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Picnics are better with friends (so are Sketch files)

Written by Tiffany Ta

Picnic is a plugin that we developed to allow small teams to collaborate in a single Sketch file. It replaces your Pages panel with a super-powered collaborative version. Sign up for more info at picnic.design.

Why we made Picnic

Thomas Street works in small collaborative teams and we’re serious about designers and developers working closely together. It can be really cumbersome to keep design files organized and consistent. We developed Picnic out of frustration, we were tired of ad-hoc file naming, copying systems and the overhead to keep changing designs in sync.

Picnic lets designers work out of a single Sketch file, with a supercharged Pages panel that tells you what everyone is working on.

For example, if Stefanie changes the header on a project that she is working on with me, and we use a shared symbol, the header on my pages will be automatically updated. Not only are our symbols and styles shared, but I can easily take a look at her project space to make sure that we’re visually and conceptually in sync.

Finding the right file can be super painful

Finding the right file can be super painful

Magical. How does it work?

After you’ve downloaded and installed Picnic, toggle it on in Sketch and choose where you want to save it. Make sure that this file is saved in a place where others can access it — this is a collaboration tool! Hosting it locally allows for near-realtime syncs while using Resilio, Dropbox, Drive, etc… is dependant on your connection. Once your file is saved, others can open the same file and start using it.

Want to know what goes on under the hood? Picnic creates a folder in the same directory as your Sketch file. When a user toggles Picnic on, it makes a copy of the original Sketch file and renames it to “filename+username+
machine number.sketch”. The original Sketch file is essentially an empty shell that automatically redirects users to their personal file. Creating a user specific file allows Picnic to use Sketch’s ‘Revert to version’ functionality just in case someone saves over your work. As you make changes in your user file, the changes are updated and pushed out to the rest of your team magically. Accio!

What goes on behind the scenes

What goes on behind the scenes

Crossing our fingers

We’re really excited to move the needle on designers collaborating together. A ton of great apps (Figma, Invision/Craft, Abstract) have started to break ground on this – obviously it’s much needed in the design workflow. As a team, we’re hoping that Picnic will take a bit of the friction out of designing with others by cutting down on unimportant chatter and busy work. It’s part of the Thomas Street work ethic to sweat the details, and deciding to move a pixel here, then there, then back is something I’m so excited to do without annoying my coworkers. We think developers will appreciate streamlined design files too.

Want to use Picnic?

We currently have a private Alpha working and plan to release a public Beta if we see interest. If you’d like to try it out, please sign up here.

 

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