Scripting Software Teardown: Final Draft Against Celtx

In a world where people tell their stories on film from ideas that start on paper, there are two powerful platforms that provide all the tools that aspiring screenwriters need: Final Draft and Celtx. One is the entertainment industry standard. The other is free to use. But this Sunday, only one can be the best in the business.


If you’ve ever taken an interest in screenwriting or the process of making films, you’ve probably heard of both of our aspirant screenwriters:

  • Final Draft : Final Draft is software designed specifically for scripting back in 1991 and is the best-selling product of its kind. It makes it easier for both beginners and seasoned writers to conform to the rigid formatting of scripts used in the entertainment industry. It is currently in version 10 and is used in professional theater, television, and film production. Final Draft has apps available for Windows, Mac , iPhone, and iPad .
  • Celtx : Celtx – which stands for Crew, Equipment, Location, Talent and XML – is scripting software that also prepares media and organizes all kinds of projects such as films, plays, documentaries, games, and podcasts. It started out as desktop-only software, built by a volunteer community based on open, non-proprietary standards. Now the service is being used professionally in some niches of the entertainment industry and transferred to the cloud format. Celtx can be used on Windows and Mac computers, and there are apps available for iOS and Android .

Both Final Draft and Celtx have tons of useful features for developing stories, formatting scripts correctly, creating character libraries, tracking script changes, and collaborating with other authors.

Both platforms offer many features that will benefit aspiring screenwriters and producers.

It’s hard to go into the details of each program’s features and compare them all side-by-side because there are so many of them on both platforms. If you learn from this, it is important to know that both platforms are powerful comparable tools. However, they each have their own standout features.

Final Draft 10 has a Story Map that gives you a high-level view of your script and makes it easy to navigate and preview certain scenes. The Beat Board, a recent addition to the program, lets you organize your story as ideas come to you – which is nice when inspiration comes and you just need to get the idea. And the alternate dialogue feature allows you to write different lines for the characters in the scene so that you can express all your ideas at once and easily switch them if needed.

Celtx, on the other hand, has more options to integrate the entire production. There are planning, budgeting, team management, and expense reporting tools in addition to the basic scripting functionality you’d expect, such as storyboarding, change tracking, and story index cards. Celtx is also completely cloud-based, so you can access and work on your scripts or production budget wherever you are, as long as you have an internet connection. However, what features you get with Celtx depends on what you pay for. Overall, the pricing structure is what really sets the two platforms apart.

The final project costs an arm and a leg, Celtx offers subscription levels

In terms of cost, Final Draft and Celtx are light years apart, especially if you’re only interested in a scripting app. Here is a breakdown of prices for Final Draft products:

  • Final Draft 10 for Windows and Mac : $ 249.99
  • Final Draft Writer for iPhone and iPad : $ 19.99
  • Final Draft Reader, for iPhone and iPad : Free

When it comes to features like script version tracking, storyboards, index cards, and more, Final Draft is all or nothing. If you buy a license, you get everything the platform has to offer. The Final Draft Writer app lets you write and edit scripts on the go, but you don’t have access to most of the other features found in desktop software. Final Draft Reader is exactly what it sounds like. You can only open, read and print scripts.

Instead of a versatile package like Final Draft, Celtx offers varying levels of monthly subscriptions. Here’s a rundown of the cost of these tiers:

  • Basic scripting : Free. Everything you need to write a script from start to finish.
  • Story Development : $ 9.99 per member per month when billed annually or $ 14.99 when billed monthly. This level is ideal for a team of writers working on a single script to be sold or broadcast. It comes with script version tracking, index cards, and storyboarding features.
  • Script Productions : $ 19.99 per participant per month when billed annually or $ 29.99 when billed monthly. This level is ideal for a team of writers and producers working on a feature film. It includes the functionality of the previous tier, but adds functionality such as scheduling, budgeting, snapshot lists, and expense reports.
  • Episodic Productions : $ 39.99 per member per month when billed annually or $ 49.99 when billed monthly. This level is ideal for a team of writers and producers working on a TV show or series. It includes story-level features, but adds features such as episode scripting, episode planning, episode budgeting, and group management.

If you’re working on a script yourself, all you need is a free Basic Scriptwriting level. You will need to create a Celtx account, but that’s about it. And most of the features you’ll find in the Basic Scriptwriting layer on your desktop are also available in iOS and Android apps. All of this makes Final Draft’s steep all-or-nothing price tag insane, but there’s a reason for such a huge price difference …

Start with Celtx to learn the basics, then move on to final draft if you’re serious about becoming a screenwriter

If you asked any working screenwriter in the business what software they use – be it film, television, or advertising – it is highly likely that they will answer “Final Draft.” It is widely considered to be the industry standard. And if your goal is to become a professional screenwriter, the sooner you learn the ins and outs of Final Draft, the better. On Quora, Ken Miyamoto, a screenwriter and former analyst at Sony Pictures, explains why :

If anyone is serious about scripting, you need to know and understand Final Draft. Yes, other programs are cheaper, but if you are serious about being a screenwriter, you better be prepared in case something happens. Producers will ask you to create reports on your scripts, you will submit unfinished work to producers (they all have Final Drafts), etc.

The “.fdx” Final Draft format is what most people like directors, producers and other writers will expect, no matter what type of script you are working on and submitting. And unfortunately Celtx cannot export scripts as “.fdx” files. Celtx, with its tremendous stability of collaboration tools, has made significant headway, but it is nowhere near as popular as Final Draft.

However, when you are just starting to write scripts, there really is no need to spend $ 250 on software . Do not do this. Celtx is a great scripting tool I’ve used for years on my own projects, and it’s perfect for learning about script formatting and exploring your story ideas. Plus, it’s hard to beat free. My advice: start with the free Celtx level for scripting, then move on to Final Draft if and only if you think you want to continue writing like a pro at some point in your career. Whether you want to write films for fun with friends, shoot YouTube videos, write plays for your local community theater, or just watch your film ideas look on paper, choose Celtx. That’s all you need. Also, whatever you choose, remember that programs don’t write scripts, but people. Choosing one of these programs over the other will not make you a better storyteller or magically combine your movie idea with less investment. Pick a handy toolbox and start typing.


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