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While add-ins and macros for word processors, such as Script Wizard for Microsoft Word, can be used to write screenplays, the need for dedicated screenwriting programs arises from the presence of certain peculiarities in standard screenplay format which are not handled well by generic word processors such as page-break constraints imposed by standard screenplay format. Screenplay software often provides specialized shortcuts for quickly typing character names or slug lines, collaborating with other writers, adding production notes, character notes, easy outlining, scene reordering, and other tools to facilitate the creative process. Other features often required when writing shooting scripts include page-locking, scene numbering, revision-tracking, and production-related reports (such as which characters appear in a given scene or which scenes are set during the day or night).
Another class of screenwriting software includes those that, rather than act as specialized word processors, attempt to direct the writer's storytelling process by utilizing story theory to facilitate the planning of a screenplay. Examples of this type of program includes Dramatica and Index Card.
Screenwriting software often also provides functions that allow writers to analyze their scripts for various characteristics. In 2018, developers began adding functions that allow an analysis of gender representation such as the Bechdel test, e.g. in Highland 2, WriterDuet and the forthcoming Final Draft 11.
Screenwriting programs exist for all varieties of platforms and environments including traditional standalone desktop applications that run directly on a personal computer, web applications that run solely within a browser, and mobile apps that run on phones, tablets, and other portable devices.
Plain text markup
The Fountain markup syntax, co-developed by screenwriter John August, facilitates formatting screenplays directly from plain text, be it in dedicated writing software, email programs, or text generated through OCR. There is also a formatting package for LaTeX called screenplay.
The first screenwriting software was a standalone script formatter, Scriptor, from Screenplay Systems. It took a text file generated by a word processor and inserted the proper page break tags. When used in conjunction with a TSR program such as SmartKey or ProKey—keyboard utilities that assigned a sequence of commands to keystroke combinations—the "dot commands" that Scriptor required could be inserted semi-automatically. Additionally, keyboard macros could be programmed to properly indent and enter abbreviations—allowing a user to customize the working of the word processor.
SmartKey was popular with screenwriters from 1982–1987, after which word processing programs had their own macro features.
An update to Scriptor understood the style sheets used in Microsoft Word for DOS. And so the need for key macro programs was lessened. Scriptor's limitation was that once formatted it was difficult to re-import the resulting text back into a word processor for further editing.
The next generation of screenplay software hooked into Microsoft Word. Warren Script Application was initially released as a set of style sheets for Word for DOS. It was updated for Word for Windows circa 1988. gScript, a shareware script formatter/template, was released via CompuServe in 1989. It was included on the disk accompanying the book Take Word for Windows to the Edge, published by Ziff-Davis in 1993. It was subsequently updated and released commercially as ScriptWright.
This third generation of screenplay software consists of the standalone script writing programs such as Movie Magic Screenwriter, Final Draft, and Cinovation's Scriptware.
The latest generation adds online storage and collaboration and integrates with apps on mobile devices. Many software also integrate outlining tools as well as other creative support, and tools to further integrate the production process.
List of software
- Celtx - Free to register, but requires paid subscription for the full collaborative version. Browser-based, with apps for Mac OS X, IOS, and Android. Includes a comic book script-writing mode.
- Dramatica - Name of a theory and software suite created as part of a project by Chris Huntley and Melanie Anne Phillips.
- DubScript Screenplay Writer- A professional screenwriting software for Android with features such as auto-formatting and Google Docs fixing. A free version is available with a watermark header on printed output/PDF and optional subscription. DubScript also outputs to most major screenwriting formats.
- Fade In Professional Screenwriting Software - Professional screenwriting software for Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows and Linux, with mobile versions for iPhone, iPad and Android. Imports and exports Final Draft as well as most other major screenwriting software formats.
- Final Draft - Professional screenwriting software for Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows.
- JotterPad Pro - A powerful professional screenwriting app for Android. Includes paid Fountain support, export to Final Draft and print formatted script to PDF.
- KIT Scenarist - A free and open source screenwriting software for Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows and Linux, which includes story development tools, corkboard, screenplay editor and statistics module. Includes paid service for real-time collaboration and versions for Android and iOS.
- Montage software - Screenwriting software for Mac only.
- Movie Magic Screenwriter - Integrated professional screenwriting software. Available on Mac and Microsoft Windows.
- Page 2 stage - Free open-source software, designed specifically for Windows. Available in a variety of languages.
- Practical Scriptwriter - Professional script writing software for Windows. Formats cover Film, Stage, Radio and TV.
- Script Studio (formerly Movie Outline) - Creative writing software for Mac and Windows designed by produced screenwriter for writing and professionally formatting movie scripts, teleplays, stage plays and novels. Includes story and character development features.
- Scripts Pro - iOS-based app which allows a writer to edit scripts in text file format via Dropbox and iTunes transfers.
- Scrivener (software) - A powerful content-generation tool that helps writes concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents for Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows.
- WriterDuet - Real-time collaborative, online-offline professional screenwriting software.
- Screenwriter-mode - Major mode for the GNU Emacs free text editor. Includes commands and tools to format scripts as plain text files.
- Adobe Story - An online collaborative screenwriting suite by Adobe.
- Sophocles - commercial story-development, scriptwriting, and scheduling package. (discontinued)
- Scripped - Professional browser-based screenwriting text editing software. (now defunct and no longer accessible)
- FiveSprockets - A discontinued free, online, collaborative story-development and scriptwriting web-software.
- Trelby - A discontinued free and open source screenwriting program for Linux and Microsoft Windows.
- "Select the Perfect Script Software | WritersDigest.com". WritersDigest.com. 2008-03-11. Retrieved 2018-01-03.
- "How To Choose The Best Screenwriting Software - ScreenCraft". ScreenCraft. 2014-03-10. Retrieved 2018-01-03.
- "Celtx is Now an All-in-One Video & Movie Planning System". No Film School. 2016-01-06. Retrieved 2018-01-03.
- Ryzik, Melena (21 May 2018). "Is your script gender-balanced? The new test helping filmmakers get it right". The Independent. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
- "John August and Stu Maschwitz Release 'Fountain,' a Handy Screenwriting Tool/Markup Language". No Film School. 2012-02-14. Retrieved 2018-01-03.
- Eaton, Kit (2015-02-04). "Video Feature: Easy Ways to Get Your Movie Idea Out of Your Head". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-01-03.