I initially started with an MS-DOS screenplay formatting word processor called ScriptThing, which later evolved into Movie Magic Screenwriter. Both ScriptThing and Movie Magic Screenwriter were decent products and I enjoyed using both of them. Eventually my old version of Movie Magic Screenwriter got so far behind in features that I had a choice of either upgrading or using a different program altogether.
I switched to Celtx because Celtx is free, although the company also sells a professional version. However, I found Celtx lacked some features so I switched to a Macintosh-only program called Montage since by that time I wanted to avoid Vista so I switched to the Macintosh. Montage was inexpensive ($49.95) and worked well, but also lacked a few features that I wanted. That’s when I switched to Fade In and Final Draft.
Now you may wonder why I use two different screenwriting word processors at the same time. The reason is simple. With the project I’m currently involved in, everyone uses Final Draft so even though programs like Fade In can import and export Final Draft files, it’s far easier just to edit them directly in Final Draft, especially when it comes to making revisions and leaving script notes for each other.
However, Final Draft comes with a restrictive activation feature that locks the program to two computers. Normally this isn’t a problem since I activated Final Draft on my desktop computer and my laptop, but sometimes I need to carry my other laptop with me. I can’t activate Final Draft to run on three computers without constantly deactivating it on one computer and activating it on another, which is just a nuisance. That’s why I rely on Fade In for the initial creation of a script. Then I’ll export the Fade In file to a Final Draft file, let others review it and add in notes, and from that point on, I use Final Draft.
If you’re working in the industry, it’s far easier to use whatever program everyone else uses (usually Final Draft or Movie Magic Screenwriter) so you can just pass files around without the added step of importing and exporting them. If you’re just working on your own, use whatever program you like best.
Right now, I like using Fade In because of its low cost ($49.95), cross-platform capability that lets it run on Windows, Macintosh, and even Linux, and lack of activation restrictions. Plus Fade In focuses exclusively on writing, organizing, and editing a screenplay while Final Draft includes features I don’t need for dealing about the production aspects of a screenplay. The fewer features to get in the way, the less I have to worry about when writing.
Just realize that there is no “best” screenwriting program to use. Just use the one you like best. What’s more important is that you understand the principles of story structure and use whatever screenwriting program that works for you. That might be Celtx, Montage, Fade In, or Final Draft. Your software is far less important than your creativity and writing ability.
For those who are already using Fade In, you might be interested in my latest e-book called “How to Write a Great Script with Fade In.”
This e-book is a combination tutorial on how to organize your ideas for writing while taking advantage of Fade In’s features to help you structure and write your screenplay. Obviously if you don’t use Fade In, you won’t need this e-book, but if you do use Fade In, then you might find this e-book handy to help you get the most from the program.
Just don’t get deluded into thinking you need to spend a lot of money for screenwriting software. Someone with a crayon and notebook paper can write a better screenplay than someone with the most expensive computer and software, but with no clue what they’re doing. Whatever screenplay writing software you use, use it as a tool to make it easy to turn your thoughts into words as easily as possible. For me, that program is Fade In (for now).