highland iconHot on the heels of the Weekend Read update, we have a new Highland in the Mac App Store today.

Highland 1.6 features all the improvements to PDF-melting from Weekend Read, including better support for PDFs created with Fade In and Celtx.

There are also a slew of little bug fixes, with more coming. I use Highland for all my daily screenwriting, so whenever I encounter an issue, Nima tackles it immediately.

The force is strong with this one

Highland is the first app to support the basically-official Fountain 1.1 spec, which adds several new features:

  • Forced character elements
  • Lowercase character extensions
  • Forced action elements
  • Lyrics

The ability to force a Character element is helpful for names that require lower-case letters (i.e. McDONALD), and for non-Roman languages, where a character might be named something like 黒澤.

To force a Character element, precede a line with the “at” symbol: @

Yippie ki-yay! I got my lowercase C back!


Yippie ki-yay! I got my lowercase C back!

The parser will remove the @ and interpret McCLANE as Character, preserving its mixed case. We picked @ because everyone is already accustomed to thinking of @name referring to a person.

Character extensions, those notations like (on the radio) which live on the same line as a Character element, are no longer required to be uppercase:

Sometimes you really want two lines of Action, with no blank line between them. You’re going to for a style — but Fountain doesn’t know that. So instead you get:


BOOM BOOM. Closer.

In Fountain 1.0, we allowed the user to force Action elements with two trailing spaces.

BOOM{two spaces}

BOOM BOOM. Closer.

This has turned out to be problematic in practice. The spaces are invisible, and can be introduced by accident as you write. Highland and Slugline users got confused. Hell, I got confused, and I co-created the syntax.

In the end, we’d like more transparency and less invisibility. Using spaces to force Action is now deprecated.

Instead, you can force Action by preceding a line with an exclamation point:

BOOM BOOM. Closer.

The parser removes the ! and interprets BOOM as Action.


BOOM BOOM. Closer.

Highland has had Lyrics for a while now. Nothing has changed.

For screenplays, we use the same basic margins as dialogue, but set the text in italics. For stageplays, we move the lyrics to the left margin and set them uppercase.

You create a Lyric by starting with a tilde ~.

~Willy Wonka! Willy Wonka! The amazing chocolatier!

~Willy Wonka! Willy Wonka! Everybody give a cheer!

Lyrics are always forced. There is no “automatic” way to get them.

What’s next

Fountain is an open-source project, and continues to evolve. Right now we’re discussing:

  • Flagged changes (the equivalent of asterisks in the margins)
  • “Logical pages” independent of device or font
  • Multi-cam formatting
  • Better title pages

Some of these are deferred issues (multi-cam), while others are just things we got wrong (title pages). As with Lyrics, we’ll likely use Highland to experiment with some of these ideas before they become official parts of the spec.

An upcoming build of Weekend Read will feature the new Fountain 1.1 elements, but you can get started with them in Highland today. Enjoy.