16 Pretty Useful Tools & Tricks for Sketch

While designing for work, we end up with very large Sketch files for big projects. Working on these files means occasionally wanting to change/edit attributes across the whole document at once and more. Doing this painstakingly by selecting every layer meeting a certain criteria is very unproductive.

There are a few very specific tools I find incredibly useful and have been using daily for the last 6 months to a year that I want to share here. Hopefully they will end up contributing to your design workflow as well.

  • Artboard Tricks — In large Sketch files, a lot of times we end up with unevenly distributed artboards across the canvas. This is normal considering we try a lot of approaches and see what works and what doesn’t. I normally prefer organising artboards by UX flows they are a part of. It’d be great if they were appropriately numbered as well so when you export them, the PNGs are properly ordered. This plugin does all of that — arrange your artboards in a grid, number them appropriately and export them as you like.
  • Comma — We designers work on a lot of UI copy throughout the Sketch files. Comma helps you make the workflow faster by providing sentence case/title case settings through keyboard shortcuts. You can even check and add space after punctuations and generally remove copy formatting errors.
  • Find And Replace — Remember that time when you had to change a keyword in your UI copy to something else? Use Find and replace plugin to do it in one go, across your whole Sketch document.
  • Map Generator — Personally I need to use maps a lot as a layer in my projects. No more going to Google Maps and cropping out screenshots; use this plugin to generate a map of any place in the world, all you need is a layer to draw the map in. Very handy!
  • Rename It — Rename layers in bulk, matching specific rules like starting from 00 to 09 or starting from ‘Card 1’ to ‘Card 10’ and so on. Very handy for repeating sibling elements we frequently encounter — i.e. cards in a feed.
  • SVGO & PNG Compressor — Do not export any assets without running a primary compression routine on it first. You can choose from Quick Compression (lossless, recommended for routine use) and Full Compression (more aggressive but slow). It uses pngcrush and jpegtran among a few other algorithms to compress the assets.
  • Select All Children of a Group — This one is a keyboard shortcut to select all children of any group. How do I use it? Change colour (or any property) of all shapes within a complex icon is one most frequented operation. Another one is where I often want to change size of all children elements within a group. If you change properties of sibling elements within a group, this one is a must have.
  • Spell Check Whole Page — Never export any assets without checking your whole Sketch file for typos. This plugin checks all the copy and points out perfect replacements — kinda like how you used to do in the good old MS Word days. A must have.
  • Stacker or AutoLayout by Anima — Ever wanted to stack up UI layers above each other (or next to each other) with equal spacing (to build user stories bubbles in a horizontal feed)? I have, almost everyday. Use the Stacker plugin to do just this. Or use the more powerful AutoLayout by the guys at Anima to do this and a lot more. There’s a nice article on what all AutoLayout is capable of, but for me this one itself is a big enough use-case (hat-tip to Rahul Gonsalves for finally getting me to try this).
  • Swap Styles — Swap layer styles between 2 layers. Using this one you can quickly exchange properties between 2 layers without using a third layer as a ‘memory’. Quite straightforward.
  • Font Finder — See how many fonts are present in your Sketch document and select & change them all at once. Quite handy when you want to see your UI in 2–3 different types of fonts and take an informed call on which one to go with.
  • Select Similar Layers from whole document — Many a times we need to make one sweeping change to just the fill colour of a specific modal and a title-bar. But that modal is used at 12 different places and title-bar at 40. You can select all of them combined at once, and change specifically their fill colour property. You can also select by border colour, fonts and more. Super useful for large Sketch files.
  • User Flows — This is my most favourite one (and also the most used one). In any large projects, as a designer you need to sell your your concepts and high-level ideas to a lot of stakeholders. One way to effectively help them grasp your concepts is to use wireframes and tie them up in user flows. This way you can take them through the user flows and explain them your designs in a more coherent way. Works better than presenting disjointed mocks and expecting them to connect them in their heads.
  • Quick-align Shortcuts for Layers & Text — Ah, I cannot count the number of hours these shortcuts have saved me. Once I set up shortcut commands to align layers with 2–3 keystrokes, I never go to the inspector panel like I used to. Use Cmd + ← or Cmd + → to align layers along left or right edges respectively. Same goes for ↑ up and ↓ down alignment. I also have vertical center (Cmd + }) and horizontal center (Cmd + |) configured. You can configure these in the System Preferences → Keyboard → Shortcuts. For text alignment, Sketch already has shortcuts built-in, Left = Cmd + Shift + {, Right = Cmd + Shift + } and Center = Cmd + Shift + |. Game-changers.
  • Checkpoints — We try out and iterate a lot of options while designing. When you have a perfect artboard that you are quite happy with but that once concept you still want to try out, you can use this plugin to save that particular version as a Checkpoint. Once saved, go nuts editing that artboard with whatever you want knowing you can always fallback to that Checkpoint you saved. You can save however many Checkpoints you want and they are date-stamped so you’ll know which one to fall back to. Read the blog post from the plugin author for more detail.
  • Style Inventory Generator — Generate at once a coalesced list of all the text and colour styles used in your document. This is especially useful to see if you’re using non-standard colours or text sizes anywhere in the document.
  • The bonus tip — Always hit Cmd + S every 5 mins. I’ve been burned before having lost my progress especially when I have 3–4 large Sketch files open, making Sketch unresponsive. Or sometimes my MacBook runs out of RAM required to keep all Sketch files open (when will we have MacBooks with 32GB RAM, Apple?) and I have to force quit Sketch ending up losing my unsaved progress.

Share if you found any of these above tips useful and help your fellow designers out.