Runner and Sketchpacks Compete to be the Next Sketch Toolbox
A while back, Sketch Toolbox was a handy way to find and install Sketch plugins. However, an inability to track and manage available updates to individual plugins (plus a lack of updates to the Toolbox app itself) has made it feel like an abandoned project.
Well things are looking up, because now two different tools are offering notably different solutions to the challenge of installing and updating 3rd party Sketch plugins:
“/Runner” is a Swiss Army knife of a plugin for Sketch. It’s a bit like Alfred and Sherlock having a party inside Sketch. They recently added a plugin directory with installation and update capabilities. This exists as a new ‘tab’ alongside its other functions and makes the plugin that much more useful. Existing Runner users will likely be happy to adopt this feature as their primary plugin updater solution.
I’ve found the UX of locating, installing and updating plugins within Runner to be very streamlined and efficient. If you enjoy the other features of Runner, then this is probably a perfect fit. You can choose to update plugins individually or Runner will pop up a handy modal that shows all plugins with available updates and lets you update them all with a single click in a way that’s reminiscent of mobile app update lists.
Sketchpacks is standalone Mac app that lives in your menu bar. The UI makes it easy to see which plugins you have installed and which ones have available updates. The larger dedicated UI also displays more information about each plugin.
It also has a plugin catalog browser that offers some unique features compared to Runner. In addition to browsing all alphabetically, Sketchpacks allows you to filter by Popularity, Newest releases. These curation options might help people sort out the more popular or relevant plugins from the herd. They also offer the ability to export your library configuration to a shareable file — so you could also import a colleagues plugin configuration — this is very helpful and cool.
One nitpick is that Sketchpacks currently does not know which plugins you already have installed. Therefore, in order to manage your plugin updates within Sketchpacks, you must manually find your existing plugins within Sketchpacks and “install” them (it intelligently checks to see if you have to latest version, updates if necessary, but doesn’t duplicate any previously installed plugins) so you can manage them moving forward.
One leg up that Runner has over Sketchpacks is that it seems to do a better job at knowing which plugins you already have installed and then offering updates for them if they are available.
The bottom line is that both do a great job of installing and updating the plugins that are cataloged and visible within their respective interfaces. For the long haul, I think it will come down to having the most complete and up to date listing of all available Sketch plugins.
My hope is that both tools can thrive because their approaches are quite different and might cater to different working styles. Runner makes plugin wrangling one of its many features, while Sketchpacks is laser focused on just one task. There’s always the implications of what could happen if Sketch decides to build some kind of native plugin update engine into the app. In that scenario, Sketchpacks is most at risk.
Both tools offer integration tools for developers. Some plugin developers appear to be attempting to support both. I applaud devs who are able to dedicate the time to make this possible. Having these two solid tools to choose from is a big win for the Sketch community, as we now have two very helpful options for Sketch plugin management.
Originally published at sketchhunt.com on March 31, 2017.