Celtx Screenplay Editing System

by J. Malcolm Manness

The Celtx program is a truly amazing tool for writers of scripts.

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:

  • Screenplays     

  • Plays (theatre)  

  • Audio-Visual Productions         

  • Audio-Plays     

  • Comic Books

  • Storyboards

  • Text

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 environment.

Screenplay Editor


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.

Catalogs 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 provided: 

1.     Scene Heading

2.     Action

3.     Character

4.     Dialog

5.     Parenthetical

6.     Transition

7.     Shot

8.     Text

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 Action. After 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 catalog. Easy!

Scenes 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.

Printing: 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 you want.

Online Services

Celtx 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 website.

Good luck.

Website: www.celtx.com

J. Malcolm MannessComment