Simple visual updates

Okay, this really isn’t a big deal, but I know how scary change can be. So I’m posting to give you a heads up, with info on how to go back to the old way if you want. The new options are available by clicking the wrench icon, then Display. Here’s what changed:

  1. We added a scrollbar by default to the script, even when your Mac settings don’t usually show scrollbars. And if you already have scrollbars, the new scrollbar is customized a little bit. You can get rid of that setting, or add custom scrollbars other places they’re needed, by changing the “Custom scrollbars” checkboxes.
  2. We now transfer the colors from your outline to the scene cards on the left. If you don’t use card colors (or the outliner at all), nothing should changed. You can uncheck the “Color scene cards…” box to go back to normal.
  3. The last setting is not on by default, but we have a new option to compact the scene cards to the left of the script and only show the scene headers. To enable this, check the “Compact scene cards” box.

Like I said, these aren’t too crazy. But I hope this post prevents writers from questioning their sanity, and most importantly, from sending me hate mail. Enjoy the new options!

Introducing Client-Side Encryption

Cloud storage security: if that sounds like an oxymoron, keep reading. (Or don’t, this post might be pretty boring.) It’s a big problem, but I’ve come up with what I think is an excellent solution.

One of the basic problems with some cloud storage is that in order to return a file to the person who saved it, the server has to be able to read it. While it’s password-protected, that password is also sent to the server to verify file ownership, so that password is just protection from the outside world: nothing technically protects a lot of cloud storage from the inside.

But as of today, that’s changing in WriterDuet Pro with a new option: client-side encryption. Refresh the WriterDuet page twice to see it, via the wrench icon then Misc.

Client-side encryption means that your script content is not stored on WriterDuet servers in a manner that is readable by anyone unless they have an additional password which should never be sent to the servers. This additional password is needed only on you and your collaborators’ computers, encrypting/decrypting script content before/after it’s sent to/from WriterDuet servers.

Okay, this is a big deal, but I should add some qualifiers: no encryption is perfect, and I’m not a security expert. I’ve done a bunch of research and had a security analyst take a look at my code, but there is no guarantee about the encryption behavior (sorry).

More waivers:

  1. I could’ve missed a place where it should be encrypting (bad) and it’s possible there are places I missed that need to decrypt (not as bad, but you’d get a jumble somewhere). I’ve tested writing and outlining, examined the files that live on our servers, etc., but you can’t sue me if anything goes wrong! This is not guaranteed in any way. (Covering my a$$.)
  2. It doesn’t encrypt metadata about your script (e.g. title, number of lines, line types, names of authors, who made what changes, etc.) but it does encrypt script content, notes, chat messages, outline, names of characters, scene colors, emoticons, etc.
  3. Some functionality requires sending non-encrypted script data to WriterDuet servers. I tried to find any such places, and added a warning where you’d have to approve the sending. It’s not going to permanently store that data, but you should be aware. An important example is PDF generation, since that can’t be done in a browser, it has to send the non-encrypted script temporarily to our servers. Once the desktop program is fully released (coming soon!) that problem will be mitigated, since it creates PDFs offline.
  4. WriterDuet currently will not encrypt work done before you add the special password. The same is true for collaborators as well – they will be prompted to add the password once they’re online in the script and the password-required update comes through.
  5. The password should be easy for you to remember because it is *not* recoverable or resettable (that would defeat the purpose if it were), though you can optionally add a hint which is stored on our servers in case you want help remembering the password later.
  6. Because this is new, there’s a very unlikely (I hope) chance something could go wrong and your script will not be decryptable anymore, or a slightly more real chance you’ll forget the password and be SOL on getting your script back. You should use the local backup options to store non-encrypted files on your computer.
  7. Don’t share your script password in the message when you share with a collaborator. That message is sent by our servers, and thus would defeat the purpose of the password.

If you have any questions or feedback, I’d love to hear them. The encryption process is in its early stages, and I want to make sure everyone understands the process and limitations. It’s not guaranteed to keep scripts 100% secure, but that’s certainly what I’d like to do.

And if you happen to be a security analyst who wants to chat about my methodology, that’d be cool too. 😉

Introducing smart paste

The amazing David Wain shot a feature request to me on Twitter the other day – he wanted to paste Fountain text into WriterDuet and have it preserve formatting.

This is clearly a good idea, and I’ve long wanted to improve the brain-dead formatting in WriterDuet when you paste from another program (copying and pasting within WriterDuet worked properly, but not from Final Draft to WriterDuet, for example). So I took up the challenge and opportunity to perhaps become David Wain’s best friend, and put together something I think you will love:

Seamless copy-and-paste from Fountain or most other screenwriting program, preserving formatting perfectly in most cases.

That’s a pretty huge feature, and I don’t think any other screenwriting program offers it. I’ve tested pasting from Fountain text, Final Draft, Celtx, and a few others. It works extremely well in the Chrome and Safari browsers (not Firefox, because it loses the line spacing when pasting into that browser), and I’m excited.

This requires a very heuristic-based approach, since WriterDuet doesn’t know if you’re intending to paste in Fountain text. For non-Fountain it’s even harder, especially since different screenwriting programs send text differently on the clipboard (and they don’t include formatting). So please give it a try, and let me know if any text doesn’t paste in properly!

And by the way, this is part of the free version of WriterDuet, but you can thank me by purchasing WriterDuet Pro today. It’s extremely awesome! :-)

Another big update

WriterDuet keeps getting better, in preparation for the desktop application. I’ve spent a lot of time optimizing performance, and many of the improvements have helped the web app as well. In fact, the web app now loads up to 30% faster (in addition to another ~20% improvement recently), and uses a lot less memory.

Important note: The price of WriterDuet Pro will be increasing to a one-time cost of $69, and that price includes all Pro upgrades (including the upcoming desktop application). Also, a lot of Pro features which have been made available to free users (with explicit notes stating they are Pro-only) will be disabled for non-Pro accounts very soon. To continue using them, I highly recommend you upgrade now for the lower price.

Read more about the desktop app and changes regarding Pro features in free accounts.

Huge new WriterDuet Pro feature

Many people have requested this, and it’s finally ready: WriterDuet will soon be releasing a desktop application!

It will still sync online and work with the web app, but because it’s not confined to a browser the desktop version can directly open & save files on your hard drive, and generate PDFs while offline. There are a few browser-only capabilities (e.g. video chat), but it mostly works like the web app – only better. The desktop version of WriterDuet will run on Mac and Windows computers (Linux and Chromebook users can still work offline with the Pro web app).

Best of all, this is a free update for WriterDuet Pro users, and its future upgrades will be included as well. I highly encourage all non-Pro user to upgrade now because…

The one-time cost of Pro will be $69. That’s less than 1/3 the price of Final Draft, and WriterDuet is a much better product, so I think it’ll still be an excellent value. However, I want to encourage everyone to purchase WriterDuet Pro before then to get the current one-time price of just $44.95.

Important side note: some Pro features have been available to everyone, explicitly marked as Pro-only but still working on free accounts. I wanted give writers a feel for how amazing Pro is, but I’ll be disabling those features on non-Pro accounts. If you love WriterDuet, please support it by purchasing WriterDuet Pro – you (and I) will be very glad you did!

WriterDuet update

There’s been a lot of development the past few weeks in preparation for something big. I’m careful to try to keep everything working right, but be on the lookout for any unusual behavior, and please e-mail me if you see anything wrong. Not that I expect it, but you never know.

This update includes new font options including two new Courier fonts, and several variable width fonts. Variable width is highly non-standard in US screenplays, but is used in other countries, and can be a nice alternative while writing your script if you’re sick of seeing Courier every day. To keep things consistent, at the moment all fonts will result in identical page counts on any device and PDF, but I do not guarantee that will always be the case. I’ll gauge feedback on that first.

There are a lot of subtle changes and minor bug fixes that came up during the big new development. You might not notice much difference in behavior, but scripts now load quite a bit faster, and more improvements to that may be on the way.

Anyway, this is just a heads-up post. Be sure to let me know if you encounter a bug, so I can squash it right away. And enjoy the improvements!

WriterDuet reports

Unlike other screenwriting programs, WriterDuet Pro’s new report system shows and lets you edit specific parts of a script. For example:

When you’re cleaning up a draft, it’s often important that your characters speak consistently throughout the script. WriterDuet’s dialogue report lets you pick any character(s) to view, edit, and print/PDF just their dialogue. Or if you want to review only the scenes wither certain characters in them, same thing: it’ll show you those scenes and hide everything else. (That’s how you generate actor sides, by the way.)

Another report the other guys seem to be missing is one that prints script notes inline with the rest of your script. Final Draft lets you print just the notes, but without context that seems useless.

Another report WriterDuet offers is the ability to view & edit just the script’s non-dialogue (e.g. Action), plus a Shot list for when you’re writing a production draft. And the most entertaining report of all: WriterDuet’s time lapse feature lets you watch your script get written from start to finish, with custom colors for each writer.

WriterDuet reports are a great way to review and edit portions of your script, as well as sit back and watch the work you’ve done fly by.

Time-lapse video of your writing

Writing is a process. Sometimes a long process. And now you can relive every moment with a customizable time-lapse video of every change you and collaborators made to your script.

Here’s an example script I wrote in a little over an hour (don’t judge!) – to make your own, click the reports (bar graph) icon and click the time lapse link. To record a video, use a screen capturing tool such as QuickTime. And if you want, post the video and send me a link!

TimeLapseAnnualCookout

WriterDuet is better than Final Draft

I know the title sounds like hubris, so I want to start by giving my competitor some credit: Final Draft has historically been very valuable to the world of screenwriting. I used Celtx for a couple years (sigh), and upgrading to Final Draft was a relief. It was the best… back then.

But it seems to me like the people behind Final Draft thought they’d “solved” screenwriting software some years ago, and basically stopped improving it. Four years after Final Draft 8, I believe version 9 was an extremely minor update. And they’re missing incredibly valuable features writers want.

WriterDuet does almost everything* Final Draft does, and so much more. Below is a list of the top ways WriterDuet is better than Final Draft, in my opinion/knowledge. You probably won’t care about every single one, but virtually all screenwriters can benefit from a lot of them.

  • Formatting. Here we’re basically identical, but I should mention it first since so many others fail here. WriterDuet’s default page count will be exactly the same as Final Draft’s in the vast majority of cases. We have the same default line lengths and split action, dialogue, etc. across pages virtually identically to FD.
  1. Real-time collaboration. Any number of writers can video/audio/text chat, outline, and write simultaneously. Conversation-style notes help you discuss lines with writers/readers.
  2. Infinite revision tracking. View changes by date, writer, tagged revisions, tracked edits, and individual lines. Asterisks for printing/PDF, plus you can see the exact added/removed text, and can revert lines to previous versions. Mark/unmark changes, retroactively mark revisions by date/time/writer, track multiple revisions at once, put revision information in headers/footers, lock pages, and much more. You can even search the infinite revision history to find a line you deleted, and the full script as it was at the time that line existed!
  3. Price. Even WriterDuet’s free version does everything most people need to write screenplays in industry-standard format. And our Pro version is significantly less expensive than Final Draft, and include future updates at no additional cost!
  4. Ease of use. WriterDuet is consistently described as intuitive and seamless. A plethora of shortcuts and mouseover instructions guide the simple interface, and subtle features make the core task of writing more fluid. WriterDuet is meticulously fine-tuned.
  5. Compatibility. WriterDuet imports & exports Final Draft, Celtx, Fountain, and PDF files. It even imports/exports notes from the first 3 file types, and is by far the best program at converting PDFs into editable screenplay format.
  6. Cross-platform. WriterDuet works on Mac, Windows, Linux, Chromebooks, iOS, and Android. It gives identical page counts on all devices, and PDFs.
  7. Pasting from other sources. WriterDuet lets you copy text written in Fountain, or other screenwriting programs (Final Draft, Celtx, etc.) and paste it directly into WriterDuet with the correct formatting most of the time (impossible to be perfect).
  8. An amazing outliner. WriterDuet’s outliner lets you organize scene cards into acts and sequences, add (multiple) colors, tag characters (with optional colors/icons to identify them), set emoticons on each scene, and resize/reorder cards. All real-time collaborative.
  9. View & edit specific portions. Select characters to view & edit only their dialogue within the script, or just the scenes they’re in. Select the non-dialogue report to view & edit Action, etc. or the Shots report for a production-shortened version.
  10. Unicode support. Write in Chinese, Cyrillic, Hindi, etc.
  11. Distraction-free full-screen mode. Full-screen works across platforms and is script-centric by default, helping you focus on writing. You can customize other items to be displayed, and make the normal view distraction-free as well.
  12. 2 or 3-wide scripts. View prior pages to the left, and pages after to the right. Scroll these pages independently to look up/down without changing the position you’re editing, or scroll them together to read 3x as much.
  13. Grammar checking. WriterDuet will tell you when you likely screwed up it’s vs. its, your vs. you’re, affect vs. effect, etc., along with its regular spell checker. Available in many different languages.
  14. Automatic backups. WriterDuet instantly saves your changes online, so no lost work in the event of a power outage or crash. There are auto-save options for Dropbox and Google Drive, plus your computer, to complement WriterDuet’s cloud storage.
  15. Format checking. Finds 9 (optional) common problems in scripts, including typo’d character names, missing character/dialogue lines, () in dialogue, similarly named characters, action lines greater than 4 lines, extra spacing, etc.
  16. Script shortening. Finds orphaned words wrapping onto the next line, lines which can be shortened by removing a few letters, and places where it can cheat a margin to save lines. All with customizable thresholds.
  17. Hide scenes you’re not working on. Select a scene or range of scenes, and all others disappear from your view.
  18. Editable dual dialogue. To edit dual dialogue in Final Draft you must convert it back to sequential dialogue, make your change, then go back to the first character’s name (not their dialogue) and convert it to dual again. With WriterDuet, just edit and move on.
  19. Notes in PDF report. Put notes inline with the rest of the script, including customizable colors (by type and writer) and content (name & time).
  20. Typewriter mode. Keep your cursor vertically centered, so your eyes don’t have to follow the cursor up/down while you write and scroll. A speed-reading trick, for speed-writing.
  21. Screen mirroring. Automatically follow a partner or reviewer’s position in the script.
  22. Embedded multimedia. Directly link in images, audio/video files, YouTube videos, and SoundCloud audio on individual script lines. They’re hidden by default, with an icon to expand in the margin.
  23. Music player. Many genres preloaded, no need to switch programs or tabs to get your tunes.
  24. Dictation. Using Google technology to add words by sound and context, speak your lines with voice commands to move to the next line and set its type.
  25. Time-lapse viewer. Watch a sped-up version of your script being written, with custom colors for each writer. You can also select any section of the script (or the entire thing) to look back in time and export a prior version.

And I’m just listing the big ones, there are plenty more. You certainly don’t have to use every feature to be an effective writer, but any of these could save you minutes, hours, days, or even weeks. And when you add them all together, along with all the features WriterDuet has in common with Final Draft, you’re left with one thing:

A superior product, at jut over half the cost.

The world of screenwriting software has changed. Final Draft is still the industry standard, but that’s largely because of inertia, not because they have the best product.

So if you’re looking for software to improve your screenwriting process, I highly recommend you try WriterDuet: the next industry standard.

 


*There are a few things I know of which Final Draft does better than WriterDuet, and there may be others. Please let me know, so I can add them! There used to be more missing features in WriterDuet, but I constantly add features as routine (free) updates, so that list is shrinking. Here are two kind of important ones where they still have the edge:

  1. Additional templates. WriterDuet only has screenplay, half hour sitcom, and stageplay. Final Draft has dozens more, and I’ll likely add to my list in the future. But because WriterDuet has customizable margins and line formatting, you can make what you want. And we import the Final Draft template files, if you have them handy.

WriterDuet FAQ

IS WEB-BASED SCREENWRITING VIABLE FOR PROFESSIONAL SCREENWRITERS?
Absolutely… with WriterDuet. Other screenwriting websites gave web apps a bad name, falling far below the standard serious writers require. WriterDuet changes that, with a browser-based experience that surpasses traditional (i.e. old) desktop software.


WHAT BROWSER DO YOU RECOMMEND?
Many browsers are supported by WriterDuet, but Chrome is by far the best in terms of speed and features it supports (video chat, browser storage, dictation, and more).


DO YOU SUPPORT MOBILE DEVICES?
Yes! It may vary by device and browser, but I use the web app myself on an iPad Air and Galaxy S4. It’s currently online-only for mobile, but I’m planning to make a specific mobile app later.


ARE PAGE COUNTS THE SAME ON ALL DEVICES AND IN PDF/PRINT?
100%. I hate inconsistency.


DO YOU SUPPORT TV FORMATS AND STAGEPLAYS?
Uh huh! Click the wrench icon, then Misc and set the script type.


ARE SCRIPTS PRIVATE?
WriterDuet uses SSL security, and generates random access codes to share with collaborators you choose. Scripts are not shared except through your requests & guest codes.


CAN I GET MY SCRIPT OUT?
You can export your script as a Final Draft, Celtx, Fountain, or PDF file. You can also import those, plus Word and text.


DOES WRITERDUET OWN MY WRITING?
Definitely not. You retain your rights, and simply grant WriterDuet permission to share and perform (on ReadThrough) scripts as you request. We don’t have any ownership of your work, and only share your scripts in ways you request.


HOW ARE FILES SAVED?
We auto-save all changes on our servers, and you can backup copies to Dropbox, Google Drive, and your computer.


DOES WRITERDUET WORK OFFLINE?
Yes! With WriterDuet Pro, you can seamlessly write with or without an Internet connection. When you’re online, your script will automatically sync.


CAN I GET REVISIONS WITH *s?
Absolutely! View changes via the calendar icon or revision list, then print or download a PDF.


ARE THE PRO & FREE VERSIONS COMPATIBLE?
Totally. Pro writers will have access to more features within a script they’re collaborating on versus a Free user, but Pro and Free users can seamlessly collaborate.


MAY I ASK A QUESTION?
Sure! E-mail me at guy@writerduet.com.