10 Best Free and Open Source Linux Script Writing Tools

Script writing is the art and craft of writing scripts for the general public. The script can take the form of musicals, plays, novels, films, television programmes, and more. Each time you watch a show on television, visit the cinema, or read a book you are consuming the trials and tribulations of a script writer.

Script writing software is not designed to make writing judgments such as avoiding the use of cliches, jargon, and journalese, nor does it help with the rhythm and balance of the piece. Instead this type of software concentrates on helping the writer to present the text in an appropriate format.

If you have your heart set on writing a Broadway script, a Hollywood screenplay, or a best selling novel, good script writing software will save precious time. There is a reasonable selection of mature, open source script writing software available for Linux. Heavyweights in this category of software are Final Draft, Movie Magic Screenwriters, Celtx, and Fade In, industry-standard screen writing applications. However, they are commercial software. However, the Linux community has mustered credible open source alternatives.

To provide an insight into the quality of software that is available, we have compiled a list of 10 competent free Linux script writing programs. They include some powerful editors, tools, a document class, a plug-in, and a language. Hopefully, there will be something of interest here for any budding script writer.

As you can see from the chart below, we give our strongest recommendations to KIT Scenarist, Manuskript, and Trelby. Please note the rating relates solely to the software’s script writing ability. For example, LyX is an awesome document processor based on the LaTeX typesetting system. As a document processor, it’s one of the finest open source solutions.

Ratings chart for the best free and open source script writing tools

Click the links in the table below to learn more about each tool.

Script Writing Tools
KIT ScenaristFully-featured studio for creating movie screenplays
ManuskriptUse the snowflake method to grow your ideas
TrelbySimple, powerful, full-featured program for writing movie screenplays
AfterwritingPost-processing tools for Fountain screenplay
PagoScreenwriting plugin for the Vim text editor
Screenwriter-modeA plug-in for Emacs
ScreenplainPlain text to readable screenplay
BarefootConvert Fountain screenplay files to plain text
LyXThe Hollywood document class equips LyX for script writing
obsidian-fountainFountain support for Obsidian

This article has been revamped in line with our recent announcement.

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5 years ago

I use the JOE editor (Jstar – WordStar-like variant) to write in Fountain syntax, then use Screenplain to convert to PDF (or Final Draft), then (if I want formatted text) I use the pdftotext utility with the -layout option. It’s “cleaner” to do this then use Barefoot (at least it is on my system, I found myself continually trying to adjust Barefoot). I’ve also used ‘afterwriting to convert Fountain to PDF, but it takes more arguments and I’m lazy – besides, the output is the same as with Screenplain. (I love to use ‘afterwriting’s website and its download to offline browser features, however.) I find it’s easy to adjust Screenplain’s “strong” feature just by tweaking the Python code. I realize Fade In Pro is a commercial product but it does use the Open Screenplay Format (XML). I like Fountain better.

Toby Jacobs
Toby Jacobs
7 months ago

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