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Best Free Screenwriting Software: Review and Comparison of Arc Studio vs. WriterDuet vs. Celtx

By November 9, 2016 No Comments

(For price comparison with Final Draft click here.)

If you’re looking for free screenwriting software, we have good news! There are three great options:

We’ll cut to the chase: Arc Studio Pro is a great option for writers who want a robust, rock-solid, FREE professional screenwriting software with cloud-backup and collaboration. WriterDuet is also a great screenwriting software, with a free option and a paid version. And of course there’s Celtx, a popular option among students and industrial videographers.

Search complete! Now get back to writing.

…And if you’d like a more objective and thorough analysis, continue reading for a quick comparison of 5 key features in the two most popular options for free screenwriting software: WriterDuet and Celtx.

(DISCLAIMER: This was written by a former CELTX user who switched to WriterDuet several years ago, then got a job with WriterDuet last month, so WriterDuet is probably going to win. For a dialogue with less personal investment, look here)

1. Getting Started

WD’s no-frills design is document-centric, with buttons to refer to at the top of the page and unobtrusive icons for interacting with the current line.
Upon first opening CELTX, one finds that a decent amount of headspace is spent on the Line-Type dropdown menu, the Actions dropdown menu, and links to Seeds, Exchange, Apps, Notifications and more. There is also a footer that contains two timers: one is for writing, one is for thinking, and both are for keeping the writer aware of the steady and unrelenting approach of death.

2. Collaboration

Seamless real-time collaboration with infinite revision history and no loss of edits. Writers can work on different parts of the script or literally the same line, at the same or different times. Chat with cowriters (by text, audio and video) without leaving your script. Drop conversation-style text and multimedia notes on any line!
According to CELTX’s website:
“You should each work in your own section of the script. While we encourage real-time collaboration, there is only one copy of that script shared amongst however many people and only one change can save at a time.”

Also,

“You won’t see changes in real time yet. If your partner or colleague is working on the script at the same time as you, you’ll likely need to refresh to view their changes.”

3. Scene Cards

Scene cards are in the left sidebar. Go to a scene in just one click by clicking the card! Also, click and drag to rearrange scenes.

…Also, view a scene or set of related scenes in isolation with one click. Toggle scene descriptions and optionally link the cards with the Outliner and Scratchpad. Color code your cards and leave extra notes.

Scene cards are in the left sidebar. Go to a scene in just one click by clicking the card! Also, click and drag to rearrange scenes.

4. Revisions

View a full line history of each line in one click. See script changes during any time range, including deleted text (optionally specified by writer). Create industry-standard revision drafts in order to automatically view changes, with optionally colored text and asterisks in the right margin. You can even view multiple revisions at once!

View drafts from previous saves (and in the paid version, you can restore them as well).

5. Usability

The document itself generally leaves a good sense of what a printed copy will look like. However, one can toggle settings such as page breaks, colors, notes, and font-size without affecting the print copy. And WD constantly applies feedback from writers of all levels to create a smooth, fast, and simple experience.
While the document is not standard as you edit, there is a good Print Preview window that contains options for printing and shows what the document will look like.

CELTX is a functional and effective free screenwriting software, but when compared to WriterDuet, this isn’t a matter of opinion. Create a free WriterDuet account in one minute here.

Bonus comparison: Compatibility

If (when?!) your work is professionally produced, someone may ask for your script in Final Draft’s .fdx format. Unfortunately, CELTX does not have a .fdx export option. Fortunately, WriterDuet does, so you could simply import your CELTX script into WriterDuet and then export a perfect .fdx file to work from… but you may as well write it in WriterDuet from the beginning.

Search double-complete! Now get back to writing. Or at least hit the Back button and start watching films dubbed in Flemish.

Disclaimer note: While heavy fact-checking was done for this blog post, there may be errors. As time passes and these software improve, inaccuracies may form.