Every great project starts with a script. Whether you’re an aspiring screenwriter sitting down to write the next Citizen Kane, or if you work in commercial video production and are looking to script out several dozen broadcast spots, in many ways the script is the most pivotal piece to any project big or small. And while there are a lot of creative decisions that go into how you might want to start your script writing process, there is one practical one which you’ll have to face early on. What free screenwriting software are you going to use?
Luckily, these days there are plenty of great options out there. And even better yet, there are many free screenwriting software options that are either completely free, or at least offer a free version that can let you test out different software before you decide on making a larger financial investment.
So, let’s check out some of the best free screenwriting software currently available for all your film and video production needs.
A screenwriting software that has been rising in popularity over the years, WriterDuet is one of the best options out there for collaborative screenwriting projects and for cross-platform sharing. However, it is worth noting that this is a free to try options that ultimately will cost you a monthly subscription for its full functionality after you’ve exhausted your three free scripts.
Trial Version: 3 Scripts
Pro Price: $11.99 a month
2) Final Draft
Since we’re including both free screenwriting softwares and those with free demos, we have to start with Final Draft if at least to just acknowledge where the screenwriting industry has been and how it has developed. Final Draft has long been the most popular platform and has shaped much of its newer competition. However, while it’s certainly a great and familiar option, its price tag and the availability of other, more experimental, and more affordable options means it might be worth checking out – but ultimately one you might want to shop around first before making the investment.
Free Trial: 30 days
One of my favorite options out there is perhaps the purest in the sense of a true, straightforward screenwriting platform. Unlike many of the more advanced options that we’ll get to later, Trebly is a no-frills, no-bells and whistles software that is actually quite perfect in its simplicity. There are no paid upgrades to try to sell you either, so if you’d like to dive into screenwriting in its purest form, Trebly is a great software to check out.
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On the opposite side of slimmed down, Celtx is one of the more advanced screenwriting softwares out there and, after Final Draft, is one of the most widely used in the film and video industry. However, while it does offer a free version, it’s really built to provide filmmakers with more of their paid upgrade options for scheduling and budgeting. That being said, it is definitely one of the more advanced screenwriting platforms out there and a great option to try out and get comfortable with before settling in to it being your main software.
Limited Plan: Free
Pro Trial: 30 days
Pro Price: $90 a year
Another barebones offering that is completely free, the web-based platform youmescript.com is about as straightforward as they come. All you do is visit the domain and voila! – you’re writing your script! This isn’t the option if you’re looking for any major features, however I’ve actually found a good deal of comfort in its simplicity. You simply pull it up and get to work.
A newer option to consider these days, Highland comes from the famous scribe John August (who himself is a great resource for screenwriting online). With their latest version Highland 2, which offers a free demo version, August’s software is designed with seasoned screenwriters in mind and has plenty of cool features like automatic formatting, a “gender analysis tool” and a “scratchpad” for taking and sharing of notes.
Basic Features: Free
Pro Price: $49.99
While temporarily offered for free during the time of COVID-19, Arc Studio Pro is a solid platform that is certainly worth checking out while available (or even after that). It’s great for a wide variety of projects from features, to episodic television, to commercial video production and has plenty of additional features like note cards and drag-and-drop functionality.
Trial Version: Free
Price: Currently Free
8) Fade In
Another higher end option that we’ll recommend simply because they do offer a free demo version, Fade In is really best utilized once you pay for the full version. It’s definitely worth checking out though as it was designed by veteran screenwriter Craig Mazin (best known for HBO’s Chernobyl) to be classically designed and workflow friendly for all manner of projects and across all platforms.
Trial Version: Free, but limited functions
Finally, we’ll end on one of the best free softwares out there that is truly meant to provide screenwriting for the people: Kit Scenarist. Built as an open-source platform, Kit Scenarist explores a new way for aspiring filmmakers and video professionals alike to work with several different script formats like FDX, DOCX and PDF. Kit Scenarist is still new though and in its Beta Test program, so stay tuned to it as it continues to develop and innovate.
Cloud Services: $4.99 a month
Hopefully this list of the best free screenwriting software will help you find the right platform for your writing style and sensibilities. These are some of the best software options out there and I’d highly recommend checking out all of them if at least to see which versions line up best with your specific projects needs. Screenwriting can be a challenging process, but with the right mindset – and a solid free screenwriting software at your disposal – you can make some truly great projects come to life.