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You’re a writer, but your budget is tight. You’ve already switched to Linux, and all goes well, until you sit down at your desk to start work on your latest screenplay.
All of a sudden, it hits you. Final Draft is not available; you don’t have a dedicated app for completing your script! What will you do? Well, for a start off, you won’t be switching back to Windows. Let’s take a look at five alternatives that are on offer for scriptwriters using a Linux PC.
Screenwriting Apps: What Should They Do?
Different features are required depending on what type of script project you’re working on, but on the whole screenwriting apps offer a selection of similar tools that should be available on all such applications.
We’re talking about things like standard screenplay formatting, the ability to save, and export to PDF and other useful formats, and the software should be simple to install and set up. Additional features can enhance (or in some cases, negate) these basic options, but this is the baseline of expectations. While you might consider Final Draft as an option run in a virtual machine (Wine isn’t really an option), native tools should be your priority, at least long-term.
We’re going to look at five options for Linux-based screenwriters, Trelby, CeltX, WriterDuet, FadeIn and the LibOScreenplay template for LibreOffice.
Available across all three main desktop operating systems, Trelby is perhaps a tool you’ve already used, and so installing it on Linux after moving from Windows or Mac OS X would make perfect sense as well as being very convenient.
Trelby makes it very easy to get started with a script, and offers easy formatting, meaning that you can quickly switch between dialogue, action and character names with a single keystroke. Better still, Trelby is free!
We’ve taken a detailed look at Trelby, and we’re continually impressed by its simplicity. The end results are good, the basic formatting and export options are there, and it also switches to full screen mode for distraction-free writing.
This used to be the best option for Linux, but changes to the business model mean that this is no longer the case – well, not if you want a screenwriting app that you want to install. However, CeltX’s move to a browser-based app means that it is available across platforms, including mobile.
These days, CeltX is a business, offering a free online scriptwriting app through your browser. If you want more than this, it also offers multi-user collaboration with script revision, index cards, scheduling, budgeting and cost reports, and much more. Clearly this $9.99/month Standard option is aimed at production companies, as is the Professional $19.99/month service. There’s even an Enterprise-standard option for CeltX.
But if you just want to write the scenes in your head, and are happy to use your browser, the Basic $0 option is for you.
Unusually for Linux software, FadeIn is a premium option, priced at $49.95. This doesn’t mean that you cannot try it for free — it has a free demo version – but if you want to use it long-term, it might mean parting with your usual requirement of Linux software. (On the other hand, if you’re using Linux for gaming, then you’ll be used to paying for software.)
With a strong user interface and extensive formatting tools (for default and custom script styles), FadeIn also features autocomplete for those times when you’re regularly typing the same character names, a distraction-free view, and strong color-coded navigation and version options.
I’m particularly impressed with the Dialogue Tuner feature, drops the entire dialogue from a single character in an easy to view panel so you can ensure their voice remains consistent. FadeIn also supports Final Draft documents, as well as CeltX. Cloud storage and mobile app support means you can view your work from any device to hand.
Like CeltX, WriterDuet comes with a range of options, from a free $0 browser-based version with formatting, collaboration and revision tracking options to the Screencraft Edition ($89/year, $179 lifetime) which bundles education tools into the package.
You might also consider the Pro, $7.99 version, which offers a standalone desktop app, encryption, cloud support, statistics and watermarks, among many others.
A live demo is available for you to try WriterDuet, which shows you the user interface and the various features on offer. Like CeltX, WriterDuet’s browser-based version is useful enough, but for the more full-featured experience, you’ll be opting for the paid option.
Not actually an application, but a template package for LibreOffice Writer (which you can now run in your browser), LibOScreenplay is a useful screenwriting option, particularly useful for low-resource systems.
Essentially, LibOScreenplay brings screenplay formatting into LibreOffice Writer, allowing you to tweak the layout of your existing scripts and start new ones using the various script format standards. While the templates are optimized for screenplays and teleplays, they could also be adjusted for other projects, such as comic book scriptwriting.
The State of Screenplay Apps on Linux
Whether you’re writing a movie or a radio play, you’ll need dedicated scriptwriting software. Strangely, the majority of the tools available on Linux are focused purely on the former, aiming to satisfy the largest common denominator in the scriptwriting community. This I find odd; but that’s not all. The drive towards browser-based, cloud-centric apps is also of concern.
While it is useful to have mobile apps that can load up and edit your scripts, desktop apps are a far more satisying prospect, and less likely to crash. They’re also easier to focus on, unlike the many-tabbed distractions of a browser window.
It’s interesting too that so many of these services are cross-platform. We certainly don’t see this as a bad thing as productivity is all-important, but seeing so few strong and exclusive options for Linux in this area of software is disappointing.
So, this is how things are in 2016 for Linux-using screenplay and teleplay writers. But perhaps we’re wrong — could there be another alternative? Perhaps you know better — if so, tell us in the comments.