Software for comic script writing

I’ve been having another look at various tools available for making scriptwriting for comics easier. My requirements are somewhat unusual in that I use multiple machines, depending on where I am. If I’m out and about I tend to use my netbook which runs Ubuntu. I have a work laptop (Windows XP) and a home PC (Vista). File transfer between them is facilitated by the excellent Dropbox.

Many people don’t use scriptwriting software of any kind, preferring to use a word processor or even a text editor. But, having tried several, there are obvious benefits:

  • Doing all your formatting for you – When you press enter after a scene heading, the format changes to Action, followed by Character followed by dialogue etc. Rarely is manual intervention necessary, meaning more time is spent writing and less time is spent fiddling with formatting
  • Short cuts – Most scriptwriting software will track the characters you’re using, so that when you begin to type their name again it defaults the rest in. Again, more time spent writing.
  • As each section is properly headed with auto-numbered page and panel, moving things around and finding your position is quick and easy. Most will also have outlining features.

 

All these factors are important to me, but additionally I require:

  • Works on Windows and Ubuntu (Linux)
  • Exports into formats that other people can read without making them install extra software
  • Outlining

 

Here are my findings:

  • Final Draft 8 – An awesome piece of software; amazing for film and comic scripts, excellent file export options. Perfect, apart from the fact that it doesn’t run on Ubuntu, even under WINE. While the software installs it’s the final step, the entry of the license code, that doesn’t work, making this a mere demo. Unless I put Windows back on my netbook, which I’m not sure I want to do
  • Scrivener for Windows (Beta) – This is still in beta version but would fulfil my export and multi-platform requirements. However the comic script template is currently somewhat flaky, with no auto-numbering. Maybe when this will be better when it’s out of beta, but for now it remains an excellent novel writing tool instead
  • Celtx – This is free open source software and multi-platform. However, other than some flakiness on the formatting, the real downside here is export. A film script can be exported as text or HTML, but a comic script can only be exported as HTML. The only file format they support natively is their own .celtx format and currently there are no plans to change this. When I asked their community about it, I was told to make other people to install CeltX or to stop whining. Instead, I stopped using CeltX
  • Adobe Story – Free software, built in Air so it’s multi-platform. This is very good indeed, especially for free. However, it’s is meant to integrate with Adobe Premiere, so it’s film script oriented. There is no comic script option. However, as it’s quite a good all-rounder, I’m giving it a go using Scene Numbering. It does, however, have no real outlining features
  • LibreOffice Writer – Or any other word processor for that matter. It would mean creating a custom template, but it could end up being less stressful than trying to make the other software work how I want.

 

Update

Scrivener still has no auto-numbering or defaulting of character names, but its outlining and auto-complete are pretty good, as well as its handling of different document types, so this is what I’ll use for now.

 

Update 2

Antony Jonston has written a description of how he uses Scrivener to write comics.