Scrivener for screenwriting?

I generally write novels, for which I use Word in the main, but I now want to write a screenplay, and, aware that screenplays have their own (not too attractive) format I feel it would make the job easier if I had screenwriting software to help organise the work while it’s progressing. I’ve looked at some varieties and am wondering how Scrivener stands up for ease of use, formatting, etc.

Opinions and thoughts welcome!

Most people here write in Scrivener until the last possible moment, then format (if at all) in Final Draft. Final Draft 8 has also been optimized to work with Scrivener in this fashion.

Do a search for related keywords (screenwriting, Final Draft, screenplay, Montage, etc.) You’ll find thousands of words on the topic.

Edit: To answer your question directly, Scrivener is an excellent screenwriting tool, and 2.0 will be even better. Keith took the wishlist suggestions of a few screenwriting whiners (like me), and went far beyond our expectations. That Keith’s little novel-writing app is now mentioned prominently in the literature for the industry-standard screenwriting tool is amazing.

Thanks for that, Sean. I’ve been trying out Montage and Movie Outline and they seem OK but a little alarming for the novice screenwriter. I’m hoping that Scrivener will seem less so.

You say that some people write in in Scrivener and format in Final Draft. A quick check shows that Final Draft retails at around £157 - more than I want to pay to try my hand at a screenplay of one of my novels. But does Final Draft give a more ‘acceptable’ result from a film company’s point of view, I wonder? In other words, is it necessary to format in a program such as FT, Montage or one of the others, or is a basic formatting tool built in to Scrivener?

Final Draft is the industry standard when it comes to screenwriting (with Move Magic Screenwriter a close second). So were you to end up writing scripts for a living, or if you had a script accepted, you would really need to fork out for Final Draft eventually. However, the good news is that Scrivener can export to the Final Draft file format (.fdx), which means that you could write everything in Scrivener and only fork out for Final Draft when you knew that your script was about ready, and when you felt confident that investing the extra in Final Draft would be a gamble you wanted to take.

Essentially, Scrivener is a general writing tool with a screenwriting element, but there are certainly some Hollywood screenwriters who use Scrivener for structuring and writing their scripts. It’s just that all of them at some point will be taking those scripts into Final Draft (or MM Screenwriter) for final polishing and production etc.

It’s probably best to think of it like this: if after playing with Scrivener you think it might have helped in your novel writing process, then you may find it helpful in scriptwriting too. Scrivener is intended to provide structuring and drafting tools - outliner, corkboard, ways of viewing parts of your work in isolation or together and so forth, the ability to refer to research and different documents in a split view - that Word doesn’t have. So the idea is that you would write your first draft in Scrivener, structuring as you go or outlining first (depending how you work best), rearranging and editing, and then you would export the manuscript to Word for the final polish. Some novelists are quite happy doing all of that in Word and therefore don’t need Scrivener in their workflow (whereas I found keeping everything organised between Word, the Finder and my research folders a nightmare, which is why I created Scrivener in the first place - in other words, it entirely depends on how you work as an individual). The same goes for Final Draft; many scriptwriters are quite happy doing everything in Final Draft, using the organisation tools there; others want to break things down and access different types of research, and Scrivener is an option for them.

In other words, Scrivener isn’t an alternative to Final Draft any more than it is an alternative to Word. You can write your whole script in Scrivener - and the formatting will be absolutely fine - but the chances are, if you are going to end up dealing with professional producers, that at the end of that process you will want to get your work into Final Draft. But like I say, one way of doing it if you cannot afford Final Draft is to use Scrivener and then export to Final Draft in a year or so when the script is finished and you are ready to start taking it to producers, saving up for FD in the mean time.

Some writers of other types of scripts - plays, for instance - do the whole thing in Scrivener because all they need is a printed script at the end of it in a decent format, which Scrivener can handle.

I hope this helps. I would definitely recommend having a good delve into the trial version and seeing how scriptwriting in Scrivener suits you.

All the best,

Thanks, Keith. A very comprehensive and persuasive answer.

I’m away from home at the moment, working on a MacBook Pro (I hate small screens: my 24" iMac suits me much better!) but when I get back to my usual office later in the week I’ll give Scrivener a go. It sounds just the thing for what I’m trying to do.

One further question. Sean mentioned the forthcoming Scrivener 2. If this contains advances on the first version, should I wait to buy it? And can you tell me when you plan on making it available, or is the release date under wraps at present?

The release date isn’t under wraps so much as not set yet. I am estimating that it will be out sometime at the end of the year. It’s hard to give any exact date or even month simply because as I do all the coding myself, I never know how long one piece of code is going to take until I get to it. I can say that there is a lot left to be done. So it’s up to you whether you wait, obviously, though of course registered users won’t have to pay full price for the upgrade (it will most likely be around half-price for an upgrade).

All the best,

Keith is correct: Scrivener (and the ability to export as a PDF) is all you need right now. A few things worth mentioning:

As you study screenwriting, you’re going to run into the page-count issue; in short, there’s a school of thought that says certain things in a screenplay should happen at a certain point (search for “Save The Cat” on this site and, again, lots of words on the topic.) Scrivener is not a perfect tool for knowing at a glance exactly where you are in a screenplay, so you’ll hear people in these forums saying that they do an occasional export to FD (or Montage, or whatever) to take a peek at page count. Easy, if you have Final Draft. Hardly worth the money, though, if that’s all you’re doing at this point.

There is an easy solution, however: Final Draft has a free demo that has no time limit. The demo is constrained in certain ways, but not when it comes to opening a document and checking page count. So I’d get that, as well.

As for Montage: It is indeed gaining ground on FD, and is indeed an excellent application. Wheere Montage suffers is that it lives in the gap between Scrivener and FD. It acts like Scrivener when it comes to organization, though it’s not as robust as Scrivener in that area (for my needs, anyway). And it’s not yet the production tool that FD is. I don’t agree that the Montage learning curve is any greater than Scrivener’s – I suspect what you may be dealing with is the unfamiliar script format. I will say, thought, that once you get through Scrivener’s learning curve, you’ll have the ability to execute any kind of project you’d like. At the end of the Montage learning curve, you’ll be able to write a screenplay, and that’s it.

So, why pay attention to Montage at all? Because Mariner is a very active developer. The leap from Montage 1.0 to 1.5 was enormous and right-thinking (and fairly quick). The Montage folks clearly get it, which says to me that they’re worth keeping an eye on.

I hope this isn’t daunting. It shouldn’t be: get Scrivener, download the FD demo for page count reasons, and you’ll be fine.


P.S. Also, the best way to truly get screenplay format is to read a lot of proper screenplays. That means screenplays in PDF format– not the html versions, and not the transcripts. has a nice section here that lists “For Your Consideration” sites – actual studio sites that feature PDFs of scripts for Oscar consideration. Lot of good stuff there.

I should mention at this juncture that page layout mode is coming with 2.0. :slight_smile:

Sean: Get Scrivener, download the FD demo for page count reasons, and you’ll be fine.

Uxenden: I’ll do that. Thanks - and for the other points!

There’s a free open-source screenwriting app called Celtx which does page layout and export. I played with it a while back and thought it wasn’t quite ready yet, but it may very well have matured nicely.

I’ll take a look at that too. Much obliged.

Hi there

Will 2 page spread be available to the novel writing users as well as the screenwriters?

Of course!

If you have been writing novels in Word, Scrivener will change your life.


I did buy Scrivener and although I haven’t yet had a chance to use it extensively for a screenplay, it definitely does the job!

As of now, I’ve only written a short screenplay with Scrivener, and I found it extremely pleasant to use (as in any other use). In the end, I exported the play in txt format, and did the final layout and blocking in Celtx. Everything went fine (apart the fact the short was never realized…)


Thanks Keith. I just bought my copy this morning and can’t wait to get stuck in on my next book.

One thing I wanted to ask. With page layout, will it be possible to have two pages side by side on the screen at the same time? Say, in full screen mode? It’s not a huge thing, but it’s nice to be able to use all the space on my laptop screen in full screen mode.


Thanks for buying! Full screen mode won’t allow page layout; only the main editor. Full screen mode will retain its focus on being very bare-bones, without any frills (although it is getting overhauled to allow more flexibility).

All the best,

Might also be worth noting here, that you can easily get the Scriv interface to give almost all your screen real estate to the editor pane. Both Binder and Info areas tuck away with simple key commands, ruler tucks away, too. And the whole toolbar can likewise be hidden with the lozenge button in the upper right of the project window. That gets you down to an editor window with an absolute minimum of chrome. I find this a handy way to use the split editor on my small laptop screen.