Navigating Quickly within Figma like a PRO — Part I

Ansh Mehra
Ansh Mehra
Published in
7 min readJul 31, 2021

There are four panels you will regularly visit while working on Figma. You can access each of these four panels by using a few shortcut keys.

Credit for Keyboard Illustrations goes to @rokuzeudon | Link to File

for Layer’s Panel

This page has all your Pages and all your components within that Page.

for Asset’s Panel

This allows you to browse through components published in other enabled libraries. For example, you can import an open source icon library like Remix Icons, put it in your Project and publish its entire library. Now you’d have access to all icons directly from your Assets Panel.

You can swap between component instances by holding the Option Key and dragging icons from the Assets Panel into your working frames

Option + 2 along with enabled Libraries will save you a lot of time.

for Libraries

This opens up a pop-up that shows you all the libraries published within your Project. You can enable or disable them accordingly. You can access your assets only if their published libraries are enabled. You can access the same via the Assets Panel.

‘Libraries’ icon is found in the Assets Panel (book icon)

for Design Panel

You’d be familiar with this side of the screen. This is a pretty extensive panel. We will cover this one in detail in the upcoming articles.

for Prototyping Panel

Switching in between Design and Prototyping through Option key saves a lot of time because prototyping often leads to minute visual nudges to the UI.

for Inspect Panel

This comes in handy only during Handoff. We will pick this in detail in the next set of articles.

You can hide specific panels to give yourself more space to design without distraction

Hide the left side

Sometimes you need more space to visually compare 3–4 screens in one shot. This shortcut would allow you to keep just the right side panel and have more canvas space for designing.

Ahh, so much space to design in peace 🤭

To see just the Canvas

This is useful during virtual meetings and demos where an edge to edge preview keeps things more clean. Use this shortcut along with proper navigation with N and Shift N to get the best out of your presentation.

Understanding Selection Boundaries

When you select an item within a group, there are two distinct boundaries that tell you about the hierarchy of your selection

The 1-px solid line shows what you’ve selected while the dotted line shows you the siblings of that selection. Let me explain you through a simpler example. Take a look at this component:

When I select sibling-1, I see a 1px stroke around it and a dotted outline around all the three siblings.

without even looking at the Layer’s panel, you can see your selection’s siblings

When I hover over an object, you’d see a thicker stroke. This helps you Deep Select (holding Command) items placed inside a group.

I’m simply hovering while holding Command

Navigating through the Layers panel

You can traverse through deeply embedded groups and frames through a combination of Return and Tab.

If you select a group/frame and hit ‘Return’ (or Enter) you would select every layer inside that group/frame. These elements are called “children”

This would take you one level above in the layer hierarchy. This means you’d select the parent of the selected children.

I’m able to pogo-stick between levels through Return & Shift + Return (too Pro ,eh?)

Switch in between siblings inside a group/frame

Once you hit “Return”, you’d select all siblings inside that parent group. If you press “Tab” — you’d select the first child in the selection list. Pressing tab again would allow you to switch to the next child.

This would go backwards in the list. Tab would select the next item in your list. Shift + Tab would take you to the previous item in the list.

This shortcut would save you a lot of time without touching the trackpad

How does layer order affect your workflow?

It’s a common mistake to think that your layers would be ordered similar to how they are placed visually and spatially on the design canvas. In reality, the layers panel does not care how you arrange your elements visually.

Notice how the layer stack is completely different from how elements are spatially arranged

Relation between Batch Renaming and Layer Order

Batch Renaming allows you to rename bulk layers. But if your layers are not stacked properly on the left side, your frames would be renamed incorrectly.

Incorrect layer stack leads to mismatched naming

and this becomes a menace when you export your frames. You would have incorrect names for each of your screens.

No no noooo

There is a plugin to make your life easier

Sorter Plugin by Thomas Lowry allows you to re-order your layers exactly how you’ve placed them in your layers Panel. The sorting follows the “Z” order. First it goes from left to right and then top to bottom (how we read books in English) — Here is how it works:

Step 1 — Install the Plugin from Figma Community (Free)

First time installing a Plugin? Well, you are entering a whole new world 🌍

Click here to Download ‘Sorter’ by Thomas Lowry

Step 2 — Run the ‘Sort Position’ Command through Quick Actions Bar

Quick Actions Bar — almost every feature on quick access

But before you run the Sorter plugin, you have to select all the frames you wish to rename. Then select “Sorter > Sort Position” like this:

There will be a prompt at the bottom of your screen if things ran smoothly.

Feedback that things went well

Now, you wouldn’t notice any visual changes on the canvas. That is because your layers have been sorted on the left side, according to how your layers are placed spatially on the right side.

all frames are named the same so you cannot clearly see what happened. But this is what exactly took place:

Left — Before sorting | Right — After sorting

I will end this article here because I want you to absorb things slowly. We will cover many more interesting details in the upcoming articles ✏️

Hi! My name is Ansh Mehra and I’m a UX Designer & Storyteller at Zuddl.com, which is a virtual events hosting platform backed by YCombinator. This article is a part of my Foundations for UX Design Series. You can watch one of the episodes here! 📺

shared some really helpful tips here

Follow me on Instagram for some really interesting stuff on Life, Design and the Beyond. I also host a Podcast called “Take it Easy” on Spotify 🎙

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