A great screenplay is one of the first steps to creating an acclaimed film, and writers at every level deserve to have industry-quality software for their creative process. That being said, there are so many options it can be overwhelming, with every app and service packed with features that potential buyers have to sort through.
Classic industry favorites like Final Draft and Celtx, for instance, offer different tools than newcomers like Arc Studio Pro, and so many of the choices come down to personal preference and writing process. For example, some writers may prefer software like Studio Binder, which really allows writers to plan and design every step of the production process. Others might prefer software like Squibler, which is more focused on writing and the writing process.
To help you discover the best screenwriting software for your needs, we’ve listed out the top options available and their pricing, which can get confusing. 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. So for example, Final Draft is typically bought with a one-time purchase of $200, but that price put in terms of a monthly subscription would be approximately $17 a month. We’ve done the same for annual subscriptions, so both the yearly recurring price and what that price would be if the subscription were month-by-month is shown.
Final Draft is almost synonymous with screenwriting. It is 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. Users are able to ensure their scripts are formatted to industry standards with features like Tab and Enter, the Reformat Tool and Format Assistant.
Final Draft can be purchased with a one-time payment of $200, which translates to a monthly subscription price of $17 a month. It is important to note that upgrades to the Final Draft software are not included, and the current price of the upgrade from Final Draft 11 to Final Draft 12 is $80.
Screenshot by Josh Goldman/CNET
Studio Binder is a solid catch-all option for writers who are interested in the directing and producing processes. It has features that truly support every stage of production with tools to create and manage call sheets, shooting scripts and more. Personally, I have 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.
One of the biggest draws to Studio Binder is its wealth of free content. Not only does the software have a competitive free option for those who aren’t ready to commit to a paid subscription, but Studio Binder also runs a blog loaded with valuable filmmaking information by breaking down popular scripts, scenes and approaches.
Currently, four different subscription packages are available, including a basic free option; the Indie package comes in at $29 a month followed by the Professional package at $49 and the Studio package comes in at $99 a month. Those ready to commit can opt for a yearlong subscription that’ll save you a few bucks off each package. The Professional Package is the best option for indie filmmakers, as it allows you access to all of the most important production features minus some collaborative features and the ability to create custom branding found in the Studio package.
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 cheapest 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.
Currently, Arc Studio Pro offers three options for subscriptions: a competitive free option, an Essentials package for $69 a year ($5.75 a month), and the Pro Package for $99 a year ($8.25 a month). The Pro Package is the way to go. For a little more per year, you get some really powerful features like The Stash, which allows you to remove parts of your screenplay without completely deleting them.
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.
There are monthly and yearly payment options for Celtx’s two screenwriting packages. The Scriptwriting package is about $20 a month or an average of $15 a month for the annual subscription. Celtx’s Video Production package is $30 a month for the month-by-month subscription and $27 a month for the annual subscription. The Video Production package gives you more access to features specific to producers, such as budgeting tools and scheduling features. Celtx’s Screenwriting Package is the way to go if you just want solid screenwriting software.
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.
Writer Duet also has annual and monthly payment options and four different packages — Free, Plus, Pro and Premium. The free package, like most, offers the least features but is still fairly competitive. The Plus package is $10 a month or an average of $6 a month for the annual subscription. The Pro package bumps up to $12 a month for the monthly payment schedule or $8 a month if you pay for the year and gives users a good portion of the available features.
Paying for the Premium package is worth the extra cost of $14 a month or $10 a month if you pay for the annual subscription, as it gives you access to all available features, including all of the amazing collaborative features.
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.