So in truth I’ve been using it closer to 200 days, but it sounded cooler with the hundred. If not daily, I’ve at least been tampering with writing projects on a weekly basis since I first installed it. I’ve written a full feature (Day Before The Dead) started a book project and have a handful of other feature projects in early stages. Overall I’m quite happy, else I would have looked for alternatives at a much earlier stage. That said, I’d like to share what I believe are weak points on important features and missing or deficient functionality. This applies to Celtx version 2.9.1, Celtx Script and Celtx Studio as per November 2011.
Export Data – the ’Master Catalog’
I’m an amateur writer. Admittedly I have not paid much attention to the pre- and post-production functions in Celtx. One major thing I did notice was the poor export function for marked up content, schedules, reports etc. It does exports a .csv file which is easily imported to a spreadsheet (i.e. Microsoft Excel), but it’s only a short summary. It doesn’t contain all the details, far from it: notes, details of character info, scene info etc. is not exported. This should be left to the user/production assistant to filter and clean up, not for Celtx to censor. Export it all, it’s there! And the information contained is not massive enough to choke any normal spreadsheet!
Obviously all things cannot be reported or scheduled in detail in Celtx. While this is true, don’t put limitations in where they are not called for. I’m thinking Celtx should consider abandoning the RDF ”database” structure in favor of e.g. sqlite if they want to be able to create more elaborate and robustly generated reports and schedules, but that’s another story.
Aggressive Master Catalog auto updater
The Master Catalog captures characters quite aggressively. I’m willing to bet that most Celtx users have it filled with a number of characters called long strings of text like ”JASON HELLO MY NAME IS JASON. WHAT IS”. In fact, those are supposed to be a parenthetical or piece of a dialogue. Perhaps Celtx could introduce a second pass that occurs minutes later, to wash out those obvious non-characters? Or let us users enable the scan manually, when they think it’s OK to do so?
I think there should be better possibilities to make custom reports containing all or any of the Breakdown items. Oh, there is not even an export function for the default reports, like there is with the Master Catalog. One report type I’m missing in particular is ”Notes”, showing only the notes as: in the order they appear in the script, by each user, and by (reversed) chronological order.
Is best done in MS Project, MS Excel or similar alternative product. Celtx simply misses out on too many things when it comes to WBS and time schedule – try scheduling over night sessions, for instance. Hence the importance to add ALL details to the Master Catalog export file. But I do think this part has a lot of potential and I would rather not use e.g. MS Project.
Export Script – FDX
Let’s face it, FD is still the big colossal leader in the industry (citation needed). The Final Draft XML format is there to grab. Some producers or studios may require or wish for an FDX formatted copy, so why not provide it? Unlike the dinosaurs, having the ability to change and adapt is far more important to survive in the long run than being the number one for a limited time.
Import Script – SPMD
I’ve fallen in love with the Screenplay Markdown language. It’s so easy, it’s so portable. Now all I need from Celtx is a way to import SPMD according to it’s spec, rather than guessing (about 60% right, unscientifically guesstimated) via existing .txt import function.
The Index Cards-function in Celtx is limited to one scene heading per card. No more, no less. That’s all fine when writing a short outline or so, but not very useful once you are well into a full feature with hundreds of scene headers. Take a look at how MM does it. Or Fade In. I’m looking for ’meta cards’; Index cards that that span over an entire scene sequence; containing several scene headers. Then I want to shuffle. Oh, and I don’t want my cards to die when I happen to delete a scene header. Let it become grey instead. I think I recall reading that the present limit to 8 types of cards will be abandoned, which is good I one wishes to tag up an entire beatsheet, like the BS2 (Blake Snyder’s take on it) with e.g. 15 default beats.
And what about changing the view: from hierarchical, to timeline stream, to mindmap connections and so on?
Collaboration – Celtx Studio
Collaboration is a pain. A team of writers have to work sequentially, making sure only one writer at the time is ’checked in’ to the script, otherwise changes and updates may be lost. This severely hinders creativity and productivity. Google Docs currently provide the ultimate in real time writing collaboration, but I could settle with a concurrent version system like Git, Subversion et al. To that – a simple GUI that allows the user to accept or reject each change. I like the simplicity of MediaWiki history comparison, but it’s too crude. I need more granularity.
I’ve seen comments on the Celtx board saying that they are working on a major update of the Celtx Studio, hopefully released ’soon’ (November turned into December, still waiting). I sure hope this means a major improvement for the collaboration part. Me and my writing partner have spent a number of unnecessary hours to ensure all our contributions have synced and ended up in the latest version of the draft. If we were more people, I would probably not go for Celtx Studio as-is, but rather start out with Google Docs first.
Synchronizing with other devices – Celtx Script
Only some script types are supported, and only on some devices; the iDevices, that is. Non-Apple smartphones, pads etc. are not welcome, at least not yet. I regard this part as work in progress and have no reason to doubt that there eventually will be an Android and Windows Mobile versions too. I do miss the ability to read the in-line comments and I think it’s strange that the title page is not committed when printing/sending PDF via email while on the iDevice. On the Celtx forum I’ve seen a user posting a reader app for Android, so it can’t be far away.
No vivid development community
Browsing the development section of the Celtx.com forum it appears deserted. I’ve been reading their wiki and I’ve been seriously searching the Internet for more Celtx hacking/development sources. I’m not in awe. There is too little engagement from the Celtx team devs, they could put a little more effort into the dev section if they considered it important. On the other hand, there is not enough people from the community who share their findings. With just 20 minutes a day, commenting 1 or 2 posts, the Celtx crew could get far more attention from skilled developers – and less skilled developers who still may be useful and loyal to the community. Using open source is so much more productive and creative when there is an active community, I hope the Celtx team gets it.
Limited language support when Typesetting a PDF
I’m lucky to write in English and Swedish. It happens to be supported by the Celtx PDF typesetting webservice. I think they would save some bandwidth if they posted the source code and config/setup for this LaTeX-driven service, so that the community could help out in making Celtx a far more international success. I don’t understand the agenda to keep the webservice code closed, while it’s still free of charge? Well, conspiracy 1: perhaps they’d like to make it a premium service in the future, taking a small fee each time a users wishes to generate a PDF? That brings us to —
It only seems to be 98% reliable, even when TypSet as PDF. The inline script pagination in the edit view is an estimation only, or rather, a guesstimation at best. Depending upon how the script is generated and developed, the deviation has been reported on the forum to exceed 50 percent! Wow. Perhaps yet another reason to bring the LaTeX service client side and/or open source, to make a quicker pagination update. Writers want to know how much they’ve done and what remains. The closer the deadline, the more important this feature becomes.
Unsupported tags and characters breaks Celtx
It’s too easy to introduce ’hidden’ tags (html/xml) and unsupported characters. Someone just has to write a story in MS Word or other common editor, then cut’n paste directly into Celtx. Problem occurs; file get’s corrupted, or will not sync to iDevice or some other strange symptom appears. The forum has too many of these symptoms appearing in user’s posts for several months, they should already have detected a root cause and start to address it. I don’t think it’s an easy task, but it’s definitely something the Celtx crew should address in an upcoming major release.
There, I’ve said it. And I’ve just used up some more valuable time I could have spent writing on a commercial success that could make me and my family economically independent for generations. I will very likely spend more time on tinkering with Celtx addons to resolve some of the annoyances above rather than writing scripts.
Perhaps I should just go for SPMD, once I’ve found a way to get it outputted as a proper PDF. Damn you Celtx! :-)