Review - Montage script writing software

Provides: Script writing and project management
Format: Download or CD
Developer: Mariner Software
Minimum Requirements: G4 processor, Mac OS X v10.3.9, 128MB RAM, 20MB hard disk space,
Processor Compatibility: Universal
Retail Price: $149.95 boxed edition, $139.95 download edition, $499.95 five pack
Availability: Out now
Version Reviewed: 1.0.2

And here we have a gift to the Macintosh writing community. I can't look at Montage as anything other than a gift, because it's certainly something I never thought we'd get: a script writing program designed by a company that gets the Mac aesthetic. Mariner Software knows that building powerful features into a program doesn't do much good if they're buried under a clumsy, archaic interface. They know that hiding usefulness under layers of options that really don't mean a whole lot can just be intimidating. Montage wants you to get to work, and that's a welcome respite, even if it may not let you get all of your work done.

The first question any author is going to ask about a new script writing program will concern compatibility with Final Draft. I know, because I asked the same thing. I'm a Final Draft user myself, and I've been mostly happy with it. My play was written in it, as were dozens of sketches and short film scripts. In fact, many were written in various word processors over the past 15 years, and were rewritten at some point in Final Draft. Therefore, I had no desire to retype again them just to get them converted to Montage. This is why I was so thrilled with Montage's ability to open Final Draft documents. When I opened a five page Final Draft sketch in Montage, I was shocked at what a good job it did of reading it. No formatting was lost. Nothing jumbled up. And it's not just that it looked the same, but that it behaved the same as well. What was read as dialogue in Final Draft was read as dialogue in Montage. Character names in Final Draft were character names in Montage. Stage directions were stage directions. Flawless.


When I did the same with my 100 page stage play, the results were the same. Actually, no, they were better. Along with the perfect translation, Montage actually fixed a problem I'd had with Final Draft. Towards the end of my play, the item entries became messed up, so that character names were being formatted like dialogue. Dialogue was looking like stage directions, and so on. I got it to look right, but if I made an edit in that area, elements would get all screwed up again through the next five or six entries, and I would have to retype them in order to get them to look right. Sometimes after that, deleting the old entries would then screw up the lines beneath that, and so on. When I brought the play into Montage, this odd behavior completely disappeared. It's like Montage read Final Draft formatting better than Final Draft did. I can't guarantee this result with converting all Final Draft templates to Montage templates, but I had no problem with the stage formats. Be warned, though, that once your script is in Montage, you can't go back to Final Draft; your only exporting options are RTF, Word document and PDF.

If you're creating your script from scratch, Montage presents you with a script format selection screen. The choices are:

  • BBC Drama
  • BBC Film
  • BBC Sitcom
  • BBC Sitcom (color coded)
  • Blank
  • Musical
  • Screenplay
  • Screenplay (Cole & Haag)
  • Screenplay (Warner Brothers)
  • Screenplay (color coded)
  • Stage Play
  • Stage Play 2
  • TV Drama
  • TV Sitcom

If you pretty much stick with just one type of format, you can make that the default upon launching. You can also create your own template and add it to the list, complete with a graphic. Still, I'd like to see a little more. Only one template for a TV sitcom? Final Draft offers templates for specific shows, with the appropriate characters already built in. Plus, there's nothing in the documentation to indicate what the templates will look like. For instance, what's the difference between Stage Play and Stage Play 2? You won't know until you've opened both up and used them. I'd like to see Montage offer three to five page samples of each template, and I hope they add industry standard templates as free downloads, or at least them roll them into future versions.


Once you're writing, though, the Montage interface is bound to win over many Mac users. It's not only easy to find the most important features, but also to figure out why you'd want to use them. If you're new to writing for the stage or screen, the Montage interface makes clear what you should be focus on, and how to access only those elements. View your script by scene, characters or locations. There's an area for storing research, and a fantastic outlining tool. When you're done with the script, Montage will keep track of your contacts, queries, and any tasks you have before you. It even allows you to write your synopsis right into the document. Now, do you want all of this saved as part of your script? Maybe not. I never had a problem keeping my queries separate of my script. In fact, I already track these through my Writer's Market account, and will continue to do so. Still, it's nice to have these features handy.


Where Montage pales in comparison to Final Draft is in its ability to work with others. There's not much here at all to track revisions and who made them. Montage assumes you're working on your script by yourself, so you can't make notes on the page, can't leave a history behind when making changes, can't attribute certain lines or thoughts to different authors, etc. Also, and I know that this is asking a lot from a program's first release, but Final Draft allows users to go online and work together in real time on a script. With Montage, you're completely on your own.

And yet, if you're okay with that, Montage has plenty to offer. I didn't even mention full screen mode, for instance, which takes over your entire desktop while allowing you to determine the screen color, type color and type size. Features such as this show me that the developers at Mariner understand what it's like to stare at a computer monitor all day, and that's a very good sign for the future of Montage. Those satisfied with Final Draft will probably not find enough here to warrant a switch. Those who aren't happy with it and who are seeking a Mac-friendly alternative, or those who are just starting, can find plenty here for $90 less than Final Draft. Consider Montage a starter program for starting writers. You'll be pleased with it, you'll just have to hope that Montage grows along with your career.

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