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How to get started with the real-time collaboration beta

  • Real-time collaboration is available in beta and you can try it today

  • The beta is available to anyone with a Teams subscription at no extra cost

  • Find out how to get set up and give us your feedback

Today, we’re excited to bring real-time collaboration to Sketch with a public beta. Read on to find out how to get set up, and start collaborating with others in the same Sketch document.

Real-time collaboration will be launching in full in early 2021. This beta is your chance to try it out early and give your feedback, to help us make things even better.

As with any beta, things can be unstable, so please create a backup copy of your documents before opening them. Documents you open in the real-time collaboration beta will become incompatible with other versions of the Mac app. You’ll also need a Teams subscription to try out real-time collaboration in the beta period.

Welcome to real-time collaboration

Before we dive into the practical steps and get set up for real-time collaboration, here’s a quick overview of what to expect. Firstly, we believe a truly native Mac app is the best place to design, so that’s where real-time collaboration will take place. That means you’ll still get all the benefits of designing on your Mac — from a slick, native UI to custom keyboard shortcuts — with the ability to work together with others in real-time.

For the beta, real-time collaboration will only be available as part of a Teams subscription. This is different to a license key, so you’ll need to make sure you have one before you get started. To check, open the Mac app and choose Sketch > Preferences, then select the Account tab. If you’re part of a Teams subscription, it’ll be listed here. You can click Account Settings… for more information.

An image showing the Sketch Preferences window, with the Account panel open. This area shows whether or not you are signed in with a Team account

If you have a Teams subscription, real-time collaboration is available at no extra cost. Plus, you can invite anyone with a valid Sketch Account and a compatible version of the Mac app to collaborate with you — whether they’re part of your Team or not. More on that below.

We’re also planning to offer real-time collaboration to solo users early next year. We’ll have more to share on that soon.

Get the design party started

First things first — if you haven’t already, head over to our beta page and download the latest Mac app beta build.

Now, let’s get your document ready for collaboration. Once you’ve done this, the document will no longer be compatible with earlier versions of Sketch, so make sure you create a backup copy first.

It’s also important to note that you must save your documents to a shared Team workspace before you can collaborate in real-time. Once it’s there, you’ll need to open it in the beta version of the Mac app and simply hit File > Save or Cmd+S to update the file to work with real-time collaboration.

If you want to create a new document and start collaborating in it immediately, you’ll first need to save it to your shared Team workspace. Every other contributor on your Team will also have access to these documents automatically, so you can start collaborating right away.

You can also collaborate with people who are not members of your Team, so long as they have a valid license, the latest beta of the Mac app and a Sketch account. In your document, click the in the Collaboration toolbar item, then choose Share Document…. The document will open in your browser, and you’ll see sharing options listed. You can use a Link Invite, by changing the sharing option so that anyone with the link can Edit. Alternatively, you can invite specific people by adding the email address they use for their Sketch account, changing their permission to Edit, and hitting Invite.

To make things easy, you can also quickly copy a link to your document from the Mac app to help others find and open it once they have access. Click the in the Collaboration toolbar item and choose Copy Link. Share it with members of your Team or anyone you’ve invited to the document and they can instantly jump in and start collaborating!

Note: If you want to make sure everyone can edit all the text in your document, you might want to embed any fonts you use when you share your files.

Managing multiplayer

With real-time collaboration, you’ll always know who’s editing a document at the same time as you. You’ll see up to three avatars for other contributors in the Collaboration toolbar item, and clicking the shows a complete list of active and idle contributors.

An image showing the Collaboration menu open in a Sketch window, and other collaborators’ cursors on the Canvas.

On the canvas, you’ll see a different colored cursor for each contributor, as well as their name. You’ll also see any layers they select and edit once they complete their action.

For example, as you resize a layer, your fellow collaborators won’t see that action happen pixel-by-pixel as you drag. Instead, once you stop and complete that action, everyone will see the new layer size. Reducing on-screen movement makes real-time collaboration less distracting, so you can stay focussed on your work.

If you want to jump straight to a specific user’s cursor to see what they’re working on, you can click their avatar in the toolbar or the Collaboration menu.

Version control

Because changes are automatically sent to the cloud as you make them, real-time collaboration also takes the stress out of version control. All these changes sync in real-time, and anyone else who opens the document while you’re working will get all the latest updates automatically. Plus, you’ll always know you’re seeing the most up-to-date version of a document when you open it.

Creating a new version

When you’re ready to share your work with more people, that’s the time to hit File > Save or Cmd+S. This creates a new version with everyone’s edits included — ready for others to view, comment on, or inspect for handoff in the browser.

Don’t worry if you quit without saving your work, either. The app will automatically create a new version of a document in Cloud whenever you close a document or quit the app.

And because every version you save is in your Cloud workspace, it’s easy to revisit a previous iteration and download it, if you need to. Find out more in our documentation.

Contributors and Viewers

Remember, while only Contributors on your Team will be able to open and collaborate on documents in the Mac app, you can still invite Viewers to take a look and add their feedback in the browser. Viewers are free, and you can add as many to your Team as you like. They can log into Cloud, view any documents you share with them, and make comments on those documents right in their browser — even if they don’t own a Mac. Find out more about Cloud in our documentation.

As well as viewing and commenting on designs in the browser, developers can sign in and inspect documents, copy attributes and even download individual production-ready assets. All for free. Find out more about these features in our documentation.

We’re so happy to share real-time collaboration with you at last. It’s the result of a lot of hard work from a lot of people, and we can’t wait to hear what you think. Again, we really do want your feedback, so please make sure you hit that button in the toolbar and tell us what you think.

Remember — this is a beta, so you might run into some rough edges or features that are still in development. Be prepared for some bugs.

This is just the start for real-time collaboration in Sketch. We’re excited to fully launch real-time collaboration — beyond Teams — in early 2021. For now, enjoy the beta!

As with any beta, things can be unstable, so please create a backup copy of your documents before opening them. Documents you open in the real-time collaboration beta will become incompatible with other versions of the Mac app. You’ll also need a Teams subscription to try out real-time collaboration in the beta period.