“Okay, you’ve convinced me to write a script. But how do I write it?”
While it’s possible to write a script by hand or in any basic text program, it’s much easier to write your script in software meant for screenwriting. You should be focused on the creative side of writing; let the software handle everything from setting the proper margins for dialogue to automatically adding scene numbers when you’re ready to go into production.
Below are some of our favorite screenwriting tools in 2022.
Final Draft 12
We reccomend this software for professionals.
If you plan to make your living writing screenplays or you’re writing scripts that are going to go into production with large budgets and crews, the industry standard is the way to go.
|Available on:||macOS, Windows, iOS|
|Primary File Format:||.fdx|
|Can Also Import:||.txt, .rtf, .fcf, .pdf|
Final Draft is the industry standard screenwriting tool in Hollywood and the majority of professional screenwriters use it. This software has wide-ranging capabilities including differing between production drafts and creating character reports. The helpful SmartType function also remembers your characters and locations so you don’t have to type them out every time.
Final Draft is by far the priciest software choice on this list. Additionally, with so many drop-down menus and options, Final Draft can also be visually cluttered to look at and difficult to navigate though.
Perhaps most importantly, the software has the tendency to be a little buggy, making it hard to move around within your document for quick edits. It may be the Hollywood “industry standard,” but that sometimes just means it’s widely complained about across the industry.
We recommend this software for beginners.
If you’re just dipping your toe into screenwriting for the first time, then StudioBinder can be a great way to learn your way around the format without spending any money.
|Available on:||Web Only|
|Primary File Format:||Cloud-based Saving (Can only download as PDF)|
|Can Also Import:||N/A|
StudioBinder is meant to be used for all your pre-production needs. With StudioBinder you can write your scripts, share them with others, and create numerous other documents needed to make a film (story boards, shot lists, schedules, and call sheets…More on all of those later!). But the biggest pro is that it’s FREE.
Studio Binder lacks some of the capabilities of the other more expensive options. For example, you can’t create a title page, adjust your formatting beyond the standard screenplay format (making dual dialogue and font changes impossible) and you can only export your document as a PDF.
Additionally, since StudioBinder is meant as a pre-production software, they automatically add scene numbers to your script. Traditionally, these aren’t added until the screenplay is getting ready to go into production. If you’re writing a script to shoot it yourself, this isn’t really a problem. However, if you’re planning to send your screenplay into a competition or show it to the film industry at large, having scene numbers can come off as a little presumptive… As if you’re saying, “Of course this screenplay is about to go into production with no re-writes needed.”
We recommend this software for beginners with big aspirations!
If you’re just getting started as a screenwriter, but already know that this is something you want to pursue “seriously” — writing nights and weekends or putting real money into your short films — then Fade In is the best option for you.
If down the line, a movie studio insists that you switch over to Final Draft…Then you can ask them to pay for it.
|Price:||$99.95, trial available|
|Available on:||Web Only|
|Primary File Format:||.fadein|
|Can Also Import:||.fdx, .rtf, .fountain, .fdr, .fountain, .celtx|
A favorite of many professional screenwriters who have gotten fed up with Final Draft, Fade In is an easy-to-use alternative. It may lack some of the more granular capabilities of Final Draft, but it makes up by being elegant, visually clear, and rarely crashing.
While it’s certainly cheaper than Final Draft, it’s still more expensive than other introductory screenplay softwares.
We recommend this software for the all-purpose writers.
If you’re someone who has always loved writing and is considering trying out a screenplay for the first time, but are annoyed by the rigid formatting, then Highland is a great call for you. Likewise, if you think you may want to pause your screenplay to go work on a short story/poem/novel, then Highland will likely be right up your alley as you can write anything you’d like in the Fountain format.
|Price:||Free version or $69.99 to upgrade to Pro|
|Primary File Format:||.highland|
|Can Also Import:||.fdx, .pdf, .fountain, .markdown, and .txt|
Highland was created by professional screenwriter John August (Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), and uses a unique file format called Fountain files. That means while you’re writing in Highland, you don’t have to worry about indenting every line to the proper place (avoiding the need to constantly hit the tab key). It allows the writer to just focus on writing the words themselves without dealing with pesky formatting concerns. Highland also has the ability to import PDFs into editable Highland files.
For starters, Highland is only compatible with Apple products at this point, so Windows users need to look elsewhere. Additionally, some people find the lack of formatting while writing disorienting, liking to see their script in screenplay format as they go rather than needing to toggle between writing and previewing your script. Additionally, while the free version is appealing, if you want to export your document without a huge Highland watermark on it, you’ll have to shell out for Highland Pro.
We recommend this software for long-distance writing teams.
WriterDuet is really only suited for writing teams who aren’t able to write together often. If you’re able to be in the same room together, it might be preferable to pick another software and look at one screen together. But if you need to be miles away from your writing partner, then this is a great option to let you both work in the same document at the same time.
|Price:||Paying monthly, the tiers are: Free, Plus ($9.99), Pro ($11.99), and Premium ($13.99)|
|Primary File Format:||.wdz (WriterDuet)|
|Can Also Import:||.fdx, .pdf, .celtx, .fountain, .rtf|
This collaborative screenwriting software is meant for writing teams who aren’t always in the same room. With real-time collaboration and a chat box, your workflow with a writing partner (or partners) will be infinitely more seamless than emailing PDFs back and forth.
If you’re not a writing team, you’re better off looking elsewhere as this is really tailored to the team-writing experience.
While these are our personal favorites, there are many more software options out there! If none of these seem like the right fit for you, consider checking out Movie Magic (Windows only), Celtx (cloud-based and affordable), and so many others.
If you want some more insight into writing screenplays and other pre-production documents, check out our post on that here.