Screenwriting software

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  • Screenwriting software

    Can anyone recommend a free screenwriting software program online? I used one launched by the BBC years back but it has since been discontinued.,
    Last edited by Done Deal Pro; 10-17-2020, 07:32 AM. Reason: Added tags

  • #2
    Celtx and Trelby are listed/linked in the Resources and Recommendations thread. I remember using the BBC Writersroom's template for Word, which just added styles for various screenplay elements, easy to use and fun. But once you use dedicated screenwriting software there's no going back.
    Results posted for the Halloween 2020 contest
    in Writing Exercises forum

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    • #3

      Does Trelby take metric size paginating into account?

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      • #4
        I fell down a rabbit hole there trying to figure that out. I think it all comes down to printing options -- or lack of same.

        There doesn't seem to be direct-to-printer printing available. There's a print to PDF option instead.

        Although, when I followed the instructions to set this up (choose which PDF driver) and selected a known, working PDF driver, then tried to print a sample script to PDF, an error said nope, can't run that application. Even though it's right there.

        So I tried the File > Export option instead, which has PDF as the default filetype (others are RTF, Final Draft XML, HTML, Fountain and Formatted text), and it saved a PDF file okay, no problems this time.

        When I browsed the PDF (in my browser, Firefox) and selected the print icon, and then selected Preferences > Advanced, I could adjust the paper size from default Letter to A4.

        Best I could come up with, sorry. Trelby, although functional for writing, lacks certain features you might wish it had. (And whose omission is puzzling.)
        Results posted for the Halloween 2020 contest
        in Writing Exercises forum

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        • #5
          I do not have Trelby on this computer, so I cannot check the matter out. But according to the online manual, you can use A4 paper and customized page sizes.

          Trelby would probably be your best option to try among the free programs. However, it does not support Unicode, and that is a real disadvantage, in my opinion. Also, Trelby is abandonware. It has not had an update since version 2.2, and that was a good many years ago. Personally, I thought that the interface was clunky (not just the appearance, but also the way that you go about doing things). Nonetheless, I thought that the program had a lot of promise. Unfortunately, the two people who were working on Trelby lost interest in it (I assume). It takes a lot of time and work to create and maintain a major software program. The usual course of events is that someone creates a nice program, which may need some further development, and then after a few years decides not to spend any more time on the program.

          My recommendations, and I have worked with lots of software over the last thirty years, are these:
          1. If you really cannot afford a screenwriting program, use Word with a template or try Trelby.
          2. Save up about $80 and get Fade In. It is inexpensive but fantastic in what it can do. A free trial version is available at Fade In. Updates are free, and you can use the program on more than one computer. And, yes, metric pagination is available.

          "The fact that you have seen professionals write poorly is no reason for you to imitate them." - ComicBent.

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          • #6
            Okay, I downloaded Trelby (I had long ago decided not to have anything to do with it anymore). Derek (dpaterso) is correct. You can only print to PDF. I imported a Fountain file that I had. First, I discovered that the italics from the Fountain file (indicated with *text*) did not import as italics. Then I discovered that you cannot make anything italics in Trelby. This sounds incredible, but I even did a Google search, and found that others have been perplexed by the same issue.

            Since this was just a test, I did not save the PDF. Apparently it gets created and displayed but not saved unless you save it. Usually a program will ask you to name a PDF before it displays the PDF.

            Trelby is not only abandonware, but also crapware. Stay away from it.

            (Sorry, Centos, I know that you always liked Trelby, but it is deficient in various ways. 😟)

            EDIT TO ADD: You can select paper type. Under FILE on the Main Menu, you see some icons down the left side of the screen. The sixth one down is Script Settings. You can click it and then choose Paper to set your paper type. The default seems to be A4 paper in any case.

            "The fact that you have seen professionals write poorly is no reason for you to imitate them." - ComicBent.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by gardnuk View Post
              Does Trelby take metric size paginating into account?
              Yes, it defaults to A4 and shows both metric and "standard" measurements. ("Standard" because I can't currently come up with the proper term.)

              Paper Setting in Trelby.

              https://drive.google.com/file/d/18oP...ew?usp=sharing
              Last edited by Centos; 10-17-2020, 05:14 PM.
              STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I'm a wannabe, take whatever I write with a huge grain of salt.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by dpaterso View Post
                When I browsed the PDF (in my browser, Firefox) and selected the print icon, and then selected Preferences > Advanced, I could adjust the paper size from default Letter to A4.

                Best I could come up with, sorry. Trelby, although functional for writing, lacks certain features you might wish it had. (And whose omission is puzzling.)
                For changing your paper size (before printing) go to Script > Settings > Change and then choose Paper. You'll see all your settings there. You can change it to A4, Letter or Custom and all sizes have adjustable margins. I've set up Letter size templates with custom margins to make it more closely match my other applications. I've actually set up three "templates." One without bold headers but double-spaced — one with single spaced bold headers and one with double spaced bold headers.Trelby is very customizable. I think you're right about having to print to PDF, but that's the only way I print screenplays anyhow. Trelby has a built-in PDF creator. The path you're talking about is the PDF viewer. I've never had any problem with that, but I do have to put in the full path in Linux.

                I've been using Trelby since 2012 and I like it a lot. I've even created a few themes for it (like the "dark" theme in the previous post's link). But there are a few issues with it...

                No Unicode. No automatic dialog CONT'Ds. No italics or bold. Although I have "repurposed" the the Act Break and Note elements to display italics Action and Dialogue elements. (Complete element is italic, not word by word.) I have other work-arounds for this. For dialogue CONT'Ds I export to Fountain, read into Emacs using the Fountain-Mode add-on and then use Fountain Mode command "Refresh Continued Dialogue" option. Save and import the changed Fountain file into Trelby. (Takes about 15 seconds.) If I want to use Unicode or bold or italic, I mark these with astrisks, one for italics, two for bold, three for bold-italic, like this... *word-italic* or **word-bold** or ***word-bold italic*** and then export to Fountain. Then I use 'Afterwriting to create the PDF. Also works if I want to use em dashes instead of double hyphens. (I don't often do any of us, but I have been leaning towards adding dialogue CONTD's lately.)

                Trelby is small and has a good, clean interface and is fairly simple (but actually more complex than most people realize). By changing the the background colors and the display and PDF fonts to Courier Screenplay, you can create a modern looking interface and nice dark PDFs. Trelby also comes with a useful name bank, which I use regularly.

                But if you want something more modern and free... there's KIT Scenarist, WriterSolo and (temporarily, at least) Arc Studio Pro, which has a Windows version available but (like WriterDuet) it's more geared towards online collaboration. Fade In Pro is the obvious (to me) choice if you're going to buy software. It's small and clean, like Trelby, but also modern with more features (features I don't (personally) use but pros probably need). Some tout Fade In Pro as "free" but it's really a Demo with limitations, nags and watermarks — if I used it regularly, I would pay for it.

                Sorry to ramble. I like Trelby a lot.

                EDIT: An image of "modern" Trelby.

                https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Ruk...ew?usp=sharing
                Last edited by Centos; 10-17-2020, 06:53 PM.
                STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I'm a wannabe, take whatever I write with a huge grain of salt.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by ComicBent View Post
                  Trelby is not only abandonware, but also crapware. Stay away from it.

                  (Sorry, Centos, I know that you always liked Trelby, but it is deficient in various ways. 😟)

                  EDIT TO ADD: You can select paper type. Under FILE on the Main Menu, you see some icons down the left side of the screen. The sixth one down is Script Settings. You can click it and then choose Paper to set your paper type. The default seems to be A4 paper in any case.
                  Of course I disagree. Trelby does things differently, but it's neither "Abandonware" nor "Crapware." It's been open sourced and it's written in Python. Anyone could take the source from Git Hub and produce a more modern version of it, if they wished.

                  Some of the features that make Trelby a good choice.

                  It has PDF creation "built-in." It doesn't depend on whatever you happen to have on your computer (with varying quality) for producing PDFs. (That may be an issue with most Windows screenplay applications now, I don't know.) I don't really consider printing to PDF a problem. So you print to a screenplay formatted PDF and (using your PDF viewer) you print to paper... what's the issue?

                  If you want to post screenplay snippets on public forums (like this one) you can just select what you want to display and use System Copy (formatted) choice and paste properly formatted text into the forum... no other screenplay application does that as easily. Sample...

                  Code:
                  FADE IN:
                  
                  INT. DINER -- NIGHT
                  
                  Red naugahyde, chrome, a ceiling fan rotating slowly. No
                  customers. Lights dimmed.
                  
                  Estella, strikingly pretty, in a 50s style waitress uniform,
                  fills the salt shakers.
                  
                  Out of sight, someone is singing in the kitchen. We hear the
                  sound of pots and pans clanging in the sink.
                  
                  The door opens, wind whistling. Dan, the beat cop, in 50s
                  uniform, stomps snow off his polished shoes as he enters.
                  
                  Estella is preoccupied with her salt shakers.
                  
                                        ESTELLA
                            We're clos--
                  
                  Sees Dan, smiles.
                  
                                        ESTELLA
                            Oh, it's you. You're late. Your
                            coffee is getting cold.
                  Trelby has an elegant and simple interface.

                  Trelby does an excellent job of importing and exporting Fountain, Final Draft and (formatted) Text files.

                  Trelby is extremely customizable.

                  Trelby has decent reporting capabilities, including the ability to compare two revisions of the same script.

                  Trelby has a name database of over 200,000 names. I think the only other screenplay application that has something similar is Movie Magic Screenwriter (at least it used to).

                  Trelby is completely free.

                  In my opinion it's definitely NOT "crapware." I have access to several, more modern, applications. I choose to use Trelby because (for my purposes) it's better.

                  EDIT: Oh, and it let's me use the left parentheses to create a parenthetical. (I really do like that, though.)
                  Last edited by Centos; 10-17-2020, 06:55 PM.
                  STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I'm a wannabe, take whatever I write with a huge grain of salt.

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                  • #10
                    Frankly, the matter of formatting has always swamped me. That’s why I enjoyed the BBC software which all of my screenplays are done in. Simply put, time’s the essence and your pages gotta run 90m and at most 120m unless you’re writing El Cid or Spartacus. Thus, software plays an important edge. I was also using Amazon Studios until they shut it down.


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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by ComicBent View Post
                      EDIT TO ADD: You can select paper type. Under FILE on the Main Menu, you see some icons down the left side of the screen. The sixth one down is Script Settings. You can click it and then choose Paper to set your paper type. The default seems to be A4 paper in any case.
                      There are two types of settings, Script Settings (as you mention above) and Global Settings. You can create multiple configuration files for both and just load what you need at the time you need it. This is the way I got around the A4 default (since I always want to use Letter).
                      STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I'm a wannabe, take whatever I write with a huge grain of salt.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Centos View Post
                        For changing your paper size (before printing) go to Script > Settings > Change and then choose Paper.
                        Well there ya go. Knew it had to be somewhere. :)

                        Results posted for the Halloween 2020 contest
                        in Writing Exercises forum

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                        • #13
                          All sounds good and helpful all the above. Yet I'm curious why there are so many screenplay software programs out there. If I find a program I like, I'll stick to it. It's not an issue like changing camera or car brands. The only reason I'm defecting from the old BBC program is that it's begun jamming up my Word software.

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                          • #14
                            On this note---big question. Say I write a screenplay in Trelby and then decide to defect to another software. Can my Trelby-written manuscript be crossed over (pasted) into a new system?

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                            • #15
                              The answer's yes, RTF and plain text exports can be imported into anything, and Final Draft XML presumably is made for Final Draft users. Yes there are many screenwriting programs/apps around, I use Movie Magic and it is excellent, with a good import option. But pro software is pricey. I'd probably still be using Trelby or Sophocles (now defunct but it was a nice program) if I hadn't won my copy of MM in a contest!
                              Results posted for the Halloween 2020 contest
                              in Writing Exercises forum

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