Product Review: Celtx

Posted: May 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

2014-05-02 13.11.48

© 2014 G.N. Jacobs

 I’m going to have to eat a little bit of politician crow for my mild flip flop on Grayfist’s CELTX online writing suite. In an older review, I did mildly support the app’s existence. But now, I think it’s the most ridiculous waste of time and data space. The main flaws of this online screenwriting app are that they creators have arbitrarily decided that Final Draft doesn’t actually exist as the market leading 600-pound gorilla and, in addition to a recently added $4.99 app fee, they want to charge $4.95/month for full usage as a cloud/collaborative writing system.

How does Celtx ignore Final Draft to the detriment of screenwriters? They refuse to acknowledge that Final Draft has had fifteen or more years to make friends with every Script Supervisor, Assistant Director and Production Manager (the real power when it comes to getting a script from page to screen) in town. These production departments, in order to ease their workload simply started insisting that all work product must be output in a Final Draft specific file format (.FDR or more recently .FDX). Allegedly, this saves paper on set by creating a digital production board, schedules and so forth.

Celtx naively assumes that it’s okay to not have an output feature like Email as .FDX, instead going for Email as Text (.TXT) or Email as PDF (.PDF). Yes, PDFs are an acceptable format for emailing associates a script that they then print out and take to the set with them. Writing contests also accept PDFs as digital entries, because there is no production intended. Nobody but those intending to shoot their own movie in the backyard goes anywhere near .TXT or .RTF formats. The cut and paste into an FDX is a stupid amount of extra work. This becomes a reason for all gatekeepers to simply say…NO!

I won’t go too much into my objection to monthly fees for writing tools. It remains the same whether I trash the recently released Microsoft Office Mobile, or other cloud-based writers like OnLive. Over the long haul, the writer will pay more than if they had bought the app or desktop software. Pay for good tools once.

The mobile app version also doesn’t play well with other apps, as there is no usage of the Open In Feature. I use Open In to move files between Dropbox, Quickoffice and Final Draft Mobile. And Celtx doesn’t go anywhere near this forcing the writer to email files back and forth.

However, in my several attempts to decide whether Celtx is a good way to write screenplays and related media scripts using a mobile device, I’ve found that it does at least write. The interface is stable, uses features common to all Apple products (spell check, auto-correct, etc.) and doesn’t crash. I quick check of the screenshot included with this article suggests integration with the SIRI voice to text feature or for those of us that still type, a Bluetooth keyboard (I tested both before finishing this sentence, they work).

Like quite a few screenwriting programs, the writer can also write prose if they really had to. Using the text button in the interface one can simply start typing a book. Unlike other features like those in Final Draft Mobile there is a default towards double-spacing after hitting the return key (I write prose in single-space and use tabs and/or first line indent), but for some any sort of text writing will do.

I wanted to like this software, but the data management is just all messed up and doesn’t acknowledge the annoying truth that Hollywood is famous for insisting that everything be all tickety-boo. Remember this is an industry where a script must not only be in screenplay format, but that the font must be in Final Draft Courier, or that the middle brad on the paper script should be omitted, despite the truth that the pages turn better with the third brad. A writer trying to navigate such professional superstition and to give it a name neurosis, will always do better applying the First Law of Capitalism – Give the customer what they want! – and should just pay the extra money for one of many screenwriting suites that the production departments will accept. Verdict: decent writer that professionals can’t use.

  1. Jeff says:

    Nice review! I’ve been using Celtx since 2010 and its cool to write a script with it but for storyboards its really difficult to use. For the past few weeks I;ve been using Action Pro and I like almost everything about it

    I’ve been recommending to my film making friends

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