Shared Sketch Libraries for Improved Teamwork

Version 47 and the new Libraries bring collaborative work in Sketch to a new level

The latest update in Sketch finally brings shareable symbol libraries for all users. Multiple designers still can’t work simultaneously on one file, but we’re getting there. With the new Libraries one designer can create a UI library and share it with the others. When something is altered in the original library it will push the changes to all the files where the library is being used.

Sketch Libraries are great for one man businesses as well as teams. For teamwork you’ll just need a shareable folder where the library can be accessed by everyone. For test purposes we moved the library to a shared folder in Dropbox, and after that all changes made to the original library were updated to all files using the library.

A library is easy to create and use. It can be pretty much any Sketch file that has symbols in it. When you want to use it, open up preferences in Sketch and choose the Libraries tab. Add your file as a library and you’re good to go. When you edit the library file all other files will get updated too.

This also works for teams, only you’ll need a shared hard drive or a cloud storage that everyone can access. When you add the file to your libraries from the shared storage all changes made to the original will be pushed to your work too.

A library can be pretty much any Sketch file that has symbols in it.

The Libraries don’t yet allow completely seamless collaborative work on one file. For example, users of a shared library cannot edit the symbols that easily, they can only use them. If you wish to edit a symbol from a shared library you’ll need to either detach it from the library (in which case any changes you make won’t be updated to others) or you could open the original library file and make changes directly to it.

What the libraries are perfect for is sharing a unified UI-kit for a group of designers. One designer takes responsibility for the visuals while others can build websites and apps using the symbols from the library.

What the libraries are perfect for is sharing a unified UI-kit for a group of designers.

Notice though, that when using the libraries in collaborative work it’s important that only one designer makes changes to the original library at a time. If multiple people are editing the file, the person saving changes the last can accidentally override any prior changes made by others. The best practice here would be that one designer is responsible for editing and maintaining the library file and others only use the file in their work without making changes to it.

When something is altered in the original library it will push the changes to all the files where the library is being used.

Sketch Libraries is a much awaited update that makes teamwork easier and helps keep all UI elements uniform even in complicated projects. The libraries also open new possibilities in digital design, for example instead of a traditional brand guide PDF one could have a brand library for Sketch. By using the library you could speed up the creation of new products and reduce the amount human errors in the process. Every object would be taken from the library unaltered, and if any changes are needed to the visual identity you could just update the library and watch how all products using the library change too.

We’re moving fast towards fully collaborative workflows in Sketch and the new Libraries are a huge leap towards that dream. The next items on my wish list are synchronised colour palettes, text styles and shared styles. It will also be interesting to see how the new libraries will be used in plug-ins.

UI/UX designer and an illustrator. Curious about all design and tech related things. Has a love–hate relationship with Sketch ?
Juha Koivusalo

juha@redandblue.fi