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November 8, 2021

6 Best Screenwriting Software of 2021 (Paid and Free)

No matter the type of writer, what brings us all together is our constant search for the perfect writing method. Whether our office furniture, notebooks, laptops, or the software we use, we're always trying to make the brain-to-page transition as painless as possible.

When it comes to screenwriting software, you have options. We will look at six significant players and discuss which ones are the most suitable for your screenwriting needs.

6 best screenwriting softwares of 2021 (paid & free)

The screenwriting softwares listed below are the most popular ones.

Here are our top contenders:

  • Final Draft: The industry standard, Final Draft, has been around for a long time and is used very broadly.
  • CeltX: The first browser-based app with real-time collaboration.
  • Fade In: A cheaper and slightly more straightforward alternative to Final Draft.
  • WriterDuet: The Swiss Army Knife of screenwriting software does moderately well in every category.
  • Highland 2: This software is a top-rated IOS app with a minimalist design that's easy to use but very simple and offers minimal features.
  • Arc Studio: A modern take on screenwriting, Arc Studio brings you thoughtful design, flexible story-building, and comfortable collaboration.

What are we evaluating?

We'll break down our top six screenwriting software contenders into a few different categories:

  • Best Screenwriting Software for Industry-Standard Formatting
  • Best Screenwriting Software For Writing & Editing
  • Best Screenwriting Software for Story-building / Outlining
  • Best Screenwriting Software For Draft Management & Revisions
  • Best Screenwriting Software For Collaboration & Feedback
  • Best Screenwriting Software for Mobile Apps
  • Screenwriting Software Prices

Let's dive in.

Best screenwriting software for industry-standard formatting

When it comes to industry-standard formatting, most screenwriting softwares available have you covered. Gone are the days of having to decide between an expensive subscription and doing all your tab indents yourself. Final Draft dominated the scene for years, but this is no longer the case. There are dozens of options when it comes to turning out a well-formatted script.

Probably not your best bet: CeltX is an often-used solution that doesn't focus on formatting as much, so depending on how much you're willing to take on yourself, your mileage may vary with it.

Great Versatility: Arc Studio Pro gives you options when it comes to advanced formatting. You can let it do the job for you, but you can also adjust many variables like dual dialogue, scene numbers, and custom elements.

Best screenwriting software for writing & editing

Most writers want software that allows them to write with little distraction. What does that entail? Ideally, a sleek user interface, lots of comfortable shortcuts, minimal clicking, and, hopefully, a dedicated focus mode.

While the vast majority of apps will have good shortcuts, they aren't always ideal in terms of design. Lots of solutions either feel clunky or have a steep learning curve.

Best options: Two solutions focus on design and ease of use: Highland 2 and Arc Studio. Both have a sleek interface and a dedicated focus mode that allows you to zone into your writing and forget about the tools.

Best screenwriting software for story-building / outlining

While not every writer is an outliner, those who love to plot and plan need a sound system that will help them organize their ideas, move beats around, experiment, and not feel hindered by the software they're using.

If you're used to whiteboards: Final Draft and WriterDuet have tools available that mimic a traditional whiteboard/corkboard. They're not feature-heavy but might be enough if all you need is a place to save your thoughts and shuffle them around.

Your best bet: If you're looking for the next level in terms of story building, Arc Studio Pro brings you an intuitive drag & drop system, easy tagging, automatic color coding, and a fully kitted beatbox that allows you to reference your material as you're writing your script.


Best screenwriting software for draft management & revisions

If you've ever written any word processing software at all, you'll be familiar with that dreaded moment when you need to refer back to an older draft. Did you remember to save it? Is it in temporary files? Will you need a recovery team to go in after it?

These days, most apps have some version of revision tracking, even though it will require you to save versions manually in many cases. That's unfortunate because you're always going to run the risk of forgetting and losing work.

Luckily, Arc Studio has automatic history and revision tracking, meaning you don't have to manage your drafts manually and highlight changes in hindsight. You can rest easy knowing your drafts will save automatically.

Arc Studio Pro makes it easy for you to never lose a draft.


Best screenwriting software for collaboration & feedback

There's nothing as applicable to honing your craft as getting feedback on your work. Thus, a good screenwriting solution should prioritize comfortable collaboration and easy comment management.

Your best bet: Depending on what you're after, there are a few options here.

Final Draft and Fade In both offer session-hosting-based collaboration.

On the other hand, WriterDuet, CeltX, and Arc Studio are all fully equipped for real-time collaboration.

Now, there is one problem. Historically, cloud-based services have often led to data loss. Technology is improving every day, but even so, there's never any guarantee. And cloud-based services are precisely what the majority of screenwriting solutions use when it comes to collaborative work.

Arc Studio Pro, however, built its system from the ground up to be a more reliable service for professional work. Receiving and managing feedback has never been easier or more stable. You can count on comments with intuitive tagging, fully-featured filtering, easy resolving, and many other features. Arc Studio Pro offers solutions for teams of writers, too.

Receive and manage feedback easily in Arc Studio Pro.
Receive and manage feedback easily in Arc Studio Pro.

Best screenwriting software for mobile apps

In a perpetually mobile world, why wouldn't you want your writing software to be with you wherever you go? Mobile apps are a vital part of our lives as writers.

Namely, WriterDuet, Arc Studio, and Final Draft have dedicated resources to creating good quality mobile apps. But which of them is the superior tool?

Arc Studio is the only one of the three with shortcuts and a user interface designed specifically for mobile devices. That means you can get commands like double space to switch between Action and character.

Still unsure if Arc Studio is your best bet? Don't take my word for it. There's always an easy way to tell which apps are doing well with users: reading the reviews. Check them out!

Screenwriting software prices

Although there's no way to put a value on your comfort and productivity, it's still reasonable to consider the price when investing in software, especially since you may be early on in your career and not necessarily turning a profit just yet.

Free plans are a great way to figure out whether an offer is right for you before leaping, and you can use free plans from Highland, WriterDuet, and Arc Studio.

If you're looking for the bells and whistles versions of your favorite software, here's what you can expect them to charge:

  • Final Draft starts at $249, and you can get upgrades for $179.
  • FadeIn costs $79.95, and all updates are free.
  • Highland will unlock the pro version for $50, removing the watermark.
  • Arc Studio will open the fully-featured version at $99 per year.
  • WriterDuet comes in at $120 per year.

Screenwriting software - conclusions

Ready to write your first page?

There's rarely any one-size-fits-all solution, and you might have to take some free trials or experiment with the free versions of some of these programs to figure out what works for you.

For me, it's a mixture of handwriting first drafts coupled with the easy and beginner-friendly auto-formatting in Arc Studio Pro. Top that process off with feedback from your peers, and you've got a winning combination.

Breakdowns

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6 Best Screenwriting Software of 2021 (Paid and Free)
Alex Woodroe

Alex is a professional editor and ghostwriter from Romania. She specializes in dark speculative fiction, compelling characters, and snappy dialogue, and loves nothing more than showing others the editorial tricks she's picked up along the way.

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Arc Studio is the new standard in screenwriting software: stay focused, craft better stories, and collaborate with ease.

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David Wain

For decades I've been searching for a seamless screenwriting app and and everything has come up way short – until Arc Studio. Writing and collaborating is easier than ever and it gets better every week. Well done!

David Wain
Writer/Director "Role Models"