Celtx: Screenplay Writing Software for Mac

celtx-icon.pngWhether you’re a professional filmmaker with a big budget or an aspiring talent with a camcorder strapped to the palm of your hand, it’s likely you know that to make a movie you need a script. Your script determines pretty much everything about the nature of your production. Apart from the obvious “what the characters do and say,” you have locations, props, costumes, sounds, and even scheduling all inherently tied in. The details go on and on and become infinitesimally more and more granular as you progress through them. The great difficulty for anyone who requires access to this myriad of important data is that its buried within all those pages of story.

Like Final Draft or Movie Magic, Celtx is an application designed to let you write your script in the appropriate format with ease, rescuing you from the otherwise stop-and-start nightmare of industry formatting. The similarities end here, however. Celtx is designed from the ground up to be a complete preproduction tool. It can extract, collect and consolidate the data within the pages of your script with precision and ease. And it’s free.

At version, Celtx is arguably the best, most used and most accessible preproduction application you’ve never heard of. To cover all that Celtx can (and eventually will) do would be to rewrite their already vastly detailed wiki. I will instead focus on three innovative, key features.

CeltX splash page

Writers: you’re not alone.
Part of the reason for the fast growing success of Celtx is due to its server-side integration, which not only allows you to collaborate with fellow project members through the cloud, but also enables you to put your work on display for anyone accessing Celtx’s Project Central website to see.

The Celtx application is the means by which you set up your Project Central account and fill out your profile. Once a member, you can upload your project to the server with the click of a button. That project can then be published along with your choice of tag line, description, genre, image, and even web video. You can also choose whether to allow comments, which Celtx calls reviews. The walled garden of Project Central is the place your project will then exhibit, being seen and possibly even reviewed by fellow Cetlx users.

Publish Form

This community is definitely one of the more supportive of the online varieties. Forcing the setup of up an account through the Celtx application certainly makes a difference. The members are typically contributers who understand the effort involved in a project. And, unlike a two minute YouTube clip, consuming the media in a Celtx project takes an investment of your time (not to mention the ability to read), further reducing the likelihood of a burgeoning troll population.

Collaboration, which Celtx dubs sharing, is a far more private affair and goes well beyond enabling a person to read and comment on your work. When you share your project with a fellow Celtx user, they are able to download and edit it as if it were their own. Enabling or disabling people’s access to your project is as simple as typing or deleting their user name. There is a built in notification system that tells you when access to a project has been granted, allowing collaborators to conveniently announce their changes back and forth to one another.

A feature destined for 1.0 is Version Control, which will enable collaborators to merge different instances of the same project and incorporate the various changes from amongst the group. Meanwhile, Snapshots will let you keep specified versions of your project stored on the server, while changes are initiated back and forth between collaborators on the work in progress, allowing members of your group the comfort of knowing they can always refer, or even revert back to a previous defined state.

The community and collaboration features of Celtx mean saying goodbye to the stereotype of the writer in solitude and hello to a new age of creative development in the screen writing process.

Take control of your data.
There are a variety of unique and useful Forms built into Celtx, which link to elements within your script, such as character details, locations, props, special FX and more. Once generated they inhabit the Project Library, which is accessible at all times. Clicking a Form in the Project Library opens it in a tab alongside your script, making it easy to switch between tasks.

Forms can be freestanding, meaning to exist in a project they do not first have to be linked to an element in the script; handy for doing preparation and development work. Otherwise, Forms can be generated from within the script, stemming from and linking to items you identify. During the writing process, this can be extremely helpful. If you’re a writer who often finds themselves jotting down notes about your characters, details such as their background, motivation, traits, etc, you’ll appreciate the ability to unify and readily access that information within the same application you use to write your story. When the writing is done and you’re ready to move into production, having Forms for all of your props, for example, will really come in handy. Like all other Forms, those for props can be generated either as you write, or later on after the script is finished, and even by another member of the team via the sharing feature.


Each type of Form has a specific design and layout. The props Form, for example, has sections in it such as prop profile, details, procurement, and contact information, each with their own relevant fields. Forms are media rich capable, with a Google image search button built right in: a nice touch for assisting you in bringing in the right picture of the shovel or lamp that you envision in your story. Celtx, through a lot of user feedback, has managed to do most of the organizational work for you; all that’s left for you is to plug in the relevant information.

Creative people often find it difficult to stay organized, and trying to do so can be distracting, but with the Forms feature in Celtx the distractions disappear. Forms keep you organized, which in turn allows your creativity to flow.

Timing is everything.
When the script is finally ready and all the details are in place, you’ll need to work out a schedule for your production. Celtx has a full fledged Calender application built right in, which speaks directly with your project. From here you can add information to a scene such as its real world location and details about the shoot. Scenes can then be drag-and-dropped onto days in the Calender and customized like any event in a typical calender app, including the requisite “completed” check box. The Calender also includes special events like “moving” and “day off” which can be dragged in and customized. With everything in place, you can print your Calender as a list, a weekly planner, or a monthly grid.


It has some nice touches, is both clean and easy to use, but in all the Calender feels the least developed of the Celtx features, and the makers acknowledge this. Destined for 1.0 is a much deeper integration of the Calender with the rest of your Celtx project, tying together the data you’ve collected in your Forms and generating much more of a production binder than a simple schedule.

So is there a catch?
It’s important to keep in mind that nothing like Celtx has ever previously existed at any price. At version, one might easily presume that 1.0 will usher in, as its final feature, a price tag. The makers of Celtx are adamant that everything Celtx is presently capable of will remain free of charge. Celtx was built around usability and features as opposed to revenue models.

Altruistic as that may be, revenue generation will eventually be needed in order for Celtx to continue, and so the makers are presently exploring options, mainly via the server-side implementation of services. One possibility is offering groups and production companies the option of paying for their own private, customized Project Central. Meanwhile, on the current Project Central, it would seem natural to expect an eventual advertising presence, particularly as they strengthen its social utility functions. Features such as Snapshots, which are presently limited to eight per project, may be offered at higher volumes with a la carte pricing to those who require it.

Presently, the typical Celtx user is from the low-to-no budget class of screenwriters and filmmakers. There’s no revenue to be gained from these users, and as such they will likely never feel the sting of pricing in Celtx. Comprising an installed user base of around 100,000, however, they do manage to make Celtx an undeniable presence in the screen writing world. Meanwhile, Celtx is setting itself apart from the competition with its integrated preproduction tools. All this will hopefully lead to an eventual adoption by industry professionals, as they’re more specialized needs will likely be the key to Celtx’s revenue generation.

The fact remains that right now, what you see is what you get, and with each subsequent release leading up to 1.0 users have continually gotten more. Since it likely won’t be until the Spring of 2008 before Celtx launches itself out of beta, that’s a trend that is likely to continue. The power of Celtx today, the potential of Celtx tomorrow, and all for the cost of a smile, which, here at MacApper, are always free.

Writing a script? Check out CeltX.


15 Responses to “Celtx: Screenplay Writing Software for Mac”

  1. bricklayer on November 14th, 2007 2:13 pm

    Can anyone compare this to Final Draft in its pure screenplay features? I don’t necessarily need the whole preproduction world in my editor.

  2. Austen on November 14th, 2007 9:16 pm

    Great find. It’s always nice to see these type of full featured apps for free.

  3. Darcy Fitzpatrick on November 14th, 2007 9:55 pm


    A feature you might find compelling from a purely screen writing standpoint is Index Cards. Every scene you write in your screenplay is indexed as a card within the Index Cards sub-tab. The cards are all titled with your scene header and display the contents of the scene, while on the flip side can display notes, which you are free to make about the scene, its purposes, possible ideas for changes, etc.

    Any edits you make to the scene headers on the cards will occur in your script. You can also rearrange the cards and this actually rearranges the order of your scenes in your script. Cards can be tagged as one of seven colour-coded plots, too.

    Something that can also be pretty handy is the fact that cards can be created on the fly, replete with scene headers – a great way to quickly lay down the order of the scenes you want to have before you sit down to write them. You can then move over to the script and start writing in the contents of each scene afterwards.

    Your scenes are also always represented in a list within the Scenes box under the Project box, both of which are always to the left side of your work area. You can rearrange the order of the scenes in the Scenes box as well and the changes will occur in the script.

    Celtx tries in every way possible to effectively break you outside of the constraints of a typical script editor, giving you all the same features they do while at the same time offering more ways to get your best work onto the page.

  4. Joe on November 21st, 2007 7:02 pm

    I’ve used both Final Draft and Celtx, and as far as script editing, I’d pick Celtx on the Mac.

    Final Draft still has a lot more features (revision tracking comes to mind as a big one) that Celtx still lacks. If your in a workflow with a collaborator who is using FD, you’re probably going to have an easier time that way.

    But, as detailed above, Celtx offers a lot of features FD does not, like the ability to coordinate production.

    And, on the Mac at least, Celtx is totally superior in terms of program stability and the quality of text rendering. I know that sounds minor, but if you’re spending hours and hours poring over a script on screen, you want clean, legible text. Celtx’s text on OS X is just gorgeous — you have to see it to understand. Final Draft, on the other hand, displays thin, unevenly spaced copy that actually squirms around a little as you edit it. Even for it’s hefty price, still looks and feels like a bad port of the PC version. If you don’t believe FD for Mac has problems, go now and look it up on Amazon and read people’s comments.

  5. MacApper Staff Application Picks: 2007 Edition | MacApper on December 4th, 2007 7:14 am

    [...] Celtx – The do-everything pre-production tool. It’s ten years ahead of the screenwriting application curve and includes server-side collaboration features. Best part: it is free. [...]

  6. Bob Riley on March 17th, 2008 10:54 am

    Looking for audio video template for nurse video I am doing. Thanks Bob Riley

  7. Screenwriting with Montage 1.5 | MacApper on May 18th, 2008 6:00 am

    [...] or inexpensive solutions that match or beat Montage's feature set. For example, the open-source Celtx is a cross-platform solution that offers nearly everything Montage advertises for [...]

  8. Fonkeuh Brian Ndifor on August 4th, 2009 2:20 am

    Waoh! Thanks for the tips. I must admit it’s kind of you to provide such information for free. Keep encouraging aspiring writers like me.

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  11. Jenny Jones -- free screenwriting software on March 25th, 2011 10:20 am

    Hi Everyone!!

    I know this is an article about Celtx but I work at Scripped.com and they just released a celtx version that lets you sync your Celtx scripts with Scripped.com, so you can write Online and offline. You can download it from sourceforge here: http://sourceforge.net/projects/scripped/files/ or by searching there for Scripped.

    Check it out, it’s free! It’s same as celtx but also works with Scripped which is really convenient!!


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