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Real-time collaboration

Last updated on 27 Jul 2023
10 min read

With real-time collaboration, you can work together on the same document, see everyone’s changes instantly, and never have to wonder about whether you’re editing the right version of a document again.

Real-time collaboration requirements

To edit documents together using the real-time collaboration, you’ll need:

  • A subscription Real-time collaboration is included as part of a subscription. This is different to a Mac-only license, so you’ll need to check your status before you get started. To do this, open the Mac app and choose Sketch > Settings, then select the Account tab. If you have a subscription, you’ll see the Workspaces that you’re a member of listed below your profile picture. You can click Account Settings… for more information.
A screenshot showing the Account tab in the Preference Window in the Mac app.
  • A document in your shared Workspace. You can save a new document to your Workspace, move existing documents from My Drafts to a shared Workspace, or use the Mac app’s Workspace window. To do this, choose Window > Documents (or press O), then drag and drop your document into the relevant project in the sidebar. Please remember to create a backup of your documents first!
  • A compatible version of the Mac app. Only version 71 or later are compatible. Once you’ve saved your document, only people with a compatible version of the Mac app will be able to open and edit it. Remember that documents you save with 71 are not backwards compatible.

Getting started with real-time collaboration

Getting started with real-time collaboration

Watch lesson

In order to use real-time collaboration with a document, you’ll first need to open it in a compatible version of the Mac app (71 or later) and save it, making sure it’s in your Workspace.

Saving a new document for the first time

To collaborate on a new document, first you’ll need to save it to your shared Workspace. Choose File > Save or hit S, select the To a Workspace tab in the save sheet and select the Workspace where you want to save it.

Alternatively, you can click the Collaboration toolbar item Collaboration and choose Save to Workspace… in the popover menu that appears.

Saving an existing document to make it compatible with real-time collaboration

Once you’ve moved an existing document to your shared Workspace, you’ll need to open it and save it again in a compatible version of the Mac app (v71 or later). The Mac app will prompt you to do this when you open the document for the first time. Once you’ve saved your document, only people with a compatible version of the Mac app (v71 or later) will be able to open and edit it. Once you’ve opened a document in version 71, you will be able to open it in older versions of the Mac app but you’ll only be able to save locally or upload it as a new document in your Workspace.

Note: Embed any fonts you use when sharing your file to make sure everyone can edit all the text in your document.

Inviting people to collaborate

When you save your file to a shared Workspace, everyone in that Workspace will be able to see the document, and anyone who is an Editor can open it in the Mac app to start collaborating. You can invite people from outside your shared Workspace to collaborate on your document as long as they have a compatible version of the Mac app (71 or later) and a subscription.

How to manage share settings

To change your document’s share settings, click on Collaboration toolbar item Collaboration and choose Share Document…. Find out more about managing these settings.

How to invite people from outside your Workspace

You can invite people from outside of your Workspace to collaborate with you on a document as long as they have a compatible version of the Mac app (71 or later) and a subscription.

From the web app: If you’re viewing a document in your web browser, open it and click the cog icon in the top-right of the screen and choose Document Settings…, then select Sharing and Permissions. Here you can change the link settings so that anyone with the document link can view or inspect and download the document. Alternatively, you can also invite people to your document via email. To invite someone to edit with you real-time you’ll need to set their permissions to Edit. Learn more about managing share settings.

From the Mac app: Click Three dots in the toolbar and choose Share Document…. The document will open in the web app, where you’ll see the window described above.

A screenshot showing how to share a document from the Mac app.

Opening a document to collaborate

From the Mac app To open a document from the Mac app, choose File > Open Workspace Document… in the menu bar and open the document from the Workspace window.

From the web app If it’s the first time you’re opening the document, make sure you are signed into the web app, then use the link you received to access it. Click Edit in the bottom-right corner of the window.

When you are opening a document from the Document’s overview (web app) or the Document’s window (Mac app), you’ll see the name of the last person who worked in the document under the document’s thumbnail. If someone is currently working on a document, you’ll see their name next to the word Editing. Open the Activity Feed in any document to see its live status.

Working in real-time with people

The collaboration menu and cursors

In the toolbar, you’ll see up to three avatars of active collaborators. The colored circle around the avatar matches the color of their cursor on the Canvas. Click Three dots in the toolbar above Collaboration to open the menu.

The menu shows a list of all the Editors who are working in the document, as well as some useful sharing options. You can also see if someone is active (you’ll see a colored ring around their avatar) or away.

A picture showing the collaborate menu.

Tip: To hide or show the cursors or names of your collaborators, click your own avatar in the toolbar and select Show Collaborators Cursors/Names to hide your collaborator’s cursors and/or names.

You can also see who is currently collaborating on a document when you’re viewing your shared Workspace in the browser. Open the Activity Feed in any document to see its live status.

Note: If you don’t see Collaboration Collaboration in the toolbar, choose View > Customize Toolbar… then drag it into your toolbar from the sheet that appears.

Editing in real-time

When you collaborate real-time in the Mac app, you’ll be able to see the layer a collaborator is working on and where they are in the Canvas. However, you’ll only be able to see their edits once they complete an action. This means you won’t see edits happen pixel-by-pixel, — instead, you’ll see the result of an action.

Note: To keep the work of all collaborators safe, you’ll only be able to undo your own actions.

Working on the same object

Two or more collaborators can edit the same layer at the same time, but this might cause issues if you undo and redo edits. While undo and redo commands only affect your own edits, they could override someone else’s changes if they perform an edit immediately after you. To prevent this, it’s best to avoid editing the same layer at the same time by watching out for everyone else’s cursors and selections.

Tip: Want to make a note or discuss something while you’re collaborating? Simply leave a comment by dropping a comment pin anywhere on the Canvas. Click on the Comment icon Chat bubbles to drop a pin, where you can write, reply to, or resolve comments.

Follow mode

To follow someone else as they collaborate with you in a document, open the Collaborate menu and click on their avatar. In follow mode, your Canvas will match the view of the person you’re following. We’ll also display their name at the top of the Canvas and outline it using their cursor color. The Mac app will also notify the person that you are currently following them.

If you can’t follow someone, it might be because:

  • They are inactive
  • They leave a document
  • Their settings mean you can’t follow them
  • They are following you or someone else

If you follow someone and they become inactive, you’ll stop following them. If they leave the document, you’ll see their Canvas view, but not their cursor.

To stop following someone, zoom or click anywhere on the Canvas.

Setting your following preferences

You can choose whether or not people can follow you by clicking on your Avatar in the Collaboration menu… and clicking Allow Users to Follow you. Alternatively, head to View > Canvas > Allow Users to Follow you.

Saving documents during collaboration

When you collaborate, every change you make syncs to everyone else in real-time, and anyone else who opens the document while you’re working will get all the latest updates automatically.

Even though all edits sync automatically, you can save a snapshot of the latest edits as a new version at any time — you can also see who created that version. These versions appear in the document’s Version tab in the web app. You can star a version, to mark it as important, make it visible to viewers or share its updates, if it’s a Library.

While we recommend making your edits to a document in your Workspace, you can download any shared document and work on it locally, then upload the entire document again. When working offline, the Mac app will sync all your changes back to the document in your shared Workspace when you reconnect.

Saving when you close the Mac app

There is no need to manually save your document before you close a document or quit the Mac app. When you complete either of these actions, the app combines all your latest updates into a new version of the file, and saves it to your Workspace automatically.

Saving a new update

Manually saving your file by hitting S or choosing File > Save will also create a new version of the document in your Workspace. Viewers in your Workspace will be able to view, comment on and inspect these versions for handoff. Find out more about versions.

Getting feedback on collaborative documents

Once you’ve saved your file to your shared Workspace, Viewers and Collaborators can view the document in their browser, add comments directly on the Canvas, and inspect it for handoff. Find out more about what you can do in your Workspace.

Working offline with documents

To collaborate on a new document, you’ll need to save it to your Workspace. Once you’ve saved it to your Workspace, we’ll save your changes automatically while you work. Every time you close or save a document, we’ll create a version — a snapshot of your work at that moment. You can access and browse versions in the web app’s sidebar.

Working on a Workspace document locally

When you’re working on a document with other people, you can download the Workspace document to your computer, make your changes locally and manually upload them to your Workspace to create a new update of the document. Click and hit Update Document. Before uploading your document, we’ll ask you to confirm this action, as it might overwrite edits from other collaborators.

If someone is working on the same document as you in your Workspace, you won’t be able to push changes until they’re gone.

A picture showing a message that changes can’t be uploaded to your workspace because someone is working in the same document in the Workspace.

Saving real-time collaboration documents offline

Working offline

Watch lesson

If you’re working offline, we’ll store any changes you save locally. When you are back online, we’ll sync the latest update of the document that’s available in your Workspace with all your new changes.

Note: If someone deletes an object that you’ve edited while you were offline, we won’t be able to apply changes to that object.