Need a Final Draft Alternative for Linux? Try These Screenwriting Apps

Christian Cawley 06-05-2016

You’re a writer, but your budget is tight. You’ve already switched to Linux Switching To Linux? Here's How To Choose The Right Distro Your first Linux distribution can sweeten or sour your future Linux experience. That's why it's important to get that debut choice right. Read More , 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 Is LibreOffice Worthy of the Office Crown? LibreOffice is the king of free office suites. It's unlikely to replace Microsoft Office in a business environment, but it's an excellent alternative for casual users. Here's what's new in LibreOffice 5.1. Read More .


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 Trelby: A Free Screenplay Writing Software For Windows & Linux Want to learn the art of writing a screenplay? Check out Trelby, open source screenwriting software you can try right now if you're a Linux or Windows user. Trelby is completely open source, meaning you... Read More , 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 How to Install Steam and Start Gaming on Linux Installing Steam on Linux computers is straightforward, and the result is usually the same seamless gaming experience you had on Windows. Read More , 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 How to Run LibreOffice in Your Web Browser LibreOffice will soon run in your browser. They are preparing to challenge Microsoft and Google for a top spot in the office cloud. Can't wait for the official launch? Here are two workarounds. Read More ), 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.

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  1. Rob Centros
    August 1, 2016 at 8:33 am

    Trelby is the one I like (and use). Trelby 2.2 won't work on Ubuntu 16.04 or Linux Mint 18 (dependency error with wxgtk2.8), so you have to go to the Trelby forums and find the "trelby 2.3-all.deb" download in the threads dealing with Ubuntu 16.04. ( Get to the forums by going to [Broken Link Removed]

    One important omission here is Scrivener -- a professional and popular novel/screenplay writing application that has two (non-expiring) beta Linux versions available for free download. They won't be going forward with Linux, but the newer beta was released in October, 2015 and is almost -- feature for feature -- identical to the Windows version. Both versions are available as .deb downloads (in 32 and 64 bit) and as tar balls. Go to

    Another option is learning the Fountain markup language ( ) and using just about any text editor for writing. The advantage here is portability and the fact that text files will always be readable (whereas proprietary formats often disappear). Once you've written a screenplay in Fountain format, it can be imported into Trelby, or Fade In for formatting and exporting to PDF or Final Draft (.fdx) format, etc. You can also read Fountain files into where you they can be saved in Google Drive or Dropbox, or converted to PDF format and save to a local computer. AfterWriting can also be downloaded to your local computer and will run in your browser even when offline. It also includes its own Fountain editor.

    Another online screenplay choice is YouMeScript, which can import Final Draft .fdx files and export to .fdx, Fountain or plain text. Soon it will export to PDF format. It can be set up to save and read from Google Drive.

    What I'm currently doing is using Simplenote to write in Fountain format, then copying into AfterWriting and exporting to PDF. That way I don't have to use Google Drive or Dropbox, but still have my script saved at Simplenote (online and on my computer).

    At any rate, some more choices -- there are now plenty of screenwriting applications for Linux.

  2. Lazza
    May 8, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    «LibOScreenplay brings screenplay formatting into LibreOffice Writer»

    This is something I will probably never understand, therefore I would like to ask someone more experienced than me. My question is: considering the great advancements achieved in the last 20+ years, the amazing collection of high quality fonts available (some also with open source licenses) and the design lessons anyone can find online...

    Why on Earth would someone want to turn a LibreOffice document in such an awful output which seems coming from a typewriter? I get it that back in the days no other formatting option was available and you had to use underline instead of bold... but now we are in 2016. We have computers. We have formatting. We have stylesheets. Why?!?

    • Rob Centros
      August 1, 2016 at 7:39 am

      Because that's the industry standard -- it roughly equates to 1 minute of film to each page of script.

      • Lazza
        August 1, 2016 at 1:59 pm

        Ok but... is that the only reason? Plain-text emails where the industry standard 20 years ago... luckily nowadays we are almost getting rid of them. Slavery was the industry standard 500 years ago, again luckily not anymore.

        Things move forward, while this stylesheet seems to go in the opposite direction. :D Well, in any case thanks for answering my comment. I don't work in that industry so it doesn't bother me too much, but I am sad for all those eyes that will need to read such terrible looking pages.

        • Rob Centros
          January 25, 2017 at 3:42 am

          I haven't been here in a while. Standardization is a good reason. You have to understand that, if a screenplay is purchased it has to go through a lot of modification by several people. If everyone required their own "look" you end up with a mess. Fiction (short stories and novels) are standardized with double spaced, standard fonts -- stage plays also have their own standards. Standards are good, not a limitation. There's a reason for them.

        • Lazza
          January 25, 2017 at 1:25 pm

          We were not discussing whether standards are useful or not. We were discussing why that standard is so ugly it makes you wanna cry... That I will never understand. :)

          It lacks any kind of basic formatting and monospaced text makes text harder to read (unless it's source code and still it should be colored in that case, but I honestly doubt actors read C or Java code).

        • Andrew
          May 8, 2017 at 8:20 pm

          Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I am a writer and visual artist, not a programmer (although I did study programming for a year), and I can honestly say I very much like the look and feel of a film script, as no doubt do many others.

          I write notes or even entire articles in a simple monospace text editor as often as I use an actual office suite. I also own and use a typewriter when not writing on the computer. Where you see something ugly and terrible, some of us see beauty.

          Additionally, a film script is a working document that is endlessly highlighted and scribbled over even during filming, not a final publication, so I feel it's a good aesthetic fit.

          Change, though often positive, is not in and of itself inherently and automatically good. Likewise, change does not automatically equal progress.

          In short, please don't be so harsh! Film scripts are cool. Ditto for typewriters.

    • Lazza
      May 8, 2017 at 8:39 pm

      It's not just a matter of beauty, it's a matter of functionality as well. Documents are written to be read (well, usually). Monospace fonts make it harder (not just my opinion, it has been tested and verified). A total lack of formatting (sectioning, bold, italic, etc) also make it harder.

      Given that part of the job of actors is to read scripts, one would think the style should help them do so.

      With source code, it's different. We developers use monospace because otherwise code is impossible to align properly. However code uses a lot of symbols, not so many different words and modern development environments do use bold, italics and color to help the reader.

      • Rob Centros
        May 10, 2017 at 9:37 pm

        Well ... convert Hollywood then. (Not that it will happen.) Personally I don't agree with you about the "need" to change the screenplay standard, but knock yourself out.

        • Lazza
          May 10, 2017 at 10:07 pm

          TBH I never said I'd like to change what Hollywood is doing. I asked why they use such an awful style, yet nobody was able to provide a more authoritative answer that "well we've always used this, bro" which is basically an argumentum ad populum (a kind of fallacy).

          The fact that you accuse me of saying this weird choice must be changed and that I want to change it is also a nice example of strawman argument, used to change the topic of discussion for destroying it easily. But it doesn't work, unfortunately.

          Call me back when you've run out of logical fallacies and we can get back to a serious discussion. :) Cheers.

        • Christian Cawley
          May 12, 2017 at 8:00 am

          AIUI, the courier style is used partly for historical reasons, but also because a lot of white space on the page makes it easy to add notes. The font itself is clear and easy to read.

          You may not like it, Lazza, but many people do -- most importantly, those in the industry.

          (Also if you're a writer, and you're having trouble "feeling" it, switching from Arial or Calibri or whatever to Courier can help to focus your efforts.)