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I've been on a quest for the last few years to find a screenwriting app that didn't suck.

First, there's Final Draft, the market leader. People have hated Final Draft for years. The support sucks, and their major version releases are always massive bug-fests. Not to mention, the performance of the app is slow, and it doesn't feel like an OS X application. It's Carbon and doesn't use OS X's spellchecker or Cocoa typography, so the font has a grainy look to it that's hard on my eyes after I've spent three hours churning out twenty pages of script. It's just not a very friendly OS X app.

Now, when Montage was announced, I was ecstatic. It was advertised as a a fully native Cocoa screenwriting app. I (and many others) was hoping for a modern screenwriting app to blow Final Draft out of the water. But since the first beta release, I've been very disappointed. First, the interface is pretty bad and not what I was hoping for. The app wants to be everything and actually has pages for research, notes, contacts, synopsis, and more. Look, I have note-taking research apps, thank you, and they're much better than what a screenwriting app is going to give me. I also already have an outlining app that's going to do outlining much better than it ever will. It feels like there's a lack of focus in Montage.

As for the actual screenwriting part of Montage, every single beta I've tried screws up its formatting when I type a few sample scenes. It's up to beta10 now, and it's still a mess. Montage has a Script view which is the standard word processor like Final Draft, and a Scenes view, which starts off with a cool idea. You create the script scene by scene, and can name the scenes. They're displayed in pretty rounded rects. But both Script and Scenes view are a mess. In Final Draft, if I type "int," Final Draft knows I'm starting a slugline and automatically creates that element. Montage does the same thing but puts the cursor before the "t" for some reason instead of after, so when I'm typing out a slugline, I always end up with "IN. SCENE NAMET" because I'm not paying attention to the fact I'm screwing up the INT. It also uses a non-standard method of inserting parentheticals on dialogue. There are many other quirks (renaming a scene in Scene view is weird).

I started my own app, learned how to use the Cocoa text system to create multiple pages like every word processor has (you know, with the gray space between the page ends, etc.). Got far enough to have some very basic element formatting. But I just don't have the time with my crappy day job to actually go through with the whole thing. I had all these great ideas for the interface and functionality.

I want a straightforward app with a script view (no weird abstract Scene views). I want to be able to create colored markers to the left of my pages to define my own sections in the script, like markers in Logic or Cubase, but with start and end points. I want to be able to reorder these sections on a whim, mark them visible or invisible, store them in a scratch bin for later use, etc. I want an app with a notes pane like Pages, with a yellow "sticky" with a line pointing to the section of text attached to the note. I want the ability to create a mini-database of authors with contact information for scripts with multiple authors, tracking the changes each one makes. I want the ability to record all changes and revert to a previous snapshot of the script at any time and view all the changes since (like Wikipedia pages). I want to be able to export to XML. And so on.

I so dearly wish this dream app would come to exist. If not by OmniGroup, who? Does anyone know of a Mac screenwriting app that doesn't suck? :(

Last edited by bonch; 2006-07-13 at 12:48 AM..
I have to say that I agree with you, though the new version of ScreenWriter (aka Movie Magic ScreenWriter) is actually pretty nice. It's currently in beta testing, and I am very happy with the improvements.

It's Mac and Win (originally Mac), though the Mac version if further along in the beta process. They will have a Universal Binary available when they release the new version later this year.

Here's a link for the current version (which is nowhere near as good as the next version). They have a free demo download:
ScreenWriter web site.

James B
I've used Screenwriter, and it's got nothing like what I'm wanting. For example, I want to be able to create a named "section" out of a block of script elements and move it around in a playlist-like window, allowing me to rearrange a script's story on the fly by dragging sections around.

I want to be able to store different versions of a section in a scratch bin that I can swap out at will (I rewrite scenes, but I like keeping the alternate versions for comparison, so why should I have to store them in a separate scratch file?), have an individual edit history for each section ala Wikipedia that would let me go back to a specific date in time to see what the text in that section looked like and which author made the changes, and so on.

Using that built-in edit history, I want to be able to spit out any version of a screenplay at will ("You want to see what the script was like at 6:00 PM on February 2nd? Hold on, I'll tell OmniScreenwriter to spit out a PDF of the script from that date"). I also want to be able to designate named states for the screenplay, so that one evening I can mark my screenplay as a "Second draft," which would act like a bookmark in the edit history that I could refer to in the future ("Give me a copy of the second draft version of the script, I want to compare it to the shooting draft").

Essentially, I want screenwriting software that lets me organize my script and control it in ways no other screenwriting app currently does. I want to be able to mark out all the sections of my script by act, midpoint, turning point, etc., as well as sub-sections within those sections (funny part, sad part, introduction of so-and-so, etc.), ad infinitum--dividing the story up into smaller and smaller manageable bits. I also want tons of metadata tagging on these sections so I can easily categorize and search them. Right now I use OmniOutliner to plot out my stories, and tying into that as a starting point to begin writing would rock.

There are so many ideas I want to see in screenwriting software that would be such a huge miracle for the way I work. I hate that I don't have the time to follow through with it in Xcode and make a ton of cash. :) So I'm begging, PLEADING that OmniGroup does something like this someday. It should be a piece of cake to manage a 160-page first draft screenplay, and I want an application that lets me do so. Just thinking about this imaginary app excites me.

Last edited by bonch; 2006-07-22 at 04:16 PM..
For example, I want to be able to create a named "section" out of a block of script elements and move it around in a playlist-like window, allowing me to rearrange a script's story on the fly by dragging sections around.
I hear that something like that may be available in the new version of ScreenWriter, and if it is it works great. ;)

As far as the "edit history", that's a great idea (I use OOP for that as well). You should submit your feature request to the folks at ScreenWriter. They have been very responsive to users with this upcoming version.

They have an ezBoard: ScreenWriter @ ezboard

James B

Last edited by WrongSizeGlass; 2006-07-23 at 07:31 AM.. Reason: Edited to correct 'tense' and poor grammar.
Is there a feature list for the next version of ScreenWriter? Screenshots?
Is there a feature list for the next version of ScreenWriter? Screenshots?
Not yet. Those who are beta testers are under an NDA and cannot disclose details about the release.

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