If you’re a student filmmaker, you know how important it is to create professional quality work and save as much money as humanly possible. As a student filmmaker, I struggled with the same balance. My priority was spending on tech that would accommodate both my academic and creative needs, so when it came time for me to sit down and write my short, I was left with little to spend on script-writing software.
What I needed as a student was a cost-effective or free option that would yield professional results. I wanted my scripts to look high-quality, particularly since I was going to be sharing them with my peers. I also needed the software to work with the tech I already had. So I went on a screenwriting software deep dive, and in my research I found all sorts of programs that stood out to me.
Some programs fit my needs perfectly, including Arc Studio Pro or Studio Binder. However, I also came across tons of other software that would fit every writer’s budget and needs. Writing is a personal undertaking, so it’s important that your software feels like an extension of you, and not just a means to an end. What worked well for me might not work for others, and that’s perfectly fine! It’s the reason I’ve included other industry favorites and well-loved programs in this list — there’s something here for everyone.
Something I noticed when doing my own screenwriting software research is that the pricing gets confusing. Every program seems to have a different payment schedule, and that can make it hard to directly compare pricing. So, for the sake of comparison, one-time purchase prices have been translated into what the monthly cost would be if the software were purchased on a monthly basis. I’ve done the same for yearly subscriptions, so you’ll see both the yearly recurring price and what that price would be if you were paying month-by-month.
Check out more on cost-effective computers and budget-friendly tablets.
Final Draft is almost synonymous with screenwriting. It’s beloved by big-name industry professionals such as Jon Favreau (The Mandalorian), Christopher McQuarrie (Top Gun: Maverick) and Sophia Coppola (Lost in Translation). In my opinion, the biggest draw to Final Draft is the formatting support the software provides. You can ensure your scripts are formatted to industry standards using features like Tab and Enter, the Reformat Tool and Format Assistant.
Studio Binder is a solid catch-all option for writers who are interested in the directing and producing processes. Its features support every stage of production, with tools to create and manage call sheets, shooting scripts and more. I’ve used Studio Binder for my own projects, and as a low-budget filmmaker, I really appreciate that Studio Binder has all of the tools I need at my disposal.
Squibler is writing software that values the writing process above all. While it doesn’t have the extra bells and whistles of others on this list, it has really powerful features focused on making the writing process more efficient. One of the most impressive features is the Editor mode, which allows writers to have insight into their progress. Squibler is also one of the cheaper monthly subscription options coming in at around $10 a month.
Arc Studio Pro
Arc Studio Pro is a newer entry with some incredible features. Made by writers for writers, it offers many tools to help writers turn out industry-standard screenplays. One standout feature is the Plot Board, which gives writers greater control over storyboarding and outlining while they write. Its formatting shortcuts are incredibly helpful when writing on a deadline, too.
Celtx is another well-established software in the screenwriting world and another solid option for writers who want to do it all. Celtx stands out by providing some strong editing and revising features. Unique features like Read-Through, which reads your script back to you so you can hear the dialogue you’ve written and Script Insights which shows real-time writing stats so you can make changes based on your productivity.
Writer Duet is a highly collaborative software so screenwriters can work together anywhere in the world. The most impressive collaborative feature is the ability to video and text chat with your writing partners while you are all working on the same project. Writer Duet also has really strong import and export capabilities, meaning users can bring in other projects from other applications and export their projects with many different file types, making it easier to share projects with collaborators.
Fade In is another industry favorite that focuses on bringing consistent performance to your writing process. There aren’t many fancy extras here, but there are a couple of unique features from the rest of the market. The Dialogue Tuner, for instance, allows you to edit all of a character’s dialogue at once so you can check for consistency and overused phrases. Fade In is one of the cheaper one-time payment apps on this list, coming in at $80, which breaks down to less than $7 a month over a year. Since it’s not a subscription, though, it’s just $80 and you’re done and updates to Fade In are free.
Slugline 2 is a great option for writers on the go, or writers who just hate sitting at their computer. More notably, Slugline 2 has compatibility with both MacOS and iOS, which would allow you to sync your writing via Dropbox or iCloud Drive. This allows you to write in a more dynamic way than if you were simply stationed at your computer.