Screenwriting software mostly sucks.
Stop trying to help the writers write a better script! It’s a software panacea that WILL NOT be accomplished. Software cannot be your teacher. It cannot hold your hand and tell you what to write. It cannot inspire you. Case in point from the Movie Outline Software. This is a feature they describe:
Movie Outline comes with 12 scene-by-scene outlines and analyses of successful Hollywood movies which can be viewed simultaneously to your own project to compare structure, pacing and FeelFactors, which are elements of your story that evoke an emotional or intellectual response such as gore, shock, tension, conflict, action, mystery and romance. By setting the level of each FeelFactor for each step in your story you can visually gauge the pacing & development of your narrative in the form of a colored graph. You can also export your own outline and script into the library in order to compare multiple versions of your project, helping you track changes and plan rewrite.
FeelFactors! You can set the FeelFactor for each step in your story! Ok, I get it, your trying to provide a nice new shiny feature. Some schmuck out there will buy the software and think, “Oh, setting the feelfactor sounds nice. I’ll know if my script is good.”
No, you can’t. You will never know for certain. No graph. No chart. No factor, will ever tell you how good your script is. Software designers, I plead to you, no I beg of you, stop wasting our time with FeelFactors and help us organize our thoughts better! The two most successful screenwriting programs on the market, Movie Magic and Final Draft, both provide a clean, simple to use interface that does nothing more than help us organize our thoughts, not be a better writer.
Now, you might ask, “Isn’t software supposed to make us better writers?”
NO! Software, and the entire purpose of software design, is to make it EASIER to write, not to make you a better writer.
Isn’t this just semantics? No. The fundamental core of good software design is to examine the user and make their job easier. That’s it. Period. Make the user’s job easier. You will not become a better writer without sitting your ass down and writing… a lot. If the software process of tracking your ideas, laying out your plot, and writing a scene is disconnected from how you, as a user, organize your thoughts, then the software has failed you.
Notice the repetition. Help me organize my thoughts because when they are out of my head and on the page, somewhere, anywhere, that leaves me to be creative. That’s all we want as writers. To be creative. To be free of the clutter that is in our brains and to hone in on the story we are trying to tell. When the software is cluttered with all sorts of additional “features” we feel obligated to try it out. Then we waste time with a cluttered user experience and have a hard time feeling like we’ve really “let it all out”.
Designers, please, if a feature does not meet the simple requirement of helping us easily organize our thoughts, tell your management it’s a bad idea. If you must spend the money on something then do more user testing. Watch users utilize the software for hours on end. You will learn more in those hours than all the white boarding you do behind closed doors.
Help us organize our thoughts and we will buy your software.
*I have not used the Movie Outline Software. It does seem to have some good features, but FeelFactors made me chuckle