I got this question recently:
“I am in the process of outlining a new screenplay and I want the margins to be correct from the start before I begin writing. My question is: Can I achieve this on a regular Word document, or do I need to buy software?”
The quick and easy answer is that yes, you can can write your screenplay in MS Word. But it’s not going to be easy to get everything set up correctly. It really depends on how good you are with Ms Word and how much time you want to spend trying to essentially create your own screen writing program. MS Word is a very sophisticated program and you can set it up to do anything using macros, templates, hot keys, or a variety of other methods.
The industry standard for writing a screenplay is Final Draft. You can buy it from Amazon by clicking here. While the cost of the software is almost $200 in my opinion it’s well worth it as you don’t have to worry about the formatting at all and can just concentrate on your story.
But there are some other free (or much cheaper) options available.
I’ve been using Google Docs to write my current screenplay. This is completely free, you just need a Google account. Then you simply grab the Google Docs template (https://docs.google.com/previewtemplate?id=0Ac3tAuweYU9QZGQ4bm45N21fMzI3czZuYzc3Ng&mode=public&pli=1) and start typing. It’s very buggy and really isn’t a polished tool yet, so I’m not sure I recommend it to anyone. But it is free. I’ve been using as an experiment to see how good it is. I’m not that impressed at this time. But Google Docs offers two great features that I really love. Your file is saved in the cloud so you can access it from any computer and Google Docs allows collaboration so two people can be viewing and editing the same screenplay at the same time in different locations, you just need to be connected to the internet. The collaboration feature is very useful if you’re co-writing a screenplay with another writer. Plus, you can save the screenplay in rich text format (RTF) and then import it into Final Draft when you’re ready to polish it up and it imports into Final Draft with only minor formatting issues.
I’ve never used Celtx but I’ve had friends who say while it’s not as feature rich as Final Draft it does get the job done. You might try this out instead of trying to build your own program in something like MS Word. You can find it here: http://celtx.com/
I really like the idea of being able to access my script from anywhere on any computer without having to install software and I really like the idea of collaborating on scripts with another person who’s not in my physical location. Scripped seems to offer these two options plus a whole lot of features like Final Draft. It’s a paid membership site but it looks pretty good. This is definitely something to think about as it’s much cheaper than Final Draft. You can find it here: http://scripped.com/. I haven’t tried Scripped but I plan to give it a try in the very near future.