Types of Libraries

With Abstract, you can use Libraries and their symbols within the same Project or linked between Projects.

Project Library

A Project Library refers to a Library stored in a Project. Other files in that Project are able to reference the Library on the same Branch. Project Libraries are best utilized to manage work in the same Project. For example, if you have a small Team that manages all design work and updates design systems as they work on the core product, it may be best to stick with Project Libraries. This is helpful because you can open tracked versions of multiple files on the same Branch at once.

Linked Library

A Linked Library refers to a Library stored in a different Project that is linked and referenced between one or more additional Projects. Linked Libraries are best utilized by Teams with someone dedicated to managing that Library separately from the core product. Linked Libraries are helpful to small Teams if the symbols in that Library do not have to change in tandem with the core product.

Because the Library file is stored in a different Project and Branch, you have to commit work on the current Branch before opening the Library file to make edits.

Import a Library

This article is best for Teams who would like to move existing Sketch Libraries into Abstract. Be sure to set some time aside to:

  • Consolidate symbols
  • Import your Libraries

Consolidating symbols

If you plan to use libraries, consider consolidating your symbols. You can consolidate your symbols into a single file or several files, based on your Team's needs. These files will act as your source of truth for those symbols.

We've seen Teams organize Library files based on platform-specific assets, branding, and UI assets. If you're particularly happy with your symbol organization or are looking for recommendations, feel free to post in the Abstract Facebook or Spectrum groups.

Importing a Sketch Library into Abstract

If you've been using Sketch libraries outside of Abstract, set some time aside so you can tell Abstract where to find the new shared Library symbols.

To import your Library files:

  1. Select a Project.
  2. Click Overview from the left-hand navigation.
  3. Click Add Files from the upper-right corner on the Master card.
  4. Click Import Sketch File as Library...
  5. Name and create your new Library file.

Additionally, you can use the Add Files button from any Branch or Master files list to import a Library file.

Replacing symbols

Once you import the files (or replace the files), you'll have to manually replace the symbols so they reference the correct file.

When you import a Library file into Abstract, we create a copy to store in Abstract. Anytime a copy of a file is created, it gets a fresh metadata assignment. Since the metadata changes, .sketch files you've used with the original Library file will continue to reference that original Library file—rather than the Library file you've imported into Abstract.

Depending on how many symbols you previously referenced using Sketch Libraries without Abstract, it may take some time to complete this task.  It is possible to use a third-party plugin—like Symbol Swapper—to help speed-up this process.

To manually replace a symbol:

  1. Click Edit in Sketch on a regular file.
  2. In Sketch, select a symbol that referenced the original Library file.
  3. Go to File > Insert and select the symbol from the menu.

Replace the symbols until they've all been updated and reference the Library file in Abstract rather than the original Library file outside of Abstract.

Using Libraries

Libraries are the best way to centralize shared design elements in each Abstract Project. With libraries, you can:

  • Organize symbols into individual files
  • Break apart monolithic design files to reduce file-size and improve performance—in Sketch and Abstract.
  • Automatically update symbols across files in a Project.
  • Track and commit changes made to each symbol.

Create a Sketch Library

  1. Select a Project.
  2. Click Overview from the left-hand navigation.
  3. Click Add Files from the upper-right corner on the Master card.
  4. Click Create Sketch File as Library...
  5. Name and create your new Library file.

Additionally, you can use the Add Files button from any Branch or Master files list to create a new Library file.

Convert a Sketch file into a Sketch Library

  1. Select a Project.
  2. Use the Branches option from the left-hand navigation. Select the Branch with the file you want to convert.
  3. Right-click on the file name.
  4. Select Use as Library... from the menu.

When you select Use as Library file, the Sketch icon for that file will turn from orange to pink and Abstract creates a commit to record the change. If you ever want to stop using a file as a Library file, you can go into the same menu and uncheck Use as Library file to reverse the process.

Link Sketch Libraries between Projects

  1. Create a Sketch Library
  2. Select a different Project in your organization.
  3. Click Overview from the left-hand navigation.
  4. Click Add Files from the upper-right corner on the Master card.
  5. Select Link Library... from the menu.
  6. Choose a Library file from the list of Projects

Additionally, you can use the Add Files button from any Branch or Master files list to link a new Library file. When you first link or create a Library file, it may take a few minutes for the symbols to appear as an option in Sketch when you first open the file. Any changes you make to a linked Library need to be merged to Master before they will appear as updated in other files.

For Business plan subscribers: If you link a Library file from a Private Project, anyone with access to the Project you linked that file to will also have access to that Library file. They will not have access to the Private Project where the Library file lives.

That’s it! You’re all set to use symbols from one Library file across any Project within your organization that you belong to.

Virtual Pages

If you add a symbol from a Library or linked Library to a file, we'll display these symbols to you in the form of Virtual Pages. Virtual Pages help track the symbol contents of your work at a glance right from Abstract. 

It's simple to remove Virtual Pages for symbols you no longer use via Sketch. Using Abstract, click Edit in Sketch to open the file and select the symbol.

Once the Imported Symbol menu appears, find and select your symbol. Use the ⚙️ icon to select Unlink from Library.

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