Recently I was talking with someone about Final Draft, the ubiquitous program used by countless screenwriters everywhere. This person did not really have any complaints with how Final Draft worked just that the $250 per licensee cost was high especially for a poor and struggling screenwriter. (That's 95% of screenwriters but everyone still buys the software.) They were curios if I knew of a good Final Draft alternative. Unfortunately I didn't but after doing a bit of Googling I found Trelby, a great free and open source screenwriting program and what seems to be the best Final Draft alternative I've seen out there.
Trelby has some great features such as;
- Import from other script program formats like Final Draft, Celtx, Adobe Story, Fade In Pro, and Fountain.
- Export from to PDF, formatted text, HTML, RTF, Final Draft XML, and Fountain.
- PDF: There is a highly configurable PDF generator which supports embedding font that you want. You can also generate PDFs with custom watermarks which allows tracking number of file shares.
- Name Database that contains over 200,000 names in multiple languages for coming up with character names.
- Screenplay editor: Enforces correct script format and pagination, auto-completion, and spell checking.
- View: Multiple views, including draft view, What You See is What You Get (WYSIWYG) mode, and a fullscreen so you don't need to worry about distractions while writing your script.
- Reporting: Scene, location, character, dialogue reports.
- Script Revisions: You have the ability to compare scripts revisions so you know what has changed.
- It's Free: Licensed under the GPL, Trelby welcomes developers and screenwriters to contribute in making it more useful.
The issue I've heard with Final Draft is that sometimes it crashes and is bit complex to use. (At least from what I've heard as I don't own it.) Trelby is pretty easy to use and I have not issues using it. Trelby works fine on Windows 7, downloads flawlessly, installs easily, and is quite stable software. In addition Trelby works nicely on Linux Mint which is a plus but I'm not sure how many screenwriters are interested in writing scripts on Linux.
Is there a version for Macs? Unfortunately if you look on the Download page there is a Mac download image but it says “Needs work” and it seems they need someone to help out with porting a version to Mac OS X. Neither of the developer use a Mac according to the FAQ page. So for those that love Apple, which most screenwriters do, you are out of luck. If you have coding skills you are welcome to help port the Trelby Mac version though.
What's interesting about Trelby is the development history of the program.
Trelby was originally known as Blyte, and was written by Osku in 2003-2006 and sold as a commercial program by a company he founded. However, the sales of the program were not enough to justify spending most of his free time working on it, so in 2006 he open sourced it.
The program faded into complete obscurity for five years, until in late 2011, Anil Gulecha found it and started contributing improvements. This resurrected Osku’s interest in the program, and he started working on it again as well.
They decided to change the name of the program to Trelby, create a brand new website for it (the one you’re on now), bring the code up to date which it needed after five years of neglect, and try to create a development community around it.
The intersection of software developers and screenwriters is tiny, and is probably the reason for the lack of quality open source screenwriters. If you’re a part of that tiny group, why not join in?
While the development history of Trelby is interesting I am not exactly sure how Anil Gulecha and Osku Salerma funds it's development and pay for web hosting as there is no donation button on the website. There definitely should be though.
There are other Final Draft alternatives out there but most of them you have to pay for after a free trial. I am fine with paying for software but as I'm not seriously looking for the best Final Draft alternative among all the screenwriter program options I wasn't going to purchase software. If you think there is a better free and open source or paid screenwriting program out there, let me know. RawScripts seems to be a good cloud based free option but I haven't tried it.
If you use Trelby or got value out of this post since you were looking for a Final Draft alternative, please leave a comment below. I'd love to know. Do you use any other free and open source screenwriting software? Feel free to leave a suggestion and I'll try it out.