Support for "Variables", or the like

I’m sure y’all saw what Figma just announced with variables, it’s powerful. If you haven’t seen it, check this out - - or this - (there is a video version of this example floating around somewhere)

Note that not only is the color changing, and can also react to the background (change light to dark mode), but also the content is changing for language support. The container appears to be informing the UI to make the necessary modifications, which is how the UI is changing dynamically as the user places a symbol/artboard within the container.

I know people on these forums have inquired about variables, or changing themes through plugins. I’ve also created some of those plugins. I am one of those people that greatly needs the ability to have a design change themes and strings, and have had to resort to writing a web app that takes advantage of the open file format to make this possible.

Sketch has the ability to do some of these things, but it’s all very disparate and manual. What Figma has achieved appears to be done quite fluidly and automatic (after some complex initial setup I am sure).

Is this sort of thing on the Sketch roadmap?

We’re aware of the requests and use cases for tokens (beyond color variables), theming, and so on. So, it definitely has been and is in our minds, but we’re not working on it at the moment.

That is really sad.

We sketch designers are increasingly losing touch with designers who work with Figma.

It reminds me more and more of the Quark Express vs InDesign story.


Agreeing with @Xhaust here. Penpot has Flex layout and adding Grid layout, Figma adding variables and dev mode, but Sketch seems to be working on something totally different.

Sketch is still great editor for illustration, icon work. But it’s far far behind on UI/UX. Some things are done way better in Sketch - I like color variables, and styles UI. But it seems like the Design Systems are just not something they has their minds on. Feel like Sketch is pivoting from UI/UX work into vector illustration work.

Feeling a bit sad that I just bought a year subscription, but will probably have to get back to Figma - those features became essential in UI/UX work now. I had an assumption based on few topics here, that design tokens would be extended, but now it certain it’s not on the roadmap :frowning:


@Xhaust We want to address needs that our customers have, including this one — which is why it is on our minds. We’re not working on this at the moment because we’ve been working on other things (e.g. Annotations, Smart Layout in Groups, Collections, improved selection). We’ve got a full deck and we’re not standing still.

I’d like to address your note about “losing touch”. Speaking more generally, and to be very frank with you, I want to be realistic and clear about something: one-to-one feature parity with Figma is not something that we’ll ever aim for.

A lot of that has do with how we choose to operate. As a company and business, our ethos, goals, and constraints are fundamentally different from theirs. This is by design. We have no pressure nor interest in growing incessantly. We don’t wish to become a tech giant. We don’t want to be 1000+ people. Our goal is to be Sketch, not Figma (nor Adobe). Naturally, that is reflected on the products we make, and will continue to be.

This is not to say that we reject building any features similar to theirs. Not at all. To the extent that a feature solves a problem our customers have, in a way that we can build and support, we’re interested in that, too. This present thread is about one such thing. But, we’ll go our own way about it, at our own pace.

As Pieter and Emanuel put it in a blog post at the start of the year:

All of this is possible because we’re independent, we own our roadmap and we own our destiny. We’ve been around for over 10 years now, and our motivation has always been the same — to build great tools that help people like you make amazing things. We plan to continue this journey in a sustainable way — our way — and we’re excited to do this for many more years to come.


This is absolutely ok. But features mentioned multiple times in various topics around the board are very general. Design Tokens are becoming a W3C standard, Flexible layouts are used in many environments - web, mobile and desktop. Having these tools when you design help designer make work closer to the media. It reduces boilerplate work by magnitude.

It’s absolutely fine to do in a different way than others. Smart Layouts are great, though not mature enought just yet. But it’s getting there. Color Tokes are great, but why just Colors?

It’s not about feature parity, but about tools that make you do work easier and faster. Penpot, for example, is doing features in a very different way comparing to Figma. Framer had variables (I guess they were first in this area) before they pivot to become site-builder.

Sketch, for me personally, is much better to other tools in many areas. UI is very polished, vector editing is really done well, community is great, and of course it’s independent status. It’s just it very difficult to compete with other tools, if you need to spent hours on something that could be done in a matter of minutes in the area, were Sketch does operate.


“It’s just it very difficult to compete with other tools, if you need to spent hours on something that could be done in a matter of minutes in the area, were Sketch does operate.”

THIS. This is the problem I am running into. What Figma just introduced with variables is a game changer for our workflows, and I can’t ignore them any more. I’ve spent the last day establishing POCs in Figma to see if it will truly work for our theming and localizations needs, and if successful, I need to make some decisions for our team.


I believe we’re talking about the same thing: it’s parity on the tools that make you work easier and faster. If Figma introduces a new feature that allows their customers to be more efficient in a way ours can’t — like variables — that creates a new parity gap between the two products that wasn’t there before.

We also work to give make our customers’ work easier and faster, and allow them to do things they previously couldn’t. That’s why we’re working on such things (e.g. layout and prototyping), and will continue do so. But, as we’re ~130 people, and not 1000+, we must be more selective and have a comparatively smaller number of things on our plate at any given time — and at the present time, tokens isn’t one of those things, but others are.

Over time, we expect to address many things that will be positive for our customers. We expect Figma (and other tools) to do the same. But, we’re realistic and comfortable with the fact that, since we operate at a different scale, we’ll address comparatively fewer things than Figma. As a result, some customers may see new unfulfilled gaps in their specific needs, and decide to be at the Figma side of that gap. We’ll use that to inform how and where we improve, and will continue to improve (we do our fair share of mistakes, of course), but we’re ultimately OK with this reality.

I appreciate you taking the time to talk so plainly about this topic, and the opportunity to also speak plainly to y’all. Thanks!


it’s more about features, not Figma. Things like flexible layout (auto-layout) are really needed, and they did not appear in Figma on day one. But they were needed for designers badly because the way our work shift in a more complex direction. Same way variables where something mentioned long before Figma introduced it. Just because it would make work easier, not because other did it exactly this way.

I totally agree that feature race is a worthless exercise. Having small team makes you focus sharply on specific areas. If the focus of the team are following client needs, I feel like the majority of the clients are doing a bit different kind of work - illustration/vector/technical (though it’s more of a Corel area) design rather than UI/UX work.

And it’s totally fine. But it would be great if that would be communicated clearly. Actually roadmap would be great!

Saying that, I repeat that I’m thankful for everything Sketch already done and continue doing. I’ve been using Sketch since version 3 until version 47. I then switch to frontend and now full stack work. I just recently get back to design. I have an opportunity to work on Design System in Figma on my work, and do similar work on my own project were I eventually chose to use Sketch again. But it get’s very painful to see how fast you can do some thing using tools in Figma that are missing from Sketch. That’s why I do believe it’s rather general tools required for UI editor these days, not some specific service features.


I totally get y’all are a smaller team, and you need to be more selective of where you focus your efforts. Unfortunately it seems our paths are diverging, which is something I personally am having to come to terms with.

I migrated to Sketch many years ago, from Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. Y’all had the edge; you understood what was needed to create numerous layouts using common symbols, made it possible to organize hundreds of artboards together, manage assets, etc. And the plugin capabilities and community was thriving, exciting, and I very much enjoyed being a part of that.

Design has gotten more complex though. Now we need the ability to create designs that can scale to various form factors, or that can be themed and translated, and ways to close the gaps between design and development. And sadly this is where y’all are falling behind.

The amount of symbol variations I had to create in order to support just grid layouts in say mobile portrait/landscape, small tablet portrait/landscape, large tablet portrait/landscape, and desktop is insane, because we still don’t have abilities to maintain proportions of objects, between objects, and with wrapping.

And now with variables that the competition has deployed, there is a potential to replace a significant amount of tooling I had to create (taking advantage of the open file format) to produce themed and translated designs. Now all my designers can get these outputs with little effort, in-app, with the added bonus of alternate layouts (portrait, landscape, tablet, etc) and more.

But the final gut punch for me is the waning plugin support that’s occurring at the same time. At least gaps were more easily filled with plugins in the past… but thats another sore spot these days. I completely disagree with the decision to not focus on this area, as now you not only have to develop the core functionality of features, but also the minutiae that sits atop it, instead of relying on the community to help in that regard and allowing you to move on to other more important work.

For example, y’all added the ability to mass rename layers. Nice to have, but we already had solves for that with RenameIt. I personally would have preferred that effort be spent elsewhere.

But I digress… times change, resources change, needs change. At the end of the day we all have to do whats best given our circumstances. That includes Bohemian Coding, and me. I am just sad for what that likely means.


@paulozoom Variables in Figma is a game-changer feature. It could save a lot of time when building and maintaining large design systems. Perhaps the Sketch team could survey existing customers to discover what new features we want to see next and prioritize the development roadmap with community input :grinning:


This is clearly offtopic, but it seems to me that the only time in the last 7 years (that I’ve been into Sketch plugin development) when the whole plugin ecosystem was something other than a plain burden for Sketch, was a brief period in 2018-19 with Mathieu Dutour building the modern JS API and all the tooling around it. The rest was mostly Ale going above and beyond to keep us, plugin developers, supported and away from churning out without any meaningful improvements or even a clear vision for the ecosystem. Even tho it were often third-party developers who brought innovations and great experimental features to Sketch that eventually became successful built-in features (e.g. Components View, Insert Window, Dark Mode, batch layer renaming, etc).

It is also clear that plugins and integrations has been the least important thing for the last few years for the team to put any focus on; so the decision to practically soft-deprecate them (since I don’t know, 2021?) makes sense from the business perspective. I just hope we’ll live to see the day the third-party developer experience will be on a roadmap again.


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This thread is like reading texts between a couple right before an inevitable breakup.


Designers often express the need for a more efficient way to implement conditional paths in their prototypes. Essentially, this entails using variables to direct users down different pathways based on certain conditions. A common issue is the inability to create prototypes that allow for these conditional routes. For instance, a designer might design a prototype where an app starts off empty and users can then add content. Ideally, when users access the settings and later exit them, the prototype would remember where the user was in their journey.

Currently, the prototyping button in Sketch only supports one link, which limits the depth and flexibility of the prototype paths. To overcome this limitation, designers sometimes create two similar flows that diverge at a certain point. However, this approach often leads to excessive duplication. When managing hundreds of screens, this method becomes cumbersome, causing complexity that can be challenging to navigate, upkeep, not just for the designers, but also for other stakeholders reviewing the files.

Other design platforms, like Figma, Webflow, and Axure, started to incorporate conditional logic, which enhances the customizability of their prototypes. There must been plenty of comments for them to invest in these features. Just want the Sketch team to recognize and be aware of this designer workflow. I am sure your amazing talent team will come up with the perfect way to handle this pain point and its important role in design prototyping. Keep up the great work! Sketch is an amazing product.