Screenwriting on the iPhone

iPhone showing Screenplay app

In the past, when new ideas, scenes, solutions to story problems, characters, dialogue, etc. would float to the surface unexpectedly, so many would fall victim to that lazy, procrastinating writer living in the back of my head who whispers assuredly…

You don’t need to write that down; there’s no way we’ll forget a great idea like that!

Yeah, right. That guy is an idea serial killer.

Then along came my shiny, new iPhone.  We all know this little device can do just about anything, so it’s no surprise that — with the right combination of apps — the iPhone can be a valuable tool for a screenwriter.

Note: These are not meant to be full product reviews, so I’ve included links to more in-depth reviews for some apps.


StreaksApp: Streaks
Developer: Fanzter, Inc.
Price: $1.99

Okay, you got me…  this app has nothing to do with screenwriting.

Or does it?

For me,  if I don’t write when I don’t write, it doesn’t matter what screenwriting software or iPhone apps I have.

That’s where Streaks comes in.

I’ve tried all sorts of “Goal Setting” and “Project Management” apps in search of the holy grail of organizational/motivational tools only to become mired in the minutia of Projects, Tasks, Subtasks, Action Items, etc.; I spent more time organizing what I was going to do rather than just doing it.  No other app has come close to the motivational simplicity of Streaks.

Here’s how it works:

You simply set up a calendar with a specific title.  I have one titled “Write.”  Every day I write, I get to put an “X” on that day.  The app keeps track of how many days in a row I accomplish that calendar’s activity and displays a numerical badge notification of my current “streak” (the first calendar in the list is the one displayed on the badge).

That’s it.  No, really… that’s all it does.

You’d be surprised how rewarding it is to put that little “X” in the box and watch the streak continue.  I can’t tell you how much writing (and health club visits) has resulted from the use of this app.

Reviews: appnews.org, simonblog.com, cnet.com,


App: Screenplay
Developer: Black Mana Studios
Price: $4.99

For just 5 bucks I can basically write a script (or import and edit an existing script) from anywhere.  Since I use Final Draft on my PC, the ability to import and export .FDX files is awesome.

While I could just as easily use Notes to jot down scenes, there’s something about writing in screenplay format that creates a unique, focused writing experience.  Crafting an actual scene from anywhere allows me to not only capture the content, but also the narrative flow, beats and subtleties unique to a creative moment that would otherwise be lost by just jotting down an idea.

Here’s a features list from Black Mana’s website:

  • Standard screenplay formatting – both on screen and in the exported file.
  • Character name auto-complete – once you introduce characters into the script, you never have to type their name again!
  • One click character rename throughout the entire script.
  • Drag-and-drop scene reordering – keeps the contents intact!
  • Lock the screen to either landscape or portrait mode – type comfortably in bed!
  • Export the formatted script to a text file, which can later be imported effortlessly into many desktop screenwriting applications while preserving the formatting.

A fantastic app! For a more in-depth look at this app, check out Black Mana’s site or the reviews linked below.

Reviews: RCRWireless.com, theiphoneappreview.com


Dragon DictationApp: Dragon Dictation
Developer: Nuance Communications, Inc.
Price: Free

I’m still amazed this is a free app. Remember back in the 1990’s when voice recognition and voice-to-text software was expensive and riddled with bugs?

Well, not anymore, my friends!  Now it’s free, portable and works like a charm.  It also recognizes words like “comma” and “period” to input punctuation.  Once the text is displayed, you can use a keyboard to edit text if necessary.

I typically use this app while:

  • Driving – I try to never text while driving. With this app, I can simply talk in to my iPhone and wait until I’m stopped at a light or at my destination to export the text.
  • Doing Research – Stopping to take notes while reading is annoying.  Using this app, I can speak my notes then dump them in to the Notes file for that particular project.

Along with exporting text to email (which I typically use because it’s right there in front of me when I check my email), you can also export to the clipboard,  SMS text, Facebook and Twitter.

Dragon Dictation is a must-have!

Reviews: macworld.com, itouchreviews.com, geardiary.com


NotesApp: Notes
Developer: Apple
Price: Free

You don’t need me to tell you about Notes.  The only thing I’ll say is I keep separate files for each project I’m working on, along with files for Random Ideas, Story Ideas, and Books & Movies.


Voice MemosApp: Voice Memos
Developer: Apple
Price: Free

Not much needs to be said here. You talk. It records.  I find Voice Memos useful when an idea is more or less senseless rambling.


App: Dictionary.com
Developer: Dictionary.com, LLC
Price: Free

Quick and easy-to-use dictionary and thesaurus app.  The only difference between this version and paid version ($2.99) is the elimination of advertising.


WikipanionApp: Wikipanion
Developer: Robert Chin
Price: Free

Seamless access to Wikipedia through a no-fluff, clean interface.  I find the ability to view the search history and save bookmarks quite useful.


Honorable Mention:

App: Super Index Cards
Developer: Seven Wells
Price: $4.99

I’m a big fan of using index cards to plot out a story.  So, I was quite pleased when I found this app.

Super Index Cards delivers everything it promises by making it easy fill out and rearrange multi-colored cards and including the ability to export them as a Word Processing document.  However…

Personally, I can’t seem to find any suitable substitute for real, honest-to-goodness, color-coded index cards lined up in rows in front of me.  Even though I take advantage of Final Draft’s split-screen feature — with the script on one side and rows of scene cards on the other — nothing seems to work as well as real cards when I want to get my hands in there and move the story around to really feel it develop.

Although this well-designed app quickly started to gather dust, I did want to mention it because I’m sure it will be a valuable screenwriting tool for some.

Review: PCWorld.com


Thanks for reading and please leave a comment if there are other iPhone apps you find useful.

– Happy (mobile) Writing!


One response to “Screenwriting on the iPhone

  • Terry

    You’ve mentioned some of these amazing apps to me before in conversations, and I have routinely fallen victim to the idea serial killer (in one ear, out the other). Thanks for putting your suggested apps in “print”! Great article.

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