Celtx, A Review

We are several days into Script Frenzy, a thirty day challenge to write a script, either a movie, play, television or graphic magazine. The challenge is similar to the fall exercise known as National Novel Writing Month where you have to write a novel. But where NaNo is about word count, Script Frenzy is about page count. But this is not the only difference.

If you have even seen a script, you will notice that it is very formal. There is a recognized syntax, format and style that has to be observed. It is this style that makes writing a script very difficult beyond coming up with plot, characters and motivation to actually sit down and write three to five pages per day.

So if you have taken the plunge and decided that you can write the next Matrix, you may have slammed against the frustration of formatting. And if, like me, you do not write a lot of scripts, you might be looking for a tool that will allow you to get up and running quickly, will not cost you a month’s salary and will do the hard stuff for you. There are a number of templates available for your favorite word processing package and they are OK. I used the ones for Open Office and that lasted about two pages before I was ready to throw the netbook across the room. It just was not working for me. I spent more time formatting than I did writing. So I started looking around.

One of the programs that popped up was Celtx which bills itself as The #1 Choice for Media Pre-Production. What I liked was it was Open-Source, would run on my platform (Ubuntu) and would do a lot of the heavy lifting of script writing for me. So I downloaded it and started using it. It will also run on Windows and Macintosh, making it a nice cross-platform application as well.

If you find you want to use it, I encourage you to read the well written wiki, both on how to install it and how to leverage its abilities.

I found it very easy to install and start using, even without reading the wiki. The first thing I noticed about the program is that, like its novel writing brethren, it has a full plotting tool, character motivation and description templates, along with a whole host of additional tools for doing full-fledged pre-production, whether you are doing a movie, a play or comic book.

But you see I am not a plot-first type of writer. I write from the beginning to the end, letting the characters take me where they will. Is Celtx able to handle this style of writing? The answer is yes. The program will add your characters to the Master Catalog as you type so you can fill in their details (or not) as you desire at a later point, or not. It will add your slugs (scene heads) to the running list of scenes and other wise stay out of your way as you write. For me, this is critical, because I just want something that will do my formatting for me. At least, right now.

The other feature I wanted is to be able to print out my script. There are three features for this. One is a straight print button that will send your hard copy to your choice of printers. The second, a PDF formatter (that only works when you are connected to the Internet) and third, an export feature that will export your script fully formatted to a text file that you can then import into another program.

So call me impressed. I was looking for a simple editor and I have a full-featured development, no, pre-production environment and all of it is open source. What more could you want?

Well, there is more. After all, it is a pre-production environment, not just a script writing tool, and for a small yearly fee, you can buy yourself a studio. This is a web (dare I say cloud) environment where you can upload your project and share it with up to five (or more if you want to pay more) people. There is a rudimentary configuration management tool, where you can put a number of script...er...projects for others on your team to work with. Being connected to the studio also enables the PDF formatting engine that puts a stylistically correct title page and other wrappers around your script to make it into a truly professional package. Celtx also sells additional tools that you might feel are necessary, depending on how deeply into the process you want to go.

So whether you are getting ready to make the next Gone with the Wind or banging out the next Death Bed: The Bed That Eats as part of Script Frenzy, Celtx will do it for you. And who knows, if you are successful, maybe someday Patton Oswalt will do a bit about you.


David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack


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Celtx ROCKS!

David CC Erickson's picture

I've written about five of my ten feature scripts on Celtx, along with many many short scripts. I use it on WinXP, Mac OS, and Linux (Crashbang). I have no troubles with it on any platform, and if you consider that it includes an easy-to-use backup feature for a small yearly fee, in addition to the collaborative environment, it's insane to use anything else, unless you're in a situation where Final Draft or one of the other "professional" and expensive software packages are needed. And I don't usually write such awful, run-on sentences as are in this post, but I'm just so happy with this software! And I use ALOT of software everyday. It's perfect for the beginner, because the software is FREE and FRIENDLY. Have I said I love this software?

"like its novel writing

Anonymous's picture

"like its novel writing brethren, it has a full plotting tool." ~ So what is it's novel writing brethren? You didn't name it and I can't find it mentioned anywhere else online either. That was what I was looking for originally.

another free screenplay software option

Anonymous's picture

Hey guys,

Celtx is great, but I also regularly use Scripped.com for my screenwriting needs. I love their look and feel and contests. It's nice to be in the vicinity of 70,000 writers when I fire up and get inspired.

Just thought they should get some airtime to: http://Scripped.com


lefty.crupps's picture

I'm not so sure Celtx is Free Software (license), or even open-source (development). Its been a while since I tried Celtx I suppose, but it if were, there would be a way to use other script repositories without having to pay them for this privilege.

Me and my technical mind...

Anonymous's picture

Seeing "script" on a software-related magazine I immediately thought 'Ah, shell'.

But, hey, maybe I am not the only one... :)


I also thought that this

Anonymous's picture

I also thought that this article must be about bash or something ... :D

fine pre production tool - linux not so much

Anonymous's picture

Celtx is a very useful pre production tool that has, over time, added features to make it more "industry format and standards" compatible.

Celtx is a very "feature rich" and well thought out application; too many features to even touch on in a short review.

Download it and look at the excellent video tutorials and documentation. Learn about Celtx studios, which is a sort-of cloud backup and script collaboration/sharing feature for a very reasonable fee.

Use Celtx on windows and OSX without a problem; linux too; but.

Linux is now a stepchild, kind of second tier os, or so it seems.

Many linux specific bugs have been outstanding - and some of them are quite outstanding bugs - for several releases with no sign of ever being fixed.

Bugs that effect windows or OSX releases will be fixed for linux too, but that seems to be more of a coincidence than intention. Perhaps their *nix knowledgeable programmer(s) has/have moved on.

Fortunately the windows release of Celtx runs just fine on all recent releases of Wine, a windows api clean room implementation that ships with most if not all of the largish linux distributions.

However, to get the best results using Wine, additional configuration using wine-doors and winetricks is necessary, which provide such things as font smoothing on lcd monitors and theme matching under gnome/gtk - and more; the results are worth the extra effort, as properly configured, Celtx or any other wine application looks and runs pretty much like a native gtk/gnome application. If KDE is your desktop, I'm not sure how well kde themes will work out.

So by all means give Celtx a look on linux, but be prepared for some extra work moving to Wine if any of the outstanding linux bugs - bite you.

I wonder though if, like songbird, celtx is on the verge of dropping support for linux.

I was wondering similarly

David Lane's picture

I agree that there were a couple of odd errors and not a lot of suggestions for fixing them. Only in a couple of cases were the errors critical enough that they prevented me from working, and in most cases those were with the accessing of the Celtx Studio features. The main program worked with only a few warnings that were easily ignored.

I did my creative work in Linux on Ubuntu with Gnome. If I get some time this month I will spin it up on a couple of other distributions to see what happens.

I certainly hope they are not going to drop support for Linux. It certainly made writing my script much easier.

David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack

Celtx Review

Laurie's picture

Hi David.

Thanks for your review on Celtx. Just thought I could clarify a point - you can generate a pdf of your script for free using the Typset/PDF sub-tab. It's actually not a for-fee feature, nor is it tied into a Celtx Studio subscription.




David Lane's picture

In my initial post, I mistakenly said that the PDF creation function was "for fee" I was, as pointed out, incorrect and I am sorry for the confusion. You do have to be "on-line" to use it, but you do not have to be connected to the Studio feature.

I should also note that a PDF is what you have to submit to the folks at Script Frenzy, so that is a critical feature, and works quite nicely.

David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack