After several decades of increasingly high-powered computational devices, it seems like word processing software is something we should be able to take for granted by now. Writing on a computer has been a thing since the days of hybrid computer/typewriters. You’d think we have this stuff down by now. And for the most part we do. There are a million word processors out there on every platform available. Most of this software is constantly being updated, with programs like Evernote and Google Drive/Docs/whatever constantly iterating and expanding what it means to write text on a computer.
But in the land of screen writing software, it feels like we’re trapped in 2000. Celtx, long my go-to screenwriter of choice, feels like the digital equivalent of an overgrown lawn. The desktop version of the software on Mac features icons that are formatted incorrectly and, worse, the scrollbar hasn’t worked properly since Lion. Yes, the scrollbar, one of the most basic and fundamental elements of a program running in a window. Worst of all, the simple responsiveness of the software has tanked. Writing feels sluggish and delayed, which is inexcusable in a world with supercomputers in our pocket. The windows version of Celtx desktop software fares a bit better in the responsiveness department, but still looks like butt.
One could potentially forgive Celtx since the desktop client has and is still given out for free. However, Celtx has been busy branching out to building paid apps while leaving their free software to die. Since the new stuff costs money, it should be better… right? Unfortunately for Celtx the answer is a resounding no. Celtx for android is barely usable, but I’m told the iPad app fares better. Strangely enough, Celtx has released a paid app through the Mac app store that does the same thing as the free app… except with terrible performance with less features. A recent visit to Celtx’s website says that the free software is now considered ‘legacy’, so the $20 bug-riddled program is the future.
It seems Celtx has lost its way, forgetting that at the core, we just want a fast, responsive, and simple desktop screenwriter. I have no interest in the increasingly massive pile of extraneous pre-production features, I just want to write on both my Mac and PC. I would gladly pay them to update the desktop software, and I’m sure many others would do as well. But as long as Celtx is trapped trying to get people to use its cloud services (why? I already pay for Dropbox, why do I want to pay for a whole different cloud service to store minuscule text documents?) or create apps, it’s time to look for alternatives.
And so I wandered out into the internet, trying to find something else that could work. Final Draft was my first stop. It was around long before Celtx, and is considered by many to be the standard. I quickly found that Final Draft was covered in cobwebs as well. Currently the software is on version 8, but rumblings point to a version 9 on the horizon as a potential savior.
We need it. Final Draft 8 is an old man. The interface on Windows is a nightmare with weird text issues and windows that don’t move together. The OSX version fares a bit better, but it doesn’t have high-resolution monitor support and the software looks stuck back in the Tiger days. I haven’t even wandered into Movie Magic Screenwriter, because honestly I want something that works for more than just screenplays.
Celtx labeling the software I’ve depended on for years as ‘legacy’ has me really worried, especially since the file format is proprietary. There’s a very real chance that if Celtx shut down overnight I would lose thousands upon thousands of hours of work. Sure, I’d be able to open the projects with old Celtx software, but the software depends on Celtx’s online servers for exporting. I would have to copy and paste all of my work into some other program, then format it all manually.
As of right now, I’m really, really hoping Final Draft 9 will be our salvation in early 2014. There still isn’t a solid release date to latch onto, but it can’t come soon enough.
In the meantime, it’s back to manual formatting in Microsoft Word for me. How far we’ve come.