This header was created using Uber Table “Master Cells” with symbol overrides.

A hacky–yet useful–way of building complex data tables in Sketch

If you work as a designer of any sort, it’s likely you’ll have to render data tables at some point in your career. Data tables are the epitome of repetitive work. Blank states. Hover states. Conditional formatting. Cells with a red bottom border. So. Many. States.

Also, chances are you’re probably using Sketch for your design work. Sketch’s Symbol system and Override panel allow designers to build scalable design systems. Generally it works great. But there are still a few crucial things missing. Notably, you can’t override any settings-like border widths and colors-attached to a basic shape contained within a symbol.

The Über Table design tries to fix this issue. Here’s how.

I’ve broken down a table into an Atomic structure.

Let’s channel Brad Frost for a bit and think about the parts of a table.

  1. Organism. The data table itself. The one above is pretty simple.
  2. Molecules. A single cell. In the Über Table system, this is called the “Master Cell”. This symbol can be used as many times as needed and has carefully configured Resizing settings to ensure it’s infinitely scalable.
  3. Atoms. The parts of a table cell: the top, right, bottom, left borders, and the cell background color. These are meant to represent the different components of the border box model. There are symbols for each one of these atoms.

4. Atomic Symbols. The symbols have all been carefully placed within the Master Cell. They take advantage of Sketch’s position settings to ensure borders will stay fixed to the outermost position of the shape.

Resizing the master cell–go to town, it won’t break. I hope.

Each Atomic symbol has been crafted for adjustment via the Overrides panel.

Each Atom of the Cell Molecule is represented by a symbol. Top, Right, Bottom, Left and BG Color.

Want to change a color or a pixel width? Use the Overrides panel. Don’t see what you want in the panel? Create another version of the pixel or background color within the library for your own project.

Above: Choose border pixel thicknesses and colors for the Master Cell in the overrides panel.


5. The Uber Table shared library file contains all the assets you need to customize your symbol.

Each component of the cell has an adjustable setting that maps to a symbol within the library.

Step by step: How to construct a table using the library

Want to create your own table using the Über table library?

Step 1: Set up your cell

This involves adjusting the borders to whatever setting you’d like.

Step 2. Create your row

Take your single cell and duplicate it a few times horizontally to create your row.

Step 3. Repeat your row vertically

Take the whole row you’ve just made and duplicate that, too.

Step 4: Customize your cells

Adjust your cells to reflect whatever states you need for your design. Extra points if you use a plugin like Automate to give each cell a unique Col/Row name.

That’s it! Download the library and try it yourself.

Download the Uber-Table-Library here or from Github!

There is a tutorial and sample table included within the file.

What’s next?

I’m experimenting with another version of this pattern that leverages the object’s Shadow setting to draw border, with settings for both ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ shadows. This seems (so far) to be more performant than the single pixel method.

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