PlotBot is a new free web application geared towards screenwriters. Because it’s on the web, you can log in and work on your screenplay anywhere you have access to a computer.
Better yet, PlotBot allows you and any number of collaborators to log in and work on the same screenplay at the same time. You can set your script to “Private”, allowing in only the people you’ve invited, or “Public”, letting you set up open projects that anyone can contribute to. You can even do a “Showdown”, letting people write their own screenplays to a prompt you provide, useful for competitions or just plain fun.
Creating a new project is easy. Once you’re logged in, click “New Project” and you’ll be asked to name your project and write a description. The next page allows you to assign a copyright, offering your choice of “All rights reserved” or any Creative Commons license.
PlotBot offers lots of great options to you can add to your project — you can add a project blog, write style guidelines, and add reference documents and character descriptions. The interface basically walks you through the process of writing — first you create an outline, the you add scenes, and then you flesh out each scene. There’s also a section for notes.
In the screenwriting section proper, you are given options to write sluglines, actions, or dialogue. Each presents you with a text entry field that offers only what you need for that kind of line — for example, the dialogue lines have a field for the name of the speaker and a box for their line. Sluglines offer a drop-box to select either “INT” or EXT”. As you add different types of text, it’s automatically formatted for you.
To edit text, you just click on it and it immediately becomes live, with whatever options are available for that kind of line. Every line is stamped with its author and the time of the last edit, and you can attach comments to each separate line. It’s all very slick and fun to use.
Finished screenplays or drafts can be printed directly from the browser, downloaded as a Rich Text File (that can be opened in any word processor without losing its formatting), or downloaded in XML, which the programmers admit is useless at the moment — but since it’s a standard, it’s assumed that future applications will be able to use it somehow.
All in all, PlotBot is a very well-conceived and well-executed application. It may not be as flexible as your desktop version of Final Draft (or even your free version of Rough Draft), but it’s fun, available everywhere, and offers collaboration features that even Final Draft can’t boast. And, as a final note, you can set the interface to any of over a dozen languages (though some translations are more complete than others) — including Pirate! Arrr, that be good!
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