting on 35mm and 16mm was still king back in 2003 as digital really did not start to take off until 2006. Through the years we all wanted 24 frames per second, now we have that and a lot more in what I refer to as the “All in One Coke Machines”.
The industry is all hyped up on 4k and cropping it in post that we don’t realize that as much time as it takes us to crop that shot in post we could have easily switched lenses. Sure there are times and situations where we need to crop in but come on don’t take the lazy way out. Taking that extra 5 seconds to switch lenses because it does make a difference in how your shot looks. If anything use a zoom lens and in-between questions zoom into your subject a little more. Go from a medium shot to a close-up.
All of these digital cinema cameras are very nice but if you don’t know the techniques then what good does that do you. It will make your project look like crap as I have seen it before.
Someone once said to me that there are people in this business that want to do it and there are some that really want to do it. That is what I tell everyone when I am a guest speaker or when I do workshops. If you have a hard work ethic and are driven then people will notice right away. Whether you are a hobbyist, semi-professional or a seasoned veteran like me you never stop learning.
Always be a sponge, do I know a lot of techniques sure but you can always teach a new dog old tricks. Someone might have a different technique that they have learned that might work for you and make your job easier. Always remember that filmmaking is a collaborative effort by everyone, leave your egos at home and don’t throw anyone under the bus because that no only embarrasses the person but it embarrass you as well.