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First Look: Celtx, open source screenwriter

updated 04:00 pm EDT, Tue August 26, 2008

Celtx, screenwriter

If you're interested in writing a screenplay, a teleplay, or a stage play, you could use an ordinary word processor. Unfortunately, each script style requires different page margins and formatting conventions. You could take the time to define these formatting styles yourself, or you could just use a special scriptwriting program that does this for you automatically. Rather than pay $200 or more for a commercial screenwriting program, try the open source Celtx scriptwriter instead.

When you first start the program, you can choose the type of formatting you need, such as for a film, theater, comic book, audio-visual presentation, or radio script. If you want, you can even use the program as an ordinary word processor.

Having a variety of script templates available in a free scriptwriting program may be all you need, but the program does more than just help format your story. Using its tabbed interface, you can keep track of various details regarding your story.

While writing your script, you may have an idea for another part of your story. Rather than jot this idea on a piece of paper, just type information in a note window, which appear as yellow Post-It notes on the side of the screen. Linking notes to your script insures that you'll never lose another idea again.

For keeping track of the main features of your story, such as the actors and any major props or sets, the program includes a simple database (called a Catalog). By storing information about the props or actors, you can keep track of the availability of the items you need to make your story come to life.

Every story needs characters, but it's easy to forget details while you're writing your script. To help you remember these character details, you can store this information in a simple character database that's always saved in the same file as your script. Now you'll never risk losing track of character details again.

Most script writers may only need to keep track of locations and characters. However, if you're involved in the actual production of a script, you'll also need to worry about scheduling rehearsals and filming. To schedule the production of a script, the program provides a handy calendar.

With movies, directors often create storyboards where an artist quickly sketches out scenes. By creating a storyboard, a director can experiment with different angles and shots without wasting the time of the actual actors on a set. If you're handy with sketching, you can load your drawings into the program and store them in a storyboard. Now you can visually see how each scene progresses.

Celtx is useful for both script writers and anyone involved in the actual production of a story. With features for both writers and directors combined in a single, free program that can run on Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux, Celtx is a unique scriptwriting program that every aspiring script writer should try. The program may not turn your ideas into a marketable script overnight, but it gives you all the tools to create and organize your story so you can focus on writing.

by MacNN Staff



  1. designr

    Joined: Dec 1969


    First Look???

    Celtx has been around for years.

  1. vasic

    Joined: Dec 1969


    In Beta

    Yes, but all those years, it was in Beta. Version 1.0 was finally announced a couple of months ago.

    I wonder if professionals in the movie industry would be able to use this instead of Final Draft. I'd say, it isn't so much about the feature set as it is about the fat that Final Draft is THE standard, much like MS word is corporate word processing standard. Tough to displace a dominant player, even with a free alternative of similar features and quality.

  1. chris2519

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Despise Final Draft

    I'm going to try it. It it works, it'd be a great alternative to Final Draft which is, in a my opinion, a bloated and crash-prone product, with some terribly unintuitive command structures. I've used Screenwriter for years, which is far superior, does more, is faster and more intuitive, yet doesn't have the name recognition that Final Draft does. I don't get it. I guess people hear a name and just jump on the bandwagon. It's a shame. I hope this program works - it'd be a great alternative for broke and struggling writers!

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