Converting formats for UI design tools



The number of UI design tools is quite literally exploding and we find ourselves in an interesting time in the design industry. With so many tools comes the interesting topic and problem of file conversion.

For this article, I will focus on UI tools/design because this is where I assume the most conversions are taking place. I will talk about converting between formats and also my take on the software situation at present and in the future.

Why convert files to another UI design tool?

There are many reasons why you would convert from one tool to another, but the main ones are:

Now, let’s move on to the most popular tools.

The top design tools: Sketch, Figma and Adobe XD

I thought it would be good to start with some of the most well-known tools and the big players in the industry.

According to the survey that did for 2019, these were the three most popular UI design tools and for good reason.

Sketch was the innovator in the UX/UI world because it was simpler and far superior to any other tool at the time. The other tools are catching up and have other advantages, but Sketch has managed to stay at the very top of the table.

Figma is the online alternative that is a great package for design, feedback and prototyping. It can be used by anyone because you only need a browser.

Adobe XD is growing rapidly in terms of functionality (Adobe is pushing monthly updates) and is becoming more and more useful each month. It also has the benefit of the Adobe ecosystem to back it up.

Now to the fun part, let’s see all our options for converting.

From XD to Sketch

Rating: 😊

Conversion from XD to Sketch can be done in two ways:

From Figma to Sketch

Rating: 😐

The only real method for doing this is to use the SVG conversion method that I mentioned above (but using Figma).

It’s not a great solution and I hope there will be a converter for this sometime soon.

Magicul did mention that they are beta testing a direct Figma to Sketch converter. It will be interesting to see how well this works. I have signed up for the beta testing and will keep an eye on this.

Interestingly, Sketch has not worked on providing a solution here as they could potentially gain many users by doing so.

Perhaps they don’t want to make the two-way conversion too easy and have customers continually switch. After all, it is simple to open Sketch files in Figma.

From XD to Figma

Rating: 🤩

There are a few options for this, such as:

From Sketch to Figma

Rating: 🤩

You can open Sketch files directly in Figma. Just select the hamburger menu in the top left and go to File > New from Sketch File.

Opening a Sketch file in Figma. Simple.

It is as simple as that and the results are good too.

It also makes sense, because Figma probably wants Sketch users to use their product instead, so why not make it easy?

From Figma to XD

Rating: 😭

There isn’t a great way to do this conversion and SVG seems to be the way to go.

This seems to be a recurring theme and again, I think that it is mainly because each company is looking to protect itself from people leaving their respective application.

From Sketch to XD

Rating: 😊

You can open a Sketch file in XD directly, with very good results. In particular, the symbols/assets conversion is very impressive.

Adobe even provides some tips on converting design systems from Sketch here.

For Mac users, simply press Cmd+O in XD and open the Sketch file.

For Windows the keyboard shortcut is Ctrl+O.

Keyboard shortcuts for opening files in XD (Mac and Windows)

Remember to save your file as an XD file after this. The original Sketch file is also preserved.

According to Adobe, you can only open Sketch files created with Sketch version 43 or later. If you do happen to have an older file, just save it in the latest version of Sketch and you will be able to open it.

Older Sketch files need to be created in version 43 or later to be opened by XD. Don’t worry, you can always resave the files in Sketch if you have an old file.

Prototyping: the missing link?

I was reading the survey and noticed something interesting about some of the data that they analysed (see image below)


This showed a downward trend in the use of InVision as a prototyping tool and made me wonder what the next step is for the big players.

I think that the company that can create the most useful and complete all in one tool will be the winner. InVision Studio does do this to an extent with more advanced animation prototyping, but the other tools are nicer to use right now.

In particular, the missing link is the refined prototyping feature, like animations and transitions. These will allow you to use only one tool to do everything.

It’s interesting to note that handoff and prototyping tools currently work very well with Sketch (BuilderX and UXPin are good examples of this), but I guess that Sketch is already working on ways to beat these guys at their own game with comparable prototyping features.

                                                                                .    .    .

I hope you enjoyed my little guide on converting between popular design formats. I hope you now find it easier to convert all the files you need.

What do you all think is the next great feature for UX/UI design software? Is it advanced prototyping features?

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