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Trelby: A Free Screenplay Writing Software For Windows & Linux

Justin Pot 29-03-2012

screenplay writing softwareWant 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.


Whether you’re an aspiring writer or a planning on becoming a YouTube star The YouTube Guide: From Watching to Production Want to get the most out of YouTube? This Youtube guide is for you. This guide goes over everything you need to know about YouTube, whether you're an enthusiast or a budding director. Read More , knowing how to write a script is an essential skill. It’s possible, of course, to write a screenplay using Microsoft Word, but using software built for screenplays saves a lot of time. Formatting for screenplays is very specific, so why waste time imitating it? It will just frustrate you, distracting you from your writing.

Screenwriting software can be expensive, however: Final Draft, an industry standard, costs $249. This isn’t a problem for established writers, of course, but is a significant sum if you’re waiting tables while also waiting for your big break.

Don’t resort to piracy. Trelby is completely open source, meaning you can download it and start writing right now, free of charge. It works on Windows and Linux computers, and a Mac version could be released soon. Even better: it’s easy to use, and works great. It even supports Final Draft files, to a certain degree.

Using Trelby

Like most screenwriting software, Trelby is about one thing: writing. The software may seem confusing at first, especially if you’ve never used screenplay software, so check out the Trelby getting started guide. It will outline a few concepts, which I’ll get into briefly.

screenplay writing software


Basically, you start writing. You can use the Tab and Enter keys to change the kind of copy you’re writing, or “elements”.

Different elements of a script, such as action, dialogue, character names and parentheticals, are automatically detected based on where you are in the script. You can see what element the current line is, and which keys to press to change that, at the top-right of the screen.

screenplay writing software free

Play around with this and you’ll get the hang of it. If you plan on writing screenplays regularly it will all become second nature, but you will need to know the basics of screenplay writing to really take advantage of this software. Be sure to read the Trelby manual to learn even more, or check out this site to learn the basics of writing a good screenplay.


Need a distraction-free environment? Switch to fullscreen mode.

screenplay writing software free

Thinking of printing your masterpiece and sending it to Spielberg? Don’t forget to make a titlepage first.

screenplay writing software


Just so you know: Neither I nor MakeUseOf are responsible if Spielberg doesn’t write back to you. You should have sent the script to someone more powerful.

Download Trelby

Want to try this out and get started writing your screenplay? Head to the Trelby download page. You’ll find .deb packages for Ubuntu and Debian users, source code for other Linux users and an installer for Windows users. Sorry Mac users: there’s currently no Mac version to download, though there might be soon – Trelby is looking for volunteers to make a port.


I’m not an expert when it comes to writing screenplays, but I plan on using this software for upcoming YouTube-related projects. I’ll let you guys know if any of them turn out well.

Will you be using Trelby? Let me know in the comments below, along with links to your cinematic masterpieces.


Related topics: Filmmaking, Text Editor, Writing Tips.

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  1. mohammad nadeem
    July 25, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    Very good............

  2. ugur
    July 14, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    It does not support Turkish. Peh !

  3. Gabriel
    June 5, 2012 at 12:59 am

    I would *love* trelby to be as great as Final Draft 8, because I really love Linux. It's just not though. Eventually, I hope it will be. I'm sure that I could adapt Libre Writer to work just as good, but Final Draft is just *way* to easy to use out of the box:

    - It auto-completes names
    - It makes it easy to select the element that you want to work with
    - It keeps an outline of your scenes on screen
    - It has numerous ways to view your screenplay
    - It even has a font that's "more screenplay," as its look has become an industry standard.

    I really hope trelby keeps developing.

    • Justin Pot
      June 5, 2012 at 3:24 pm

      Work on Trelby continues, so hopefully someone will add these features.

    • Mark
      July 27, 2012 at 6:09 pm

      Trelby auto-completes names. I personally don't like that feature, but it has it.

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  5. Ceridwen
    April 16, 2012 at 12:13 am

    Thank you for the tip! It looks great! :)

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  7. Z.B. Manfred
    April 6, 2012 at 3:06 am

    I write fiction primarily, and am not familiar with the ins and outs of screenwriting lingo. But as I have just completed the first draft of a novel, I can second that notion about M$ Word or any of the other WP apps/suites as being useless for tackling large documents like a book or screenplay. Word is too bloated to handle the expansive nature of 200+ page novels or 120-page scripts, and I actually find it distracting even without the chatty paperclip. ;-)

    It's also not good for "turning off your inner editor," as it flags grammatical errors and spelling mistakes that maybe are intentional depending on what you're writing. An example would be the novels Charley or Precious, in which the main character's dialogue is deliberately constructed as to be rife with errors and mistakes, because both Charley and Precious are of limited mental capacity. I know you can just turn off spell-check, but even without that added feature, it just always crashes when forced to handle large documents, and not only that, it often doesn't format the manuscript properly (page numbers, etc.) if you try to work around this limitation by making each chapter a separate document.

    For my most recent project I used one of those full-screen text editors, one by the name of Q10. I then intend to combine all the .txt files into a single printed document using Scrivener, the famed "writer's word processor" for Mac that just released a version for Windows; it's about $40 but well worth the investment. I don't do my writing *in* Scrivener itself, the note-cards or what have you; I just use the document-combining feature that automatically formats the end result in standard manuscript format, ready for printing or for exporting to PDF or the various e-book formats.

    Word is probably best for writing high school term papers and quick office memos. As a creative writing program, well, it's plainly obvious that Bill Gates wasn't an English major, otherwise he would have had Jonathan Franzen's thousand-page doorstops in mind. ;-)

    • Justin Pot
      April 16, 2012 at 1:32 pm

      Great thoughts on the limitations of Microsoft Word. It's an amazing program for what it's for: laying out content on a page, quickly. It's not a program for writing, though. I pretty much only use it if I plan on physically printing something, which is hardly ever in 2012.

    • Phil Tobin
      May 13, 2012 at 9:39 am

      I'm not sure how it is that someone capable of drafting a screenplay seems incapable of ticking or unticking user chooser options in the software they use.

      The assertion that Word conflicts with one's 'inner editor' is downright silly: Word only flags grammatical errors and misspellings if that's what the user asks it to do.

      A screenplay is easily 'formatted' in Word -- I know, because I've done it several times -- by dint of 'building' the initial scenes (including dialog) with the industry-standard visual shorthands and upper / lower case codings, and then simply copying those four or five pages and pasting for re-use as one trundles along.

      As to finishing up with a 'large' document, there's something spectacularly wrong with a screenplay if that's how it ends up: hundreds of pages is usual for a novel, hundreds of pages for a screenplay, definitely not.

      Microsoft Word doesn't topple over, either on large docs or compilations, and especially where novel writing is concerned: I create chapter by chapter, and use Word to total up the word count at the end of each so that way, both I and my agent (and my publisher's editor) have a running, accumulative total of the MSS.

      It's simplicity itself to use Word's footer feature to incorporate whatever is required, and especially the actual page number, be a running MSS of 600 pages or 60. If as ZB Manfred contends, Word keeps 'crashing' then there's either something wrong with her / his computer or with her / his installation of the program itself.

      I'm not criticising in any way the software so kindly flagged up here by MUO, simply trying to point out that (1) there's a very good reason why publishers, editors, writers and agents use MS Word quite happily and -- perhaps more importantly -- that (2) far too many aspirant screenwriters get hung up on the notion of 100% accurate formatting as they go along, when in fact, the simplest annotations can be scribbled anywhere on the page, in any font, in any style, and in any position and tidied up afterwards: it's the calibre of the creative process, not mastery of the technical process, that counts.

      • Justin Pot
        May 14, 2012 at 8:02 pm

        Great comment. There is no one right way to do things. Find the tool that works for you, and don't make a religion out of it.

        Myself, I find that Word rarely works for me, but most of my writing is for the web. Some writing screenplays prefer dedicated software, but many do well with Word. Find what works for you.

  8. garry
    April 1, 2012 at 1:09 am

    Everytime I see that left handed close button, I remember why Canonical gives me douche chills.

    Im not sure I understand why this couldnt be added as some kind of plugin to LibreOffice since its reallly about preset formatting. Heck, couldnt this be added as a LO template?

    Its a great idea to save time but Im not sure a whole different word processor is needed for this nice option..

    • Justin Pot
      April 2, 2012 at 3:48 pm

      I've no idea why people get so worked up about the left-side button thing. I make sense in the context of their design, which puts such controls on the left side. It was either that or move the notification area to the left...

      Anyway, talk to someone who writes screenplays for a living about why they don't use Microsoft Word or Libre Office to do so. There are good reasons for this, but simply put: word processors are made for laying out content on a page. I never use a word processor when blogging, because I prefer to do my formatting in HTML. Programmers don't user a word processor for writing code, because the formatting is irrelevant to them and would just get in the way.

      Screenplay writers prefer using software made for writing screenplays. It's why Final Draft sells so well, and it's why Trelby is a gread idea.

  9. Bless
    March 31, 2012 at 11:32 am

    Downloading this for a friend, and i know he'll love it...

    • Justin Pot
      April 2, 2012 at 3:49 pm

      Let me know if he does!

  10. sardo
    March 30, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    Just in time for script frenzy.

    • Justin Pot
      April 2, 2012 at 3:50 pm

      I hope it speeds up the frenzy.

  11. Krishnapriya
    March 30, 2012 at 3:47 am

    just what i was looking for! thanx

  12. Joel Lee
    March 29, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    Back when I gave a shot at writing short films, I would use Celtx. I remember it being free (probably open source, too) but it had a few quirks that I didn't like. If I ever get back into that, which I might, I'll definitely give Trelby a go. Thanks, Justin!

    • lefty.crupps
      March 31, 2012 at 4:47 pm

      CeltX may be FLOSS (I don't remember and the license may have changed) but to take advantage of its collaborative benefits and make it truly useful you needed to pay the CeltX people to host your scripts for collaboration efforts. Using KDE's SFTP KIO slave is far more useful and standard, or Google Docs for actively collaborative efforts.

    • Justin Pot
      April 2, 2012 at 3:51 pm

      Celtx looks interesting, thanks for sharing that. I hope Trelby works out for you, and thanks for taking the time to comment.