Friday, January 4, 2013

Using Google Docs to Co-Write Your Screenplay

My brother and I are writing a script together and we really wanted to be able to work in the same screenplay document together.

We created the outline using We shared our screen on this Web site and my brother took the lead on the typing. We originally tried Skype but found the Skype connection would crash a lot. would connect us for hours.

We could have used Google Docs but decided to try instead and we loved it. We could write anywhere: our homes, coffee shops etc. We just needed an internet connection.

Once we were ready to write the script though, we knew we wanted to be in the same document. We spent hours trying to get Final Draft's Collabowriter to work. I won't go into details but basically, we could never get our computers to talk (and we used multiple computers - both PC and Mac) and troubleshooted for hours.

With today's technology, we were heartily disappointed in Collabowriter. Final Draft, you need to work on this! If you're going to be the go-to software for screenwriting, you need to be on the cutting-edge of technology, and allow for easy collaboration.

So what to do? We turned to Google. We tried some screenplay templates others have created for Google Docs but none seemed very intuitive. Next, we tried writing text in a Google document, using tabs for indents, and then copying and pasting the text into Final Draft. This proved problematic as the formatting would go away once the text was pasted into Final Draft.

After more research and testing, we found that if we saved the Google document as a Plain Text file and then dropped that file over our Final Draft icon, we could import the text as a script (select Script when importing) and Final Draft would recognize our formatting! Voila!

We jumped in and typed up our script in our Google document like we normally would in Final Draft. Of course the FD software automatically formats your text, so we had to try to emulate that formatting in our shared Google Doc in the simplest way possible.


We would then insert a hard return and write the action as we would write any kind of paragraph: JANE DOE (30s) stands at the front of the class.

We would then insert a hard return and tab over (any sized-tab works) and use ALL CAPS to type up a character name: JANE.

Add another hard return, tab over and write dialogue: Houston, we have a problem.

FD even recognizes parentheticals. Just tab over and put in the parenthetical: (reading from her notes).

If you want to use a transition, just align the text to the right side of the page and insert your transition (i.e. CUT TO:) just as you would in FD.

Here's the sample:



JANE DOE (30s) stands at the front of the class.


(reading from her notes)
Houston, we have a problem.

Jane looks up. No one is listening.


And that's it! Just Download the document as Plain Text (.txt). Find the file in your Downloads Folder and move it over your Final Draft icon. Select importing as a Script and you have your script in Final Draft with the proper formatting. There may be some clean up to do as Final Draft is translating what you have written but overall, it's pretty darn clean. I'll take the slight clean up so we can collaborate in the same document.

I can't tell you how excited we are to figure this out. I thought, I have to share this revelation with my readers. I hope this helps all the screenwriters out there. Happy writing and formatting!

Let me know if anyone has any other sweet filmmaking tips!


Slinky Scott said...

Pleased to hear that you guys are getting on well with Google Docs. We haven't used it to collaborate on scripts yet, but we do use it every day to collaborate on film project processes and other documents. Great tool Google! Lets hope they don't drop it at the shake of a hat like they do with some of their other products. This seems quite a popular service so hopefully it'll be around for a while.
Slinky Productions Editing

Unknown said...

This is our method as well but we are waiting for the day when there is no need for a second step. Have you tried WriterDuet? It's the best I've found but it certainly isn't perfect....yet.

janekk said...

Unknown, I haven't tried WriterDuet. Glad you've something you like!

James Finlan said...

You can write in Google docs using 'Fountain' format. Google this or go to '' for more info.

When finished in Google docs, export as plain text, then change the filename suffix to ".fountain@ (i.e: Script.fountain).

Then download Fade In (scriptwriting software - can be used in free trial mode for this purpose) and open your 'fountain' format document in this program and convert to Final Draft.

This is how I did it with my writing partner. Google Docs is just great for collaboration. I hope this was useful!