This is an addendum to a previous post from 2018 “A Working Guide To Screenwriting Software”. Much of what was written there still stands but experience and various updates and changes have affected how much I use these apps and what I use them for.
Fade In is still the king of standard screenwriting apps. It’s effortless, does all the heavy lifting for you, is nice to look at and just works. I’m still waiting for their mobile app to get better but for the desktop, Fade In is unrivalled in the standard screenwriting category.
Scrivener likewise does what it’s always done and does it very well. I just used it to write a TV pilot which had a lot of different character arcs threaded through it and Scrivener allowed me to isolate each arc and work on it as a whole before slotting it back in to the narrative. Nothing else does this as well as Scrivener. It has a lot of bells and whistles that screenwriters don’t need, and therefore can feel a little overwhelming and distracting, but it’s also designed to be used by novelists and academics, so I can’t really find fault with it for being more versatile than I personally need it to be.
Causality doesn’t seem to know what it is. I liked it when it first came out because it was seeking to look at writing from a slightly different viewpoint but the updates and “improvements” seem to have been aimed at broadening the potential customer base rather than fixing the existing problems. I don’t think it’s stable, I don’t think it’s reliable and I don’t use it for anything.
Highland 2 is a strange beast. I wrote about it HERE, after I posted the original guide to writing software. I’ve used Highland 2 a lot since then, for the entire series of The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward, and much more recently for a big studio superhero movie. I love being able to tap out notes for future scenes as I’m going, I love the minimalist interface and the sense that you’re just writing unencumbered by distraction. But the support still isn’t there yet; problems I’ve had have not been fixed or even satisfactorily explained despite numerous emails. I really want the development of this app to continue because it’s brilliant but for me it risks being overtaken by...
Ulysses, which is what I’m writing season two of my podcast on. I’d never really considered Ulysses as a screenwriting tool but then I read David Hewson’s ebook on writing novels and screenplays with Ulysses and decided to give it a go. Like Scrivener, Ulysses allows you to write in fragments and view and arrange scenes however you want. A few judicious keywords and you can see one character’s arc in isolation, make changes, then zoom out again to the overview. There’s no built-in screenwriting template, so you’re just writing plain text and exporting to Fountain. There’s no autofill of characters or locations and so it really is just about typing and nothing else. Ulysses also sucks at pagination, so you have to rely on word counts to figure out your progress and whether you’re over or under time.
Maybe over a long haul, this would become a problem but for 25 minute podcast episodes, I’m really liking it. The big sell for me is that Ulysses looks exactly the same on a phone or an iPad as it does on the computer, and that makes it WAY better than everything else for writing or editing on the move. When I’m happy with an episode in Ulysses, I export to Fountain then import that file into Fade In, apply a radio drama template and it’s instantly formatted and ready to go.
The one thing that’s nagging at the back of my mind, though, is that I really miss originating work in Fade In. I have a big studio movie coming up and for that, I might go back to basics; using a big notepad for ideas and structure and just bang the thing out on what is still the best of the bunch...