Finding the best screenwriting software in 2023 can be pretty confusing. With lots of different options available, it is easy to feel overwhelmed.
Are you looking to break into the film industry? There are more opportunities than ever, with every streaming platform looking for the next hit TV series or blockbuster movie.
Previously, you had to be located in Hollywood to have the best chance at success and make your dreams come true.
But now, all you need is a laptop, the best screenwriting tool, and an agent to get your big break.
Of course, screenwriting is an art form that can be difficult to master, so you’ll also need a talent for writing and storytelling and a lot of luck!
I’ve got you covered with the best free and paid dedicated screenwriting software options available.
What Is Screenwriting Software?
Screenwriting software helps writers create scripts for movies, television shows, comics, plays, and more. It allows them to organize their ideas into a coherent structure that adheres to best practices and exports to a correctly formatted industry standard script.
There are many different types of screenwriting apps available with varying levels of functionality. Some tools are free, while others require a subscription or one-time purchase.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to writing your first script or screenplay, so keep reading if you want more information about which tool might suit you best!
A screenwriting program automatically formats your script to the Hollywood standard format. If your script isn’t formatted correctly, it is likely to land straight in the recycling bin before even being read. So, formatting is that important.
Screenwriting software also has many simple shortcuts that add dialogue, scene headings, actions, characters, parentheticals, transitions, and more. Using shortcuts can speed up your workflow and help keep you in your creative mindset.
With so many different options to choose from, it can be challenging to get started when choosing the right screenwriting program.
Let’s look at the best options to find the right screenwriting software for you.
What Is The Best Screenwriting Software?
Here are my picks for the best screenwriting software in 2023:
Final Draft: The Industry Standard Best Overall Screenwriting software
Arc Studio Pro: Best Final Draft Alternative
WriterDuet: Collaborative Writing at its Best
Fade In: Plenty of Features compared to Final Draft
CeltX: A Full-Featured Solution for All Types of Writers
Trelby: Open Source and Free to Use
Scrivener: Perfect for Longform Writing Projects
Movie Magic Screenwriter: A Professional alternative to Final Draft
StudioBinder: An All-In-One Solution for Production Teams
KIT Scenarist: The Russian Standard for Screenwriting Software
1. Final Draft
Best For: Professional Screenwriters
Compatibility: macOS, Windows, iPhone & iPad
Final Draft is the best screenwriting software and is the choice of professional screenwriters and filmmakers worldwide. It was first released in 1990. In 2013, Final Draft was awarded Primetime Emmy Engineering Award.
It is the number-one selling screenwriting software used by 95% of professional film and television productions in Hollywood and worldwide, including Netflix, Hulu, ABC. Sony Pictures, Warner Brothers, BBC, NBCUniversal, and more.
The software has a wide range of advanced features and all the screenwriting tools you could ever wish for.
In Final Draft 12, advanced story planning features include brainstorm, visualize, outline, report, tag, and collaborate. You can now also customize your writing environment.
It is the best choice for serious writers looking to pursue a screenwriting career and use the same software as other professional screenwriters and filmmakers.
There is even a mobile app for iPhone and iPad (sold separately) to allow you to write and edit your script on the go anytime inspiration strikes.
- The industry-standard screenwriting software
- Automatic script formatting that meets entertainment industry formats
- Intuitive, so that you can start writing your script within minutes
- Scripts can be exported as PDF, Final Draft (FDX), and Movie Magic Screenwriter (.mms) files
- Customizable keyboard shortcuts
- Used by 95% of the Hollywood film industry
- Storyboard view and scene management tools
- More than 300 templates based on various genres for screenplays, graphic novels, comics, and more
- or screenplays, teleplays, comics, immersive storytelling, graphic novels, and stage plays
- Index cards and outlining tools
- Collaboration tools for co-writing scripts
- Excellent screenwriting resources to help you improve your scripts
- Revision tracking – mark and review all changes through to production, including revision colors, omit scenes and lock pages
- More expensive than other script writing software
- Autosave is a minimum of 3 minutes (whereas many other screenwriting software tools will save every second)
Final Draft has a regular price of $249.99. It is currently on sale for a special price of $199.99 as a digital download.
There are also Student, Teacher, Military, and First Responder discounts available.
There are also discounts available from upgrading from a previous version.
Final Draft offers a 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee.
The license allows for two activations per purchase so that you can write on both your laptop and desktop seamlessly.
Are you serious about becoming a professional screenwriter and looking for the best screenwriting software to do so? Then Final Draft is the most important and only screenwriting tool you need to own.
While Final Draft is the number-one selling best screenwriting software, many other options are available.
Let’s take a look at other professional top screenwriting software tools.
Best For: Professional screenwriters looking for an alternative to Final Draft
Compatibility: Mac, Windows, Browser App, iPhone, iPad
Arc Studio Pro is an excellent choice for any aspiring or professional screenwriter. It offers a sophisticated, user-friendly design that sets it apart. This powerful software is quickly becoming the new industry standard for established and emerging writers alike. Professionals like the writer’s room for Arcane (Netflix) are already utilizing it.
It is designed to simplify the outlining, writing, and editing process for solo writers, large writing staff, and everyone in between.
The software supports the entire screenwriting process from idea to finished script with features allowing users to automatically format their scripts according to professional industry standards. Additionally, Arc Studio’s modern design never distracts users from telling their stories.
The icing on the cake? Arc Studio Pro offers a FREE plan perfect for beginners, so anyone can start writing scripts right away. So get started on your journey to becoming a screenwriter and invest in this superior screenwriting software today!
- Format scrips according to industry standards
- Outline, write, and edit television scripts and screenplays
- Modern, clear, and simple design
- Distraction-free writing so you can focus on your story
- Beat cards outline mode
- Night mode
- Change tracker
- Advanced formatting help
- Has a free version to get started and affordable paid plans
- 7-day trial available
Arc Studio Pro has a free plan to get you started. However, the PDF export is Watermarked.
There is an Essentials Plan for $69 per year for advanced formatting options, apps, and unlimited scripts.
The Pro Plan is $99 per year and has all the features you need to take your screenwriting to the next level.
For Students, there is a discount of $70 off the Pro Plan.
Studio Pro is the most polished, feature-rich screenplay software available, making it the perfect choice for both aspiring and experienced screenwriters.
Best For: WriterDuet is best for screenplay writers who need real-time collaboration.
Compatibility: Cloud-based with online-offline web, mobile, and desktop apps.
WriterDuet is the most powerful cloud-based screenwriting software available. It’s packed with features to make writing and organizing your screenplay easier, more efficient, and more fun than ever before.
Plus, it has mind mapping tools so you can brainstorm without getting lost in the details of your story. And when you’re ready to share your work with others, WriterDuet makes it simple to export as a PDF or Final Draft (FDX) file for submission to contests and festivals!
- Cloud-based script writing software – write from anywhere on any device
- Supports mobile, desktop apps, and multiple browsers
- Offline writing without an internet connection is available – scripts then sync when you’re online.
- Great outlining tools, including mind maps and index cards
- Supports many different screenplay formats, including TV and stageplays
- Excellent collaboration features for real-time co-writing with multiple collaborators
- In-app text and video chat for instant communication and feedback
- Ability to create custom templates and customize your workflow
- Industry formatting allows you to spend more time writing instead of wasting time on formatting
- Uses SSL security and random access codes for each collaborator to keep your work safe (only you determine who can see your script)
- Import/Export many file types (PDF, FDX, Word, Celtx, and more)
- Backup integration with Dropbox, Google Drive, and iCloud
- Collaboration is only available with a paid plan
- There is a three project limit before you need a subscription
- The free plan only has basic features
WriterDuet offers a free version, which you can use for 3 scripts, with no time limit, page limit, or import/export limit.
The Plus Plan is $9.99 per month, which gives you unlimited projects and co-writers.
The Pro Plan is $11.99 per month, giving you pro analytics and tools and an online-offline desktop app.
The Premium Plan is $13.99 per month, including ReadThrough and AutoTranslate, and MultiColumn tools and templates.
If you pay annually, there is a discount, with the Plus Plan $5.99 per month, the Pro Plan $7.99 per month, and the Premium Plan $9.99 per month (paid annually).
WriterDuet is the best screenwriting software if you need to collaborate with many writers, making it a great, affordable alternative to Final Draft.
Get your first three screenplays free.
4. Fade In
Best For: Screenwriters who want a more affordable alternative to Final Draft.
Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iPhone | iPad
Fade In is one of the most popular choices amongst script writers. It’s the most advanced software used by professionals writing for television, motion pictures, video games, radio, and more.
Fade In has been developed and supported for over a decade and offers the best balance of features, power, and ease of use.
This writing software is used in everything from no-budget indie productions to multimillion-dollar Hollywood blockbusters such as Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, Venom, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and Chernobyl TV series.
Fade In aims to be ‘The ‘New Industry standard’ and everything you need for your screenplay from start to finish.
- One of the more affordable screenwriting programs available
- Support for multiple languages
- Has all the features of Final Draft – and more
- Extensive formatting capabilities for your script based on templates
- Real-time collaboration capabilities with other writers
- Image support directly in the document
- Full-screen distraction-free writing mode
- Multiple file formats – including Rich Text Format (RTF), Final Draft (.fdx), and Movie Magic Screenwriter documents.
- Easy to use so that you can start writing instantly
- Excellent customer service to answer any problems with the software
- The free version will add a watermark to your exported PDF/printed script
- Adding extra fonts, templates, and dictionaries is more complicated than other tools
- Fade In is not as widely used in the film industry as Final Draft, which may lead to compatibility issues
The Fade In free software trial version includes all key functionality, except for online real-time collaboration.
You can buy Fade In for a one-time purchase price of $79.95. This includes free lifetime updates.
Download a free demo version first to get started.
Fade In is the best-dedicated screenwriting software for writers looking for an affordable, full-featured alternative to Final Draft. It offers everything you need to write your screenplay, including extensive formatting capabilities and support for multiple languages.
Fade In also has real-time collaboration capabilities. It lets you work with other writers easily (although you will need the paid version to unlock online collaboration).
Compatibility: Cloud-based – access on any device
Best For: Companies who work collaboratively in a team, looking for a full-featured solution for pre-production, script writing, and production management.
Celtx first started as free screenwriting software. It has since evolved into a subscription cloud-based production scriptwriting and pre-production management platform for enterprises and academic institutions.
There are significant discounts available for film students learning scriptwriting and pre-production.
Celtx is an all-in-one solution for film, TV, advertising, documentaries, video, game production, and much more. It has advanced tools to write, plan, and shoot your script.
Millions of people use Celtx, and where it excels is superior online collaboration.
- Superior online real-time collaboration from concept to camera
- Industry-standard script editors for many formats
- Expansive storyboards to allow you to build stories visually shot-by-shot
- Index cards integrated into the script editor
- In-line script breakdowns to be production-ready quick, and easy
- Easily manage production expenses, and generate cost reports
- Organize your talent, props, equipment, wardrobe, locations, and crew in one place
- Create and compile detailed shot descriptions quickly
- Use auto-populated stripboards to create shooting schedules
- Create and distribute industry-standard call sheets with automatic data population
- Expensive for individuals compared to other screenwriting software – is more suited for enterprise.
- Features are separated into different plans; instead of having access to them all
- It is no longer free
Celtx has three different pricing plans:
The Scriptwriting plan is $20 per month (or $15 per month, billed yearly).
The Video Production plan is $30 per month (or $27 per month, billed yearly).
The Game Production plan is $30 per month (or $27 per month, billed yearly).
Academic institutions and Non-Profit organizations can save 80% off for class sizes of 20 or larger.
CeltX is easy to use with many features. It is designed for screenwriting and production management, which suits large teams who focus on writing and production.
However, as a solo screenwriter, it is relatively expensive and not the best option.
Compatibility: Mac, Windows
Best For: Screenwriters looking for high-end script writing software many big names in Hollywood have used.
Movie Magic Screenwriter is award-winning screenwriting software, having won an Academy Technical Achievement Award. It can be used for screenplays, television, stage plays, novels, graphic novels, short stories, teleplays, comic books, and more. It is also a preferred file format of the Writer’s Guild of America West.
Movie Magic Screenwriter offers the best user experience for entertainment industry writers by providing customizable features and tools that make the screenwriting process flexible.
It saves time, and the editing tools enable writers to have a seamless editing experience without worrying about the script’s technical aspects.
Many successful movies and TV shows have been written with Movie Magic Screenwriter, including 24, Shrek, and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
There are also extensive free online tutorial videos to get you started writing quickly.
- There are 3 activations per purchase – allowing you to use it on multiple devices with just one license
- Over 100 different templates are available, including classic film structure, sitcom structure, TV show, comic book, and more.
- Fully editable index cards
- Easy to learn – start writing your first script in under 10 minutes
- Online collaboration
- Easy to use interface – you can keep writing with shortcut keys, so you never lose your flow
- Text-to-speech allows you to ‘hear’ your character’s voice
- Excellent free technical, web and email support is available
- Generate set lists and rundown sheets
- Auto Backup included, so you will never lose your work
- Easy revision tracking from spec to final shoot script
- Includes Mac Screenwriter 6.5 and Windows Screenwriter 6.0
- Complete production tracking reports and breakdown reports
- No longer as frequently used in Hollywood
- It is expensive compared to other screenwriting tools
- The 64-Bit version for Mac is still in alpha testing (so it may cause problems with newer Macs with Apple M1 chips)
Movie Magic Screenwriter 6 costs $249.95 and is a one-time payment that includes 3 activations per purchase.
There is also upgrade pricing available from an older version.
The 6.5 Upgrade for Mac starts at $69.95, while the Movie Magic Screenwriter 6 Upgrade starts at $89.95.
Academic Pricing starts from $99.95 with 2 activations per purchase.
Movie Magic Screenwriting software is industry-standard software and the best scriptwriting software for those who want to focus on the creative process and pursue a professional screenwriting career.
However, it is expensive compared to other scriptwriting tool options. It is also no longer as popular in the entertainment industry as it used to be, with Final Draft becoming the new favorite of many screenwriters.
Best For: Writers looking for affordable screenplay software that they can also use for novels and non-fiction writing. Scrivener is also popular with academics, lawyers, and journalists.
Compatibility: macOS, Windows, iOS
Scrivener is the perfect app for professional writers of all kinds. It’s used every day by best-selling novelists and screenwriters and is the best software for long-form writing.
Initially designed for novelists, Scrivener now also has Screenplay and Scriptwriting templates to create correctly formatted screenplays at a very affordable price.
Scrivener has been designed from the ground up with today’s writer in mind. So you can focus on composing your thoughts without worrying about formatting or structure – just open a document and start typing! In addition, the many drag and drop features help you easily rearrange your script during the writing process.
Scrivener provides advanced features which make it easy to keep your research and notes always within reach. For example, you can add photos, audio files, PDFs, and even web pages to refer back to later when organizing your work.
Scrivener has everything you need to write your first draft from idea to FADE OUT.
- There is a 30-day free trial which lasts for 30 days of usage (instead of 30 consecutive days like other software options)
- Allows you to import Final Draft scripts and Microsoft Word documents
- Proper formatting for screenplays – so that you can just focus on writing
- You can print your script directly from Scrivener or export scripts to Final Draft format while keeping your script notes
- Includes many different scriptwriting templates (Screenplay, Comic Script, Stage Play, Documentary Script, and more)
- There are many video tutorials available to help you learn fast
- Distraction-free writing mode enables you to focus on your writing screen and your story
- You can fully customize almost everything to suit your preferences
- Set targets and track your progress – for your entire script, or sections
- Drag and drop virtual ‘corkboard’ with index cards, and advanced outlining and organizational tools
- There is an iOS app available for iPhone and iPad, so you can write and edit on the go
- There is a steep learning curve
- Each major update requires an additional purchase (with discounted upgrade pricing)
- You need to buy separate licenses for macOS, Windows, and iOS versions
A Standard License for both macOS and Windows costs$49, while the iOS version is $19.99. There is also an educational discount for students & academics.
Scrivener is a one-time purchase.
However, if you want to use Scrivener on both Mac and Windows, you will need to buy a standard version for each OS. There is also a Mac & Windows bundle for $80.
Scrivener is the best screenwriting tool for long-form writing. It’s great for structuring your screenplay. The many features make it the best value for money choice, especially if you plan to do other types of writing too.
Best For: Trelby is best for Windows and Linux screenwriters who are on a budget and are looking for free writing software.
Compatibility: Windows, Linux
Trelby is free, open-source screenwriting software available for both Windows and Linux. Trelby is collaboratively developed and licensed under GPL. It welcomes both screenwriters and developers to make the software even better.
- Trelby is highly configurable – more than any other top screenplay software
- Standard screenplay format including pagination, spell checking, and auto-completion
- Different views let you choose between full screen, draft view, and WYSIWYG mode based on your preferred writing style
- Never get stuck for character names again with a database of over 200,000 names from different countries
- Generate detailed scene, location, dialogue, and character reports
- Import and export Hollywood standard script formats, including FDX, CeltX, Fountain, Fade In Pro, and more.
- Built-in highly configurable PDF generator allows you to embed your preferred font, add custom watermarks, and track shared files
- It is entirely free to use 100% of all features
- No macOS version (It is only available on Windows and Linux)
- There is currently little to no development (with there not being any updates for years)
- No online collaboration feature
- It has an outdated design, which is not user-friendly
Trelby is entirely free, open-source screenwriting software and is licensed under GPL.
It is available to download for both Windows and Linux.
Trelby is ideal for new script writers or for anyone on a budget. It has all the features you need to write a script. The only downside is that the interface could use some work, but it is great for free software.
Best For: Large production companies working professionally on TV, film, video, or photo projects.
Compatibility: Online / Web & Mobile-responsive
StudioBinder is the best tool for organizing your projects. It provides customized solutions to manage productions in one place. It’s great for keeping track of all the different production elements and creating a seamless workflow, saving time and money.
StudioBinder helps to produce content better. It is trusted by the best companies in the entertainment business, such as Buzzfeed, Spotify, Blizzard Entertainment, ESPN, Lionsgate, and many more.
- Create & send personalized mobile-friendly call sheets, and track views and RSVPs.
- Script Breakdowns – import scripts and tag elements such as wardrobe, gear, and props.
- Shot List and Storyboard – fully customizable shot list and storyboard builder.
- Plan and schedule multi-day shoots with a drag and drop interface
- Well organized contact lists allow you to easily manage and send messages to talent, crew, clients, vendors, and more
- Collaborate and comment on production calendars, tasks, and files
- Not available in offline mode (without an internet connection)
- The pricing is expensive for indie writers and small businesses
- There is no option to buy a lifetime license
Studio Binder has a ‘Free Forever Plan‘ with a maximum of 1 project per company. This includes limited features to manage contacts, add tasks, and prep unlimited call sheets.
There are also paid Individual Plans and Company Plans.
Individual Plans start from $29 per month for the Indie Plan, up to $99 per month for the Studio Plan. If you pay yearly, there is a 15% discount.
Company Plans start from $249 per month for the Agency Plan, up to $1499 per month for the Enterprise Plan. There is also a 15% yearly discount.
StudioBinder is best for large TV & film production companies to manage their productions all in one place. However, it is relatively expensive for individuals or small agencies to afford. Although, the free version is a great way to get started.
10. KIT Scenarist
Best For: Best open-source free screenplay software
Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS
KIT Scenarist is an all-in-one solution for writing, formatting, and structuring your screenplay. It’s packed with features that make creating a professional script easier than ever before, and it’s completely customizable to suit your needs.
You can use it as a complete studio to research, create and structure story ideas from scratch or as an application that helps format existing scripts. KIT Scenarist is simple and has an intuitive interface. The professional tools are sure to take your script to the next level.
While not well known just yet, KIT Scenarist already has over 10,000 authors and is growing every day.
- Professional scriptwriting tools
- Software is constantly being improved with updates every month
- Rich formatting tool
- Customizable to suit your needs
- Your project research materials are always easily accessible
- Intuitive interface
- Index cards – build your story your way
- Collaborate online with other writers
- Available in many different languages
- It has both dark and light themes
- Easy to learn – master the software within hours
- Import an existing script in multiple file-formats, including FDX, Fountain, Microsoft Word, ODT, Trelby and Celtx
- Cloud-based software service is only available with the Pro version
- iOS and Android mobile versions are only available as a paid extra
- No online collaboration with the free version
KIT Scenarist offers a free version of the Desktop version for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
The Pro version also offers a cloud service to allow you to work with writing partners online.
It also gives you access to the mobile version, which is available on both iOS and Android, to let you create stories on the go.
Prices start at $4.99 per month, and there is a 12% discount if you buy a 12-month subscription for $52.90.
KIT Scenarist is great for anyone looking for a basic scriptwriting software tool that helps them get their story written rather than focusing on flashy extras. It has everything you need to write a great screenplay.
KIT Scenarist is available for free with limited features. But, upgrading to the Pro plan is affordable, and it unlocks many more tools such as cloud services, online collaboration, and access to mobile apps.
Screenwriting Software FAQs
What is the best Free Screenwriting Software?
Trelby is the best free screenwriting tool. This open-source screenwriting software has an easy-to-use interface and all of the features to write a great screenplay, including auto-formatting and revision tracking. Trelby is only available for Windows and Linux. For Mac, WriterDuet is the best free screenwriting software.
What’s The Best Screenwriting Software for Mac?
The best screenwriting software for Mac is Final Draft. It is industry-leading screenwriting software to make your vision a reality. Final Draft offers an intuitive interface with hundreds of templates, tools, and other features that make it easy to create the next big movie or TV series!
What program do most screenwriters use?
Final Draft is the program most used by professional screenwriters. It is used by 95% of the film and entertainment industry in Hollywood and worldwide. It is available for both Mac and Windows for a one-time purchase fee of $249.99.
Is screenwriting software necessary?
While you don’t technically need screenwriting software to write a screenplay, it is strongly advised.
It is possible to use any software such as Microsoft Word. But to get your script read by an agent or studio, it must have correct formatting.
Manually formatting your script to meet the correct script format can take as long as writing the script. However, if there are just a few minor formatting errors, it is likely to end up in the recycling bin before even being read.
Using a professional screenwriting app automatically formats your script. It offers features that simplify the writing process from planning, organizing, writing, and editing your script.
Using the best screenwriting apps lets you focus on the story rather than worrying about technical details.
Best Screenwriting Software – Wrap Up
The best screenwriting software won’t instantly make you the next Aaron Sorkin, Quentin Tarantino, or Francis Ford Coppola.
But it will help you on your journey to becoming a professional screenwriter and assist with the writing process from story development right through to fade out.
Screenplay software also ensures that your script is formatted to strict Hollywood standards, with correct spacing and formatting, increasing the chance of your screenplay being read.
Final Draft is my ultimate recommendation. It is used by 95% of TV and movie studios and has every tool you need to make your vision a reality. It really is the only essential piece of software you need for screenwriting.
Is there any other screenwriting program that I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments below.
Want to do other types of writing also?
Check out my ultimate list of the best writing apps for 2022.
Did you know that AI writing software can also help you write creative stories?
Affiliate Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links for some products I am recommending. If you use these links to buy something, I may earn a small commission at no cost to you.
Skyler Benson is a full-time blogger. Join Skyler on SkylerBenson.com and learn how to start an online business and create a life of freedom. Before starting this blog, Skyler worked online as a freelance content writer. He worked with digital marketing agencies and B2B companies for four years. Skyler reviews the best software for your online business and teaches you how to write better and start your freelancing career.