Best practices, plugins and tips to master Sketch Libraries

Sketch Version 47 is when magic began! 🔮 When Libraries’ feature came out of Bohemian’s closet and brought a fresh new way of making design. In fact, many teams, introduced Libraries in their design routine, and we did too.

  1. To speed up our design process
  2. To create a ‘ single source of truth’
  3. To share Symbols between documents, and other designers.

Quick&short clarification: a library is a Sketch document with Symbols you can use in any other Sketch document. Read more here or watch Introducing Sketch Libraries.


I assume you know Sketch libraries really well, but you’d like to become an expert. What you need is a final boost. Something that will give you the Yoda-of-the-libraries-art look and feel. Lucky you, you’re in the right place. Below is a precious list of best practices, plugins (to add to those mentioned in a previous article 😉) and tips you really want to use to master your art. Let’s start!

Best practices

Make a plan

Before you start creating fantastical symbols, nested symbols and shared text styles, make a plan with your fellow colleagues, including possible developers. Write a wishlist of initial components you want to include in your Sketch library.

The Atomic Design methodology really helps in structuring and prioritizing your wishes. If you don’t know a thing about it, look up the Brad Frost website or read his book “Atomic design”. Warmly recommended.

All five distinct levels in atomic design

Follow a naming convention

Following a reasonable naming convention for your symbols is very important. Has it been agreed upon with the development team? That’s even better. The following rules will give you some directions.

  • In order to organise symbols in groups and subgroups, use a slash (/) in your Symbol’s name. Sketch will treat these as group separators. For example, you have primary and secondary buttons, with default and hover state. The right name order is: buttons/primary, buttons/primary-mouseover (same for secondary buttons). Read more here.
Symbol name
Cascade view of the grouped symbols
  • Follow a control/property-state logic. In human words, go from generic to specific. Imagine you’re creating a photo folder on your desktop, in which you create other folders, one for each year. In folder 2018, you create a folder for each month. [photo/2018/april/stockholm] Same logic!
  • Always use lowercase, separated by dashes.

Find the owner of the parent library (master)

If you don’t want to mess it up and get unexpected library updates or changes, find a owner of the library. Manage user permissions and decide when and how a design change can be added to the master. Remember: this change will be reflected on each Sketch file that’s using that library. Double-edged sword but pretty awesome.

How to manage permissions? Natively, nothing is there yet. But you can accomplish this through Dropbox, Google Drive folder and Sketch Cloud. Or you can try version control tools like Abstract, Kactus, or Folio for Mac.

Abstract — https://heydesigner.com/blog/version-control-sketch-git/

Must-have plugins

Runner

“Runner helps you to get around Sketch quicker and smarter.”
With a simple ⌘+’ you trigger multiple functions: run, goto, insert, create, apply and install. You’ll say goodbye to searching through your menu. Adding a symbol to your artboard will take just one second.
☞ It’s free

Runner plugin in function

Symbols Manager

This plugin, created by Jaer Pollux, is the best way to manage your symbols. You won’t struggle with organising them anymore. Rename, delete or drop symbols from one folder to another will be unexpectedly easy and fast. 
☞ It costs only $9.99

A demonstration made by the creator

Symbol Swapper

If you want to get more fancy and try some extreme techniques, Symbol Swapper is the right plugin for you. It allows you to swap selected symbols and/or an entire library. 🤯 Important: always make copies of your file, the swapping sometimes is buggy and messes up things. But it’s getting better.
☞ It’s free

Swapping libraries

Move to library

With this plugin you can move a symbol from your project to any library and reattach all the symbol instances to this library. It also keeps the overrides.
☞ It’s free

Rename it

Simply rename your layers and artboards in zero time. Awesome if you follow the name conventions mentioned above.
☞ It’s free

Style master

Renaming your shared styles has become easy and fast. If you want to apply a big change to your shared style names, you don’t have to do it manually one by one. With Style Master, you can rename all or some of your shared styles at once.
☞ It’s free

Sketch style libraries

It syncs all text styles from any Sketch Library in your current project. No export/import via separate “style files”.
☞ It’s free

Symbol organiser

Add it with Runner. This plugin organizes your symbols on your page based on the names you give them (component/button).
☞ It’s free

Symbol organiser in action

5 life changing tips

  1. Lock nested symbols to prevent them from appearing in the overrides panel.
  2. Use Alt+Enter to insert a line break on nested text objects.
  3. Use Space in the overrides panel if you don’t want any text to appear.
  4. Use Paddy to automate padding and spacing for your Sketch files, doing it manually is really silly!
  5. Take your time to make things reasonable, neat and clean from the very beginning. Very soon, you’ll figure out that your effort was absolutely worth it.

To wrap it up

A quote from American art theorist, critic and curator in the field of systems art Jack Burnham that appeared on Artforum, “System Esthetics” in 1968:

We are now in transition from an object-oriented to a systems-oriented culture. Here change emanates, not from things, but from the way things are done.

Valeria Gay
Visual Designer at Hike One