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The need for such programs arises from the presence of certain peculiarities in standard screenplay format which are not handled well by generic word processors. A good example would be the formatting and revision-tracking requirements of shooting scripts. The page-break constraints imposed by standard screenplay format are also difficult to implement using standard word processors.
Most of the major screenwriting programs are standalone desktop applications. These include Celtx, DreamaScript, Fade In Professional Screenwriting Software, Final Draft, Scrivener, Montage, Movie Magic Screenwriter, Storyist, Movie Outline, Page 2 stage, Plot Builder, Practical Scriptwriter, Script It! and Sophocles.
There are also mobile screenwriting apps which run on mobile devices. This type of application allows users to create new scripts as well as import existing scripts from major screenwriting programs such as Fade In, Final Draft and Celtx. This includes Scripts Pro. Other solutions include web applications which run in a web browser with no software to install. These include ScriptBuddy, PlotBot, WriterDuet, and YouMeScript.
There is also a plain text screenwriting syntax called Fountain, co-developed by screenwriter John August, which enables writing screenplays in any basic text environment, be it dedicated writing software, email or theoretically even any text that can be identified and recovered through OCR.
Many other programs are available as add-ins for generic word processors such as Microsoft Word. An example is Script Wizard. There is also a package for LaTeX called screenplay, as well as a template for Pages.
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.
List of software
- Adobe Story - An online collaborative suite by Adobe for screenwriting. There is a paid monthly subscription, but a free limited option is available.
- 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 mode for comic book script-writing.
- 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.
- FiveSprockets - A discontinued free, online, collaborative story-development and scriptwriting web-software.
- Montage software - Popular screenwriting software for Mac only.
- Movie Magic Screenwriter - Integrated professional screenwriting software. Available on Mac and Microsoft Windows.
- Movie Outline - Professional script writing and story development software for Mac and 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.
- Scripped - Professional browser-based screenwriting text editing software. (now defunct and no longer accessible)
- Scrivener (software) - A powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents for Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows.
- Sophocles - commercial story-development, scriptwriting and scheduling package (discontinued)
- Story Touch - Professional screenwriting software for Mac OS and Microsoft Windows. Story Touch is a complete software for dramatic development, allowing you to write and analyze your script at the same time. It has a free version.
- Trelby - A free and open source screenwriting program currently available for Linux and Microsoft Windows, with a Mac OS X port on the way.