Celtx Screenplay Editing System
by J. Malcolm Manness
The Celtx program is a truly amazing tool for writers of
Scriptwriters have a problem. There are very strict requirements
for formatting, and these vary depending on whether you are
writing for stage or screen. Properly setting the correct style,
which can change almost line by line, can be tedious, and very
distracting from the creative practice.
Available free for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Eee PC, the
Celtx program provides a set of development tools that
rivals some of the expensive commercial products, such as
Final Draft and Screenwriter. So if you write scripts
or comics, you will want to check it out.
Here, I give a very brief outline of the Celtx system.
While Celtx provides editors for several types of
scripts, I focus on the Film Script
editor. The others are similar and the whole system is far too
complex for a detailed description of all the features.
As noted above, while individual editors are quite simple to
use, Celtx as a whole is a very rich system, providing
editors for the following types of manuscripts:
But the editors themselves
are only part of the whole system. Celtx provides other
tools for the writer, and a further set for production. Some of
these tools are catalogs, notes, webpage bookmarks, reports,
production schedules, and production reports. As you can see,
this is a very rich system that can take a project from
inception to completely through the production phase. Here we
are interested in writing, so let me describe the editing
Every manuscript is part
of an encompassing Project. When you start Celtx,
you need to open an existing project or create a new one. Every
project will contain a Master Catalog,
at least one Script, and a variety
of the other elective resources.
form a very important part of the system, and the most important
one for the author is Characters.
More than a simple listing, every character has fields for:
Description, Physical Description, Character Traits, Background,
and Motivation. Here you can develop your characters to intimate
detail before you begin writing. There is also a list of scenes
in which the character appears that is automatically updated as
the writer enters a character’s name in a
Dialog heading in the script.
Scene Details provides a similar
set of analytical fields for each scene for which you create a
record. These, along with Index Cards
and Storyboards, provide many ways
of viewing your manuscript and developing your plot. The whole
system thus allows you to build your story in different ways
depending on whether you are a character-driven or action-driven
type of writer.
The Screenplay Editor
As screenwriters know,
there is a very specific format for screenplays. The editor is a
fine tool for simplifying the writing process. Not only does it
provide a set of paragraph styles specific to the standards, but
it automatically moves you through these sequentially, and
automates certain activities.
The following styles are
You can change the style
of a paragraph either from the menu or with a shortcut key.
Additionally, the Tab key will change
the style to the most likely alternative to your current style, and
Enter will go to what is most likely to
be next. For example, if the current style is
Action, the most likely alternative to this would be
Character, and the next line is another
Character, however, Dialog is
almost always what one wants so it is selected automatically.
This system works so easily that it really frees you up to write
rather than constantly dealing with mechanics. You start a scene
with the Scene Header, it automatically
takes you to Action. You continue then
to alternate between writing actions and sections of dialog,
switching effortlessly with just a Tab.
To make things even easier, in Character
style, there is a drop-down auto-complete that selects from the
characters defined in the catalog. If you enter a new character
name, Celtx will automatically create a new character in the
are automatically created every time you use the
Scene Header style. They are listed in
the Scene Listing pane to the left of
the editor (number 2 in the figure). Here, you can reorder scenes by
dragging them in the list. Double-clicking on a scene will cause the
editor to jump to that section.
When you are ready to print, there is a Title
Page tab below the editor, and preferences to format the
title, headers and footers, etc. Clicking the
TypeSet tab produces the formatted copy. I like to print to a
PDF file, which saves the current state of the script. When
emailing, PDF files also preserve the integrity of your work since
it is difficult to change them, though annotations can be allowed if
provides several online services. They have, of course, a website
with downloads, great video tutorials, support, forums, etc.
They also have a paid
service, Celtx Studios, that allows you to save your
projects online and to share them either with a specified list of
other members. You can also publish them to Celtx Project
Central, where others can give you feedback. This service costs
$50/year, but if you have no other internet backup, then it is well
worth it. Internet backup is imperative for the serious writer!
The Celtx program is a superlative tool for anyone
editing Screenplays or any of the other supported genres. The
editors will greatly ease the tedium of manuscript writing, and the
other tools help you to develop your characters and plot. While
there are a few minor quirks that could be improved, with a price of
free, I highly recommend that you check it out. The best way
to do so is to watch the video tutorials in the support area of the