The Sketch shortcuts you didn’t know about

Sketch is awesome. It’s used for wireframes, visual design and soon end-to-end prototyping. In fact it’s now a mainstay in the UI + UX world down to employers requiring it as a skill.

As such, lots of designers share their tips or plugins about how to get better and faster at using Sketch. Let’s face it: in the right hands, it’s really quick and feels so much faster than other apps.

Despite having used Sketch for over a year and a half, meeting Meng To and attending his Design+Code Workshop (which I highly recommend), and reading pieces about optimizing Sketch workflows, I’ve yet to stumble across something like I’m about to share. Maybe that’s because it’s a bit outside the beaten path.

First, let me talk about a personal Sketch pet peeve. It’s what first had me scratching my head for a better solution: the Align & Distribute tools. They’re tiny! It’s not really practical to move your hand to the mouse and then try to hit these tiny 25x25 targets for something as common as centering something. Fitt would go mad!

The Sketch Align & Distribute toolbar.

And I hear you! The Arrange → Align Objects menu items don’t have hotkeys mapped to them and Sketch doesn’t allow customization of hotkeys. Lucky for us, MacOS supports this.

Here’s how to do it

Example 1

  • Open System Preferences → Keyboard
  • Click the Shortcuts tab.
  • On the left side, click App Shortcuts
  • Your App Shortcuts window should look like this. If it doesn’t, you already know how to customize App Shortcuts. Click the [ + ] button.
  • In this dialog, choose Sketch from the drop-down
  • The Menu Title is where the magic goes. For the purpose of this exercise, type “Horizontally”.
  • You can pick the shortcut you want! Based on your keyboard layout, this may differ from person to person. I chose:
My shortcut for align Horizontally
  • Repeat the procedure once more. Type “Vertically” in the Menu Title input box. Here’s the shortcut I chose:
My shortcut for align Vertically

Once that is set up, you can do awesome stuff like this:

Boom. Boom. Centered.

How this works is the OS scans through menu names and matches what you’ve typed with the menu title. It’s also similar to how Mac OS can show you menu items you couldn’t find via typing in the Help → Search menu.

These combinations: have adjacent keys and are unused by default(at least in Sketch). Get creative and address your own pet peeves by tweaking shortcuts.

Example 1.5 — Rounding out the align shortcuts

Now that we’ve already set up one custom shortcut, just repeat the steps above to create more shortcuts.

It can be a good idea to expand and go even further than just these two. For example, binding the ⌘+Top, ⌘+Right, ⌘+Bottom & ⌘+Left aligns to the arrows is a cool idea. Here is what your shortcuts panel might look like now.

Excuse the weird À and Ç. I use the Canadian French layout.

Example 2

I’m a stickler for having my Artboards, Groups and Layers clean and organized. As such, every few minutes when I’m working, I like to have all my artboards named and in order.

It’s easy to end up with artboards and layers all over the place.

To do this, I like to collapse all my artboards and see them at a glance. This is why I’ve brought the Photoshop claw into Sketch and bound it to Collapse Artboards and Groups.

My shortcut for Collapse Artboards and Groups
The Claw, performed by yours truly

Good news!

If ever you’ve set a bunch of shortcuts and don’t think you can remember them all, MacOS is clever enough to take your custom shortcuts and map them back into Sketch.

The Align Objects sub-menu after I’ve set custom shortcuts and relaunched Sketch. It shows the shortcut key combos that I’ve set.

After all that is said and done, here is what my shortcuts panel looks like to this day.

I’ve shown you mine. Show me yours!

The 2.5 examples I cover in this article are my personal choices. There are obviously as many combinations as there are features in Sketch. I am very curious to hear about other designers’ use of this feature:

  • Did you know about custom shortcuts before reading this article?
  • Do you use custom shortcuts in Sketch?
  • What are your custom shortcuts and how do they improve your workflow?

Tweet or email me, and spread the Sketch ❤ around.

About the Author: Alexis Morin graduated from a Master’s degree in Interaction Design from the Umeå Institute of Design. He is currently working as a Senior Digital Creative at Imagination Shanghai, blending digital and physical experiences which connect people with brands. He has worked previously as Senior UX Designer designing the future of education for EF Education First. You can connect with him via Twitter, LinkedIn, or Github.