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Top 5 Screenwriting Software for Writers on a Budget in 2024

The first step in writing a screenplay is having an idea. The tool required in order to come up with a compelling, unique idea is knowledge or life experience. The next step is to translate this idea into a story and screenplay. While you can technically use a pen & paper or standard word processing apps to type it out, having a screenwriting software will not just save you a lot of formatting time but also simplify your writing process.

If you’re reading this article, it’s likely you already know what a screenwriting software is and why you must use one. Professionals who are already earning a living by getting commissioned work find it easier to pay for software. But for aspiring and new writers who are mostly writing on spec, shelling out hundreds of dollars a year might not be affordable. And let’s not shy away from mentioning the elephant in the room ie. use of pirated and cracked versions that many writers often resort to. Fortunately, there are some desktop and web apps out there that you can legally use in 2024 if you’re on a budget. Let’s take a look at the top 5 such software tools. Some of these are open source / free and some of these are paid but affordable. 

Before we dive into it, one note of clarification. While the below options are shortlisted based on pricing, by no means is it implied that they are inferior alternatives. All of these apps let your format your screenplay based on professional expectations. The word “industry standard” is often advertised to proclaim legitimacy; in reality, what matters is if the final output (ie PDF) looks formatted as per industry norms. How you achieve it is entirely up to you as nobody can even tell what app you have used (or not) to write your screenplay.

The following are the top 5 tools (in no particular order) that you can refer to for writing your next screenplay.

1. Trelby

Trelby is an open source software that has been around for a decade. With a clean and intuitive interface, it prioritizes simplicity and functionality, making it an excellent choice for beginners and those who prefer a straightforward writing experience. While it lacks some of the advanced features found in premium screenwriting software, Trelby more than makes up for it with its affordability—it’s entirely free. It supports various export formats, ensuring compatibility with industry standards.

Pros  – Simple to use, Entirely Free

Cons – Lacks Advanced Features, No Cloud or Mobile version, Not actively being developed, Weak customer support

You can download the app from here

2. WriterSolo (by WriterDuet)

WriterDuet’s non-cloud version is WriterSolo that is a good option if you’re looking for a simple app with basic functionality. It started off with a one-time fee but now has been made free keeping its basic utility in tact. You can either write on the browser app or use the desktop app. 

Pros – Free, Desktop App + Browser App

Cons – No cloud sync, no real time collaboration option

You can download the app from here

3. Scrite

Scrite was launched in 2020 and in three years has over tens of thousands writers using the software. It follows a scene-centric approach allowing writers to outline, take notes and sync all with their screenplay seamlessly. It also offers Statistics report for writers who are interested in getting a birds eye view of their screenplay. It is available in multiple Indian languages and is especially popular among writers in in that region.

Pros – Feature rich, Multiple languages, Prompt Customer and Community Support, Free

Cons – No cloud sync and mobile app version

You can download the app from here

4. Fade in Pro

Popular among many professionals, Fade In pro is developed by a screenwriter and offers industry standard formatting with outlining and multiple languages. Customer support is timely and the app is available on Android and iOS. There is a free trial option with limited features and a watermark when files are exported. It costs $79.99 for lifetime access

Pros – Robust, Feature Rich, Multi Device

Cons – Can take a while to get used to, Paid for full use

You can download the app from here

5. Highland 2

Built by popular writer John August, Highland 2 is a distinctive screenwriting app renowned for its minimalist and distraction-free approach to writing. Built for writers who prioritize simplicity, it offers a clean and uncluttered interface. Highland’s unique feature is its “Navigator,” a collapsible sidebar that simplifies script organization and quick access to scenes. There is a Standard edition with limited functionality for free and a one time cost of $39 for lifetime access. There’s, however, no Windows version.

Pros – Robust, Suitable for Novels and Screenplays

Cons – Paid for full use, No cloud or mobile app, Available only on Mac 

You can download the app from here

You might find some more apps when you search online. We have consciously restricted this list to the top 5 alternatives to Final Draft, Celtx, WriterDuet, based on their budget-friendliness, adoption, security, and credibility in the industry.