The Best Free Screenplay Programs for Your Computer
written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Amy Carson•updated: 5/20/2011
Here is a look at the best screenplay software programs out there.
slide 1 of 6
Automatic Screenplay Format
Screenplay software is not the same as post-production software in that it is designed to shift your creative work over to the screenplay format. In a lot of ways, screenplay software actually works as a word processing program. It allows for program files that you write in, you can save and create new documents the same way, and usually do document checks like spellchecking. What it does is shifts everything into the screenplay format, allowing you to enter in character names, scene headings, action segments, and dialogue all in their industry approved set up on the page. This focus on the screenplay format allows you to think creatively about your work rather than having to consciously port over your content to the screenplay format. Screenplay software can often be very expensive, but thankfully a number of free screenplay software packages have emerged online that can do most of the functions that you want. Here is a look at some of the best free screenplay software you can find to work in the official screenplay format.
slide 2 of 6
Students at film schools around the country will tell you that the best free screenplay software alternative to Final Draft is going to be the Celtx screenplay software. With Celtx you find a full service free screenplay software that can be easily downloaded and installed just by quickly visiting the base website. In Celtx, you are going to find the standard format of screenplay software with the main section allowing you to type your work while switching between the different areas allocated by the screenplay format in an easy drop down menu. If you would like to go beyond the simple screenplay format and into other media it allows for quite a few, such as a stage play or AV script. What really makes Celtx one of the top free screenplay software is that it allows you to go beyond the writing period and actually into full pre-production. It allows for a large set of pre-production forms that are linked directly from items you indicate in your screenplay. For example, if you are listing a specific prop in the action of a scene you can highlight it, indicate that it is a prop, and then fill otu a prop information form that will take you through the process of finding and buying the object. This can allow you to identify all the things you need for your film, from actors to locations, and even put together a full production schedule.
Many of the free screenwriting software out there are actually internet based and are designed as web applications that work in your regular internet browser. Some of these web based screenwriting programs can be more expensive than their worth, but if you can find a free screenplay software system that remains web based there can be some that are really worth your time. ScriptBuddy is one of these, and if you go for the free screenplay software version of this web based screenwriting program you will find that it is actually very easy to use. What is nice about ScriptBuddy, beyond the fact that you do not have to install any software, is that you can really just log in and have access to your screenplay from anywhere. The format itself follows that of many free screenwriting software packages, but it breaks it down so that most of the workable screen is dominated by your screenplay and the right hand column stands like an easy access outline to the available scenes. What you also get from web based screenwriting programs like ScriptBuddy is instant connection with a growing online community, and that works fairly nice in this case. If you are working with ScriptBuddy then you should make sure to export often through PDFs, but you can also go for online publishing and get feedback from other users.
SceneWriter Pro allows for its basic version to stand as free screenplay software, and you get quite a bit with this version. What SceneWriter Pro offers is a basic format that is easy to get used to without having much experience. It is easy to bring in partially written screenplays or work in progress, which can be difficult for some free screenplay software that limits the type of files that can be imported. Since screenplays are reallying about developing characters, SceneWriter Pro keeps a character log of those you have created and lets you go in and create profiles on them and complete notes. This can be incredibly useful when you are trying to flesh out the roles, and especially when it is time for casting your film.
Mindstar Productions has made Cinergy Script Editor a completely free screenplay software because of a hope that this will drive users to want to purchase their complete Cinergy 5 production management software package. Cinergy Script Editor does work well with them, but as a stand alone free screenplay software it also is a great tool. In a lot of ways Cinergy Script Editor can be a good place to start because of its ability to work with all of the other programs in the package, which can deal with scheduling, film budgeting, and especially organizing the post-production workflow. When you are just using Cinergy Script Editor for its screenplay formatting you will find that it flows very nicely and allows you to just keep the creative juices flowing. The way to really measure a free screenplay software is how much it allows you to avoid thinking about the technical screenplay format, and Cinergy Script Editor does this relatively well.
Five Sprockets takes the web based screenwriting program and actually extends it even into some of the pre-production phases. With Five Sprockets you get much of the same systems that are in place for ScriptBuddy, but actually highlights the community aspect so much that you may even call it a social networking service for filmmakers. What you can do with Five Sprockets is actually use it as a way to bring in more people onto your project, try to get it known around communities, and even look for film jobs. Variety is quite persistent with Five Srpockets and there are a number of different options beyond the simple screenplay format, which it has in common with the Celtx software. What is going to make Five Sprockets really stand out from the other web based screenwriting programs is that it has great tools for those who are still trying to learn the craft of screenwriting.