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Friday, June 16, 2006

Q. I have decided to write a free and open source screenwriting outline tool. I want it to be simple, cross-platform and useful. I believe you say you write off of beat sheets, and I just thought I might ask what features you would look for in a tool, and what paradigm you would want it to use. Should it recreate notecards or use an outlining paradigm...or both. My current thoughts are that a perfect solution would be a heirachical notecard tool, which can be set up with different templates. So you might have a stack of cards which represent an act, and that act contains a set of sequence stacks, which contains a set of scene cards. I would like to make templates configurable.
I'm not sure I really need a special outlining tool. I sometimes do notecards -- real ones I can lay out on a table -- which I then put into a Final Draft document, but really it could be a Word doc or any word processor.

I've used Final Draft's scene navigator tool, and it's nice to be able to move scenes around easily. But outlining is not really where I feel I need gadgets.

But what do you guys feel. What tools could you use in a free screenwriting outline tool?

10 Comments:

I loved the original Witchboard movie with Tawny Kitaen and Stephen Nichols. It scared the crap outta me and my friends, but it also inspired us. We started having seances with a Ouija board and had rather...disturbing results that still give me nightmares to this day. Don't fuck with the dead, let me just warn you now.

By Blogger Kelly J. Compeau, at 9:40 PM  

I think people watched the first Witchboard to see Ms. Kitaen's full-frontal. Yes? No?

As for open-source screenwriting software there's already Celtx which seems to have attracted some attention. From what I understand of it (I've really only taken a quick look at it myself), it works with tabs, each tab serving a different function.

There is of course the screenwriting tab itself; in addition to this there's options for a straight text tab (writing outlines, I suppose), production report tab, and so on.

It also lets you upload your work-in-progress to a website for comments, or to allow other people to dabble with your story.

I was told that a big hang-up is that so far you can only save your work in Celtx's own files - no .txt files or Final Draft imports/exports.

Anyway, take a look at it Anonymous Question person, if you'd like to see what's out there. :)

By Blogger Chopped Nuts, at 9:56 PM  

I should mention that someone else is sending me their MacOS screenwriting software -- already in beta, and shipping in a month.

There may be enough screenwriting software out there. What most of us need is Ritalin.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 10:07 PM  

Okay I went a played with Celtx and you can indeed emport as a .txt file. You can also generate a .pdf version of your script, but it requires that you have an account with the Celtx website.

By Blogger Chopped Nuts, at 2:24 AM  

It's not free or open source, but Mindola's SuperNotecard is a pretty good outlining program.

It's basically a software equivalent of notecards and a corkboard, but with some gimmicky add-ons like being able to track characters' motivations, goals, attitudes, fears, etc.

It's cheap, too (like 30 bucks).

By Blogger Warren Benedetto, at 2:29 AM  

Personally, Id like something closer to Voodoo Pad but with a script writing function.

Ie a hypertext driven screenwriting program so I could effortlessly switch between character notes, location notes, etc. and the screenplay itself. Though I think Celtx sounds more like that.

By Blogger stu willis, at 11:33 AM  

I'd love to see a real outliner/screenwritng package.
Final Draft and the others (including Celtix) are purely formatting programs. No real help in the actual writing process. Most of the upfront time is spent writing outlines and notes, not in formatting. All the programs seem to be focused on tagging which is only really of value when your script is already written and sold into production. It's not even a tool for the writer, it's for the producer and AD.

Final Draft cards are pretty poor. Locked into a pure slug line scenes even though your story beat might take place over a few sluglines.

I'd like to write up an outline. Each sectiuon or step can be colored to represent different threads, stages, etc. Ideally multi-colored. Right below each step (which can be anything you want, scene, beat,sequence) I'd like to be able to write in text or screeplay format. These can twirl up (hide or show). So at any one time I can see outline, screenplay or a combo. By collapsing the other scenes I can read the outline scene description right before and after my current scene. This allows it to become easier to see the forest through the trees.

I find myself bouncing back and forth between the script format writing and reviewing/modifing the outline.

I'd love to be able to write notes in the side margins just like I do when writing or editing on paper. Final Draft has ability to add notes but they're hidden except when you click on them, obscuring some of the other text.

I'd like to be able to see a timeline based on pages in the script so you could easily see how the pacing is working. Timeline would show the outline text.

By Blogger Scott Squires, at 11:54 AM  

Has anyone here used Dramatica or Truby's blockbuster?

I'd like to hear some actual thoughts not stuff from a magazine ad or advertorial.

By Blogger Bill Cunningham, at 11:25 PM  

For outlining, I use an app for OSX called Deep Notes. It's a fantastic little text tool for organizing ideas. I actually use it for brainstorming nearly everything I do lately. Worth checking out.

I've used Celtx, and tried working on a project with a writer pal of mine, but we started having trouble downloading each other's files from the server. We were doing updates to the file, but only the old version was downloading. It was a very annoying bug. Other than the bugs, I really like the app a lot. But still usually stick with Final Draft.

By Blogger Kody Chamberlain, at 12:25 AM  

I feel that a good outliner is invaluable for a writer, especially for something as rigidly structured as a television show. I use StoryView 2.0 and it has pretty much everything I can think of for outlining and planning your writing project. The drawback to the program is that it is less than intuitive or easy to use- the thick manual is not an option. I have a review of this program on my website.
I’ve looked around for an open source outliner and have come up pretty much dry. Celtx is going to get an outliner in its next iteration but it doesn’t look to be a very powerful one. My suggestion is that you get in contact with the team that is programming Celtx and see if you can co-ordinate with them. Then again, you may want to create a stand alone program that anyone can use without taking Celtx as part of the package.
Whichever way you go, you really should download the demo of StoryView and study it well before you lay out what you want your open source program to do.

Clint

By Blogger Clint, at 1:01 AM  

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