Celtx: Screenwriting For the Rest of Us

by Chris Howard Nov 27, 2006

The spread of the internet has popularized free software. Before the internet, freeware tended to mean inferior. More specifically, before open source software. Nowadays, you can find software that is often a more than adequate substitute for pricey commercial applications. The Gimp and Open Office are the poster-boy applications of the free-generation.

Every software field seems to be catered for. In the screenwriting department, Final Draft is the commercial king but with eyes for a piece of its kingdom, is the open source application Celtx (pronounced Kel-tix by its developers but they don’t mind how you pronounce it) that is a cross-platform application built on the same engine as Firefox.

The developers describe Celtx as:

“Celtx (current version 0.9.8) is the first comprehensive software package designed for people who work in the Pre-Production of Film, TV, Video, Theatre and Animation. Celtx helps Creators bring their story ideas to life – combining intelligent writing and media planning tools with Internet friendly technologies to create a new, open standards platform for the pre-production of Media. It provides all of the tools you need under one application. Celtx is international too, it’s available in 20 languages.”

Celtx is quite an extensive application that in my usage I only touched upon some of its features. Some of its key features are:

Script and Text Editors
Celtx has two editors: A script editor and a plain text editor that does support limited formatting, although is not a full rich text editor. The script editor uses industry standards so for instance, the Tab key alternate between Action and Character.

Celtx provides a plethora of over 40 items that you can create. These include: Actors, Animals, CGI, Characters, Construction, Extras, Music, Props, Security, Sets, Sound FX, Stunts, Vehicles, Wardrobe and Weapons.

Each item has its own tailored form to fill in which greatly helps in both the generation of items (eg the Character item form asks about the character’s traits, motivation, description and background) and information management (eg the Location item form records address, contact information and facility information). Items can also have media files attached to them.

Special items are also available and include files (such as documents, spreadsheets and so on); web links; and schedules (which are iCal compatible).

Within the items lists, folders can also be created to allow grouping of items.

Tagging and Categories
Celtx lets you tag items in your script to categories. These categories are similar to the item list and allow you to generate reports that list scene by scene, all items required. These reports can be filtered by scenes, departments or items.

Celtx also provide online services for sharing and collaborating on your scripts.


- The film screenplay is the only format/layout currently available, although the developer has said it is intending to add more .
- The plain text editor should be extended to support full rich text editing. Currently it only allows bold, underline, italics, and indenting. Hardly enough to get excited about, or write a novel or poem with it as the developers suggest. As a bare minimum, it should include changing fonts and attributes, alignments and line spacing.

When studying scriptwriting as a module of my writing course this year, I found Celtx to be an excellent tool for helping me get familiar with all the idiosyncrasies of scriptwriting and produce scripts that met with the layout requirements of my course.

Any sort of creative writing is soul-destroyingly difficult to crack into. However, having a tool like Celtx that makes the writing process easier is a great boon as it assures you will produce industry format scripts and it will help in the development of many facets of your project.

I can’t comment about Celtx in comparison to any other scriptwriting application, especially, Final Draft, but if you are a student or new to scriptwriting, Celtx is a great place to start. If you are experienced, have a look and keep an eye on Celtx, because as we’ve seen with Open Office, open source applications can rise to be worthy alternatives to commercial applications, and I think you’ll find Celtx is well down the track.


  • I toyed around with this awhile ago and wasn’t that impressed (I use Final Draft), although honestly I don’t remember specifically what it was that turned me off.

    Hopefully they’ve made some improvements.  I’ll have to check it out again.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 28, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • It’s not as easy to use as Final Draft. And note most studio’s will only accept scripts written in a certain app. You either comply or die kinda mentality. However for an Indie this is perfect for cutting costs. Add Jashaka to replace final cut and you got a free production suite.

    xwiredtva had this to say on Nov 28, 2006 Posts: 172
  • <i>And note most studio’s will only accept scripts written in a certain app.</i>

    That’s not even remotely true.  Format is important, but most of them get printed scripts.  As long as it’s formatted properly, they don’t care what app it was written in.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 28, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • So I gave it another go and I definitely think it’s a good solution for those who can’t afford pro software.  It’s fairly straight-forward and easy to use.  It lacks a few features that I’ve gotten used to in higher end software and it has a slightly slower response time, but it formats, and that’s what’s important.

    I still recommend Final Draft or Screenwriter for those serious about pursuing screenwriting.  There are just too many useful tools in there that make it well worth the purchase.  But if you simply can’t afford it or you want to get your feet wet first, then Celtx is a good alternative.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 29, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • Thanks, Beeb. smile

    Chris Howard had this to say on Nov 29, 2006 Posts: 1209
  • <That’s not even remotely true>

    Paramount and Fox will not accept them digitally unless there in FD formats.

    xwiredtva had this to say on Nov 29, 2006 Posts: 172
  • I do not use a Mac although I wish I did, they are price prohibitive for me right now.
    However I have used Celtx for windows and I was equally unimpressed because of the missin g support for RTF.

    I use Page to stage which was on it’s way to dethroning Final Draft then they stopped developing it.  Still it provides almost the same features as Celtx as well as the ability to save as RTF and import RTF, it’s freeware but there is no Mac version.

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