As far as writing screenplays is concerned, Hollywood has only one standard: Final Draft. For years, much like Microsoft's monopoly with Windows, the software had no big competitors. From big Hollywood directors like Spielberg to small independent studios, everyone considered Final Draft the gold standard of screenwriting software. In many ways, it still enjoys the same monopoly; however, the stronghold it had over the screenwriting industry isn't the same as before. With its high price, clunky UI, and lots of persistent bugs, Final Draft is slowly being taken over by lesser-known tools in this huge shift that is happening in the screenwriting industry.

Many big writers have slowly started to move to alternative software. One of the biggest proponents of this move is John August, screenwriter of movies like Big Fish and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. His efforts in pushing the open Fountain format, as well as creating Highland, a Mac-based screenwriting software are an indication of how badly Final Draft users need a change.

If you've been stuck with Final Draft for years or are a Linux user looking for alternatives, this is a great time to start writing your screenplay. These days, a lot of new tools have come up that let you write your script either on your Linux desktop or in a browser. And yes, most of these tools are as good as -- and many times -- better than Final Draft.


FadeIn is a wonderful cross-platform application that helps you focus on your writing. Eliminating all unnecessary distractions, its page-only full screen-mode makes sure that you're only looking at what matters most: your script. If you've been a Final Draft user for a long time, don't worry, FadeIn can easily import your FDX files without any major changes to the formatting. Much like Final Draft and other big screenwriting tools, it lets you outline the screenplay, organize scenes, and it even features an autocomplete typing mode that saves you a lot of time. Furthermore, FadeIn also has its own Android app so that you can finish your script on the go, if you are someone who travels a lot. FadeIn works across Linux, Mac, and Windows. It costs about $50, which is quite a deal when compared to the high price of Final Draft. 


WriterDuet is another great tool that does much more than Final Draft. Apart from letting you import FDX files, this web-based tool also lets you collaborate with other writers. This means that even if your screenwriting team is miles away, you can finish that big script together along with a full-featured video chat to help you discuss important ideas. What makes WriterDuet stand apart is that despite being a web-based app, it functions pretty much like a desktop software. You can outline your script, format it by industry standards, export it as PDF, and plan your plot on a nice virtual corkboard. Furthermore, you can also dictate your script if you are having one of those lazy days. The web-based tool is free to use, however, to add features like offline mode, script backups, script error-check and more, you'll need to upgrade it to the Pro version (~$45). Definitely worth a try if you are a new writer who doesn't want to spend a lot of cash on a professional tool. 


Celtx is another popular screenwriting application that has been around for a while. With good formatting capabilities, outline mode, and even storyboarding tools, it is hard to believe that this software is free to download. Also, additional features for writers such as distraction-free mode, index cards, and corkboard can be added for a very low price. Celtx can import scripts from various formats and then lets you export them to PDFs once you are finished writing. For many writers who are just starting out, Celtx remains a hot favorite as it is free, open-source, and works across all major platforms. 


If you are looking for a simple, no-fuss screenwriting tool, Trelby is something you should consider. This free, open-source, multi-platform application has all the features you need to write a screenplay from start to finish. To begin, you can import your screenplay from various formats including .FDX. The main UI lets you choose between three views: draft view, WSIWYG, and a full-screen distraction-free mode. What makes Trelby so special is that it is very minimalistic which helps you focus just on what you're writing. And yes, it's open source. 

Written by: Abhishek, a regular TechSource contributor and a long-time FOSS advocate.

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