A UX designer needs many tools to complete the many stages of the UX workflow from research to design to prototype and handoff. If you do your work on a PC, you are probably haunted by the constant mention of Sketch, a popular, streamlined vector graphics editor with countless useful plugins that is quickly becoming an industry standard—but only available on Mac OS. This means that, unless you have an Apple machine, you are left out. But now Adobe is actively working on a proper cross-platform Sketch competitor (and lookalike?), after years of absence: Adobe XD.

Adobe XD User Interface

The Adobe XD user interface

Sketch User Interface

The Sketch user interface, which is clearly the main inspiration to Adobe in XD, as it tries to appeal to the same type of user

What Is Adobe XD?

Adobe Experience Design CC, or Adobe XD, is a lightweight vector graphics editor and prototyping tool that was announced at Adobe MAX 2015 as Project Comet. The software launched in preview in March 2016 as part of the Creative Cloud, and nowadays it is in beta phase, receiving updates almost every month.

Before that, Adobe was working on adding features for UX designers on their established tools like Photoshop and Illustrator. Although they are both great pieces of software, they are neither lightweight nor streamlined for this type of job. Over the years—and especially after the 2013 deprecation of Adobe Fireworks (the classic web-oriented prototyping tool acquired from Macromedia)—more and more UX designers felt that the Creative Cloud did not match market expectations. So, they jumped to Sketch (if they had a Mac). While Adobe’s response for this mass exodus was a bit late (Bohemian Coding launched Sketch a full 6 years ago) it is worth the wait, especially if you have been limited to using less adequate tools on your PC. Let’s compare Adobe XD vs Sketch

User Interface and Exclusive Features

When you open Adobe XD, the first impression you’ll have is that the interface is very familiar, both for Sketch users and long time Adobe fans. Adobe departed from the expected Creative Cloud darker buttons and menus, and choose to offer the best of two worlds. Unlike Sketch, you’ll see a set of tools on the left side of the screen, but also the taller layers panel and dynamic properties on the right, as seen on Sketch. It’s a breeze to use, and easy to learn, no matter what tool you used previously.

Repeat Grid

Adobe XD also has a set of unique features like the Repeat Grid, a tool that lets you replicate a group of objects like a Material Design card with variable data and configurable spacing between the copies.

Repeat Grid feature in Adobe XD

Creating groups of similar objects with Repeat Grid feature in Adobe XD

Prototyping

In XD, you can create an interactive prototype without needing third-party plugins as you would in Sketch. The Adobe prototyping editor allows designers to visually connect interactive areas to other screens using wires and setting up transitions. With the interactive prototype ready, you can publish and share the prototype, which can be viewed on the web or with the Adobe XD mobile app. XD prototypes, however, don’t have support for gestures or fixed sections like headers yet, something that is possible on InVision and other prototype-only tools that connect with Sketch.

Prototype feature in Adobe XD

Wiring buttons to screens in the Prototype feature in Adobe XD

Assets Panel

In the August 2017 update, Adobe added the Assets panel, a clever way to bring together an interactive style guide with colors, character styles, and symbols. When you change something in the Assets panel, every use of the asset in your artwork follows. Sketch also has color variables, character styles, and symbols, but each one contained in their own panel.

Adobe XD Assets Panel

Changing the elements in Assets panel changes the entire project.

Adobe announced some of the next features to appear on XD on the product blog. One of them extends the Assets feature, allowing the designer to publish the project’s style guide with downloadable fonts, assets, and the colors hexadecimal codes, alongside the interactive prototype and an inspection feature for developer’s survey of elements inside the prototype. This is called the “handoff for developers” and is already possible in Sketch (and Photoshop) using plugins like Zeplin. Another future feature being teased is the real-time collaboration inside XD, something that resembles the collaboration feature present on Google Docs and already available on other UX design tools like Figma.

Sketch (and its plugins) vs. Adobe XD

Features Adobe XD Sketch
Vector graphics Yes (and includes Adobe Illustrator in CC subscription) Yes
Advanced image editing No (but includes Adobe Photoshop in CC subscription) No
Lightweight Yes Yes
Prototyping Yes No (but available with third-party plugins)
Assets export Yes Yes
Handoff with online style guide and inspector No (announced as a future feature) No (but available with third-party plugins)
Symbols and styles Yes Yes
Repeat grid Yes No
Document grid Yes Yes (with columns and more options)
Plugins No Yes
Collaboration No (announced as a future feature) No (but available with third-party plugins)
MacOS version Yes Yes
Windows version Yes (Windows 10 or above) No
Price and licensing Beta version is free, it requires to have an Adobe ID. Final pricing will be announced. USD $99 for a year of updates, but you can keep using after that without updates

When you see the bigger picture, it becomes clear that Adobe intends to make XD do not only everything that Sketch does as a vector graphics tool but also its plugins, covering the entire UX design workflow. From design to prototyping to handoff, Adobe XD will probably be the definitive UX designer tool, but what about today?

Is It Time to Switch?

Adobe XD is first and foremost for Windows users (who can’t use the macOS-only Sketch) and current Adobe Creative Cloud subscribers (who wouldn’t need to pay more for XD in addition to Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.).

There are many UX designers already making the jump, either because they are Creative Cloud subscribers even on macOS, or because they believe XD will be the next standard and are satisfied with the current feature set. If you are an experienced Sketch user, you’ll enjoy an overall better interface, unique XD features, but will also have to deal with the current limitations and lack of plugin support. In any case, give it a try and share your impressions with us!

About the author

Sérgio Estrella, Brazil
member since January 26, 2017
With over a decade of experience in UI/UX design, Sérgio has been working with small and large teams in several areas such as education, enterprise, pets, sports, entertainment, automobile industry and more. Design interfaces and shape experiences are what he really likes to do. He's a technology and games enthusiast who's interested in the way people interact with the digital world and how this changes over time. [click to continue...]
Hiring? Meet the Top 10 Freelance UX Designers for Hire in December 2017

Comments

Preston Crouse
My biggest issue is XD doesnt have rulers or guides…
Mark Mongie
I find the prototyping tools extremely lacking in XD at this stage, so am sticking with Sketch and Flinto for design-to-prototyping for now. My guess is that XD will improve it's features in about 1-2 years, at which point I will probably switch entirely to XD and dump Sketch and Flinto - because I would prefer to both design and prototype within one tool.
Korf
XD is still in beta and thus deserves some leeway on direct comparison. I've found that it makes the prototyping process fun again (instead of the convoluted sketch or photoshop > invision workflow. That said we are giving figma ( https://www.figma.com/ ) a whirl on my next project for the collaboration tools specifically - meaning allowing our BAs to actually edit the prototype in the browser with our clients which feels like the future of these types of tools. I am excited about XD and proliferation of all these types of tools for making and creating easier and more democratic.
Frank Overland
I can't emphasis how Sketch's symbols are way more powerful than XDs. There are symbol swaps, overrides and resizing. Essentially, you can create responsive dynamic components. The upcoming release that will have symbol libraries is also a huge game changer. ITs perfect for creating complex design systems. Its also has pages that hold the artboards so you can design multiple experiences without the clutter. I can go on, but XD is so far behind it will probably never catch up. Its only strength is that its included with CC and its for PC users, but lets be honest... PC? If you're using a PC you're clearly not interested in using the best tools available.
Preston Crouse
I still cannot fathom why they would not include this.
Ali Oseni
my biggest issue with XD is the handing over..... i wish Adobe come up with something soon like this month i pray...
Mack
Great article, I am both Sketch user and Adobe CC subscriber and planning to try XD fro a while now. You actually increased my attention of that tool as my Sketch license just expired and I am standing in front of big decision -> Switch to my current subscription of Adobe CC and use XD or extend Sketch license for another year... tough decision but I will give XD a try ;)
sergioestrella
Yeas, this is a bit of a letdown, especially because it's one of the most beloved features on Sketch. Thank you for your comment!
sergioestrella
Thank you for your comment! Sketch is for sure a more polished tool than Adobe XD (it's a beta version, after all), but I think it is already a good option for some people. Using PC is not always the designer's choice, and in some countries, an Apple machine is too expensive.
sergioestrella
Glad you liked! Try doing a project in XD before you decide, maybe the limitations are too much, maybe not.
sergioestrella
Yes, prototyping in XD is very basic, but in my projects, it's been enough for now (and it will surely improve with time). Thank you for your comment!
sergioestrella
Sadly there is no handoff feature currently - the Assets panel is just the first step. I'm looking forward to it too. Thank you for your comment!
sergioestrella
I agree with you, I'm not a fan of the need to use multiple apps and plug-ins for a task. Figma is very interesting, the responsive layout feature made me want to give it a try. Thank you for your comment!
Michael Locke
I'd def recommend Adobe XD for Windows users, but overall, its a few days late and dollar short. For Mac users, its impossible to give up Sketch if you've been using it a year prior to XD. Also, no way would I ever again trust Adobe by building my entire workflow on their product, only to see it get sunset because of lack of market adoption. I was born and raised on Adobe Fireworks, so I've got those scars. I've cut the cord on Adobe, full-time on Sketch, not looking back. But Adobe XD is an easy to use product, its just a bit late in the game in my opinion and lacks on too many needed features for power users.
Sérgio Estrella
I agree it is definitely late, and should take a while to have a similar feature set as Sketch. RIP Fireworks :/ Thanks for your comment!
brianm101
Its not even a started for us, unless Adobe gets sensible and make it viable to buy rather than rent! Do not want to entrust our IP to products we have to rent, just too risky (and expensive)!
Simon Catford
Sketch. With Craft. It's totally integrated.
Philip Wallage
Thank you for the great article Sérgio. I've started my carreer with Photoshop somewhere in 1999. I believe it was 5 or 5.5. After working with it for 10 years and purchasing multiple versions, I discovered Sketch. It showed me not only how much I was spending on Photoshop, but how cluttered the workflow and tools where. I was invited to the Commet beta. Since then a bunch of great features have been added. As you can see in the comments, Sketch really found a place in the hearts of digital designers. Perhaps I'll give Adobe XD another try ij a year or two. For now, I thank the people from Sketch (hello country mates!) every night before going to bed.
Wil
I am a Mac user and i have tried both apps. Even though Sketch has a rich ecosystem, XD's improvements and updates are on the right direction. XD's UX is better than Sketch (the tools are all over the place). XD's prototyping is just enough, and i love its prototype recording feature.
J.M. de Oliveira, Jr
I love Sketch but I think XD on a long term have the potential do become de leading UX tool. I really enjoy using it and prototyping is great. One thing to mention is that you cannot use Sketch un multiple computers (work, home) but with Adobe XD you can. That's the main reason I'm using it right now.
Marcio Toledo
Nice review! I'm working on project with more than 40 pages and performance of Sketch was not being good. I need to break project in 9 files to be more light to work. I did not try XD yet, but this is important question. Performance for big projects.
Darkness
"If you're using a PC you're clearly not interested in using the best tools available." Really dude? I could come up with several reasons why the opposite would be true in the context of design, motion, editing, 3D, etc. I hope you aren't one of these "my MacBook Pro makes me a better designer" type of people. Clearly, if one thinks like this, they aren't really interested in design, rather the aesthetic of the tool. I use both platforms and have for decades. Both work well because I know my craft and how to get the most out of each tool. I'm the pro, not the machine, and my clients could give two on what my tools look like. The only time I run into an issue is when a company snobs out and only releases their products on one platform, (this goes both ways) which in 2017 is a failed business strategy imho. This is where Adobe XD is going to stomp out Sketch in 1 to 2 years from now. Cross-platform applications open up pipelines and debunk platform myths such as the one you shared. And this is rich, because it equates to one less design snob and companies that cater to them.
Frank Overland
Hi Sergio, thats a good point, one can take for granted that its not always the designers choice on what to work on especially outside of the US.
Andrew Shorten
We’re workinv on layout grids right now - won’t be long before it’s available.
Andrew Shorten
Performance and quality are top priorities for the XD team - you should be able to have 100s of artboards in a single XD document without performance issues.
Andrew Shorten
We are working on developer handoff tools right now and they should be available soon. If you’re interested, we have a prerelease program running to get feedback. Tweet me @ashorten.
MrMulder
Figma all the way for me. It’s has almost everything sketch capable of and lots of useful features sketch doesn’t. As for XD, I can see it usefulness for prototype wireframes but as a design tool it’s far too limited for my team to take it seriously. Plus Figma release schedule is so rapid it puts the XD’s team to shame.
ralexm
Excellent review, Sergio! Greetings from UFPR!
Phuong Nguyen
I love Adobe Experience Design. It make me become UX designer without sketch in Window. Thank Adobe :D
Viknesh
Exactly my thoughts.
Viknesh
The problem is that they are Web based. In a place like India where the internet speeds are too slow we cannot expect everyone to be online everytime.
Felipe Vegners
That's what I doing now. Using both apps and in my opinion each one have your particularity. I also like the recording feature (that's only works in mac). I like to compare these apps with a airplane. Sketck seems like a jet war fighter with a lot of controls and possibilities and XD is a comercial single seat airplane, eventhough the differences, both can fly. I think that XD have a great team behind of it and we can try new features soon.
Remi Evjenth Løvik
Have anyone committed their team to UX-Pin? Is it a contender?
Zabbadoo
People need to realize it's still a beta - I found the presentation by Paul to be very insightful and see a bright future. http://www.adobe.com/products/experience-design/features.html
Sérgio Estrella
Thank you for your comment! XD performance is very good, it's problably the snappier tool made by Adobe in my experience.
Sérgio Estrella
Yes, this is amazing! Not everyone can buy a Mac. Thanks for your comment!
Sérgio Estrella
This is an important concern. Adobe didn't announce the licensing or pricing for XD specifically yet, maybe they follow Sketch's model. Thanks for your comment!
Sérgio Estrella
It seems very good and complete, I'll give it a try! Thanks for your comment!
Sérgio Estrella
Thanks! I miss UFPR days!
Sérgio Estrella
It being web based is good and bad at the same time. Good because it is OS-independent, bad because of things like Viknesh mentioned. But Figma is a really good tool! Thanks for your comment!
Sérgio Estrella
Yes, it being an Adobe software gives it an enormous potential. Let's see how the development turns out. Thanks for your comment!
Sérgio Estrella
I agree with both of you, and I also like XD's UX more. Thanks for your comment!
Sérgio Estrella
It's really incredible how the design tools have evolved over time. When we thought Photoshop could do everything, Sketch comes to show how to make the life of UX designers easier. Now we have XD, and I'm excited for how it'll evolve and what's comes next! Thanks for your comment!
Sérgio Estrella
This combination is really good. Almost unbeatable! Thanks for your comment!
Rakesh Mondal
in SketchApp Repeat grid can via done via third party plugin
ossman
Good article and I think fair comparison too. I've been using Sketch for 3 years now. Great tool, easy to adapt except few frustrations when you move from Photoshop / Illustrator habits. I also tried XD when it just came out in fact gave few suggestions in the forum back in those early days. The only reason for me not to adapt it properly was no collaboration tools available (until now) even there is no integrations available with other tools like Zepline. It's frustrating to share the individual assets with development team especially after using tools like Zepline.
Matthijs
XD is missing basic features: - text underline - making a dashed line (seriously?) - pages (cannot group artboards) - unlimited space (number of artboards you can add is limited) - simple image editing stuff (like saturation) - developer hand-off ("it's coming" for a year...) And development is seriously slow. If XD is a comet, Sketch is flying past it at light-speed. We need good competition (especially on Windows), but it doesn't feel Adobe is bringing its A-game.
ddrucker
I was a huge Fireworks user and it was my bread and butter for years. I was horrified when it was killed off out of ignorance. That betrayal has made me very wary. Sketch is only for vector-based UIs, particularly the flat style in vogue these days for phones - although one could argue that in this age of screens everywhere, resizable UI elements will be the norm from now on. The plugin infrastructure is their trump card. If you have a particular project dependent on some difficult area where the app hasn't been applied, one of those can be a godsend. It would be smart if Bohemian coding got a team together to do a Windows version. If that worked, and interoperated with Mac teams (particularly in areas like the shared Libraries and some key plugins), then I think they'd come out on top. I don't find the Adobe licensing scheme to be better, particularly for an individual consultant/freelancer. Perhaps Bohemian can undercut Adobe here as well, by offering more flexible policies for smaller/1 person shops.
ayman ezzat
A good review, although I saw that you are more fan for XD than Sketch, all apps has the pros and cons. It's all about your craft, the context and what produce the high quality work in the proper time :)
swaraj adhikari
@sergioestrella:disqus Hi am a graphic designer and wanted to be a UI/UX designer am confused which tool is good for me and help me to boost my future but so many ux designers here in INDIA told me to practice in SKETCH but its not available in Windows version so please suggest me a alternative to this. Eagerly waiting for your reply. Thank You.
Elliot Cowan
There are a few simple elements that XD doesn't have that is stopping me from switching at the moment. They seem to have launched the flashy elements without some of the basics (repeat grid, assets panel are great elements). - No guides or rulers - No vector ends of joins options (like in illustrator) so even drawing a magnifying glass with a rounded end is too complicated - Gradient options (nothing other than linear) - Very basic prototyping (can't animate a sticky menu or layers like you can with Invision) - Layer/group labelling (when a company already own Photshop and Illustrator this should be a no brainer) - Handoff to coders was an issue but glad that's being resolved with Publish Design Specs - Ability to pull copy, menus and other material from pre existing websites (Craft plugin does all of this) - Connection to stock image sites etc inside program (Craft plugin again) I'm sure there are more but haven't found them yet. Sketch has always been quite clunky and love how good the performance is on XD. I'd love to switch over to XD but just don't feel it's there yet.
Harun Alikadić
Prototyping and designing in the same tool, one click distant one from another, is huge time saver. In Adobe XD you can even edit in prototype mode, so it's question of seconds when you, during testing, realise that something needs to be edited. Yes, it's lacking some features, like fixed, overlay and animated elements but looks like that's in production pipeline at this moment. I'm still using Invision to showcase some particular elements behaviour, but Adobe XD is my tool for the entire navigation prototyping, especially because now it has specs export for developers, including flows. Still lots to improve, though.
Michael
Sketch is hands-down a superior bit of kit compared to Adobe XD. However, everything has it's pros and cons. XD isn't open to 3rd party plug-ins, which until recently had been Sketch's main thumbs-up, but unfortunately, the main 3rd party plug-in and a VERY key piece of interaction is with InVision, which recently has HUGELY taken it's eye off the plug-in ball as it develops it's own Studio software. On the surface, Studio looks like the complete darts, responsive prototyping etc, however, the bugs in existing software have been rendering them almost unusable, if not actually unusable, as they focus on the premier Studio release. PDF importing is now gone and the Craft plug-in bugs are crashing Sketch left, right and centre. Bohemian need to move politically as far aware from InVision as possible. All aspects that I've encountered with InVision, from Craft to JIRA plug-ins have fallen MILES short of their considerable vision. Right now, OffVision might be a better name for the company. Avoid.
comments powered by Disqus
Subscribe
Free email updates
Get the latest content first.
No spam. Just great design posts.
Free email updates
Get the latest content first.
Thank you for subscribing!
Check your inbox to confirm subscription. You'll start receiving posts after you confirm.
Trending articles
Relevant Technologies
About the author
Sérgio Estrella
Designer
With over a decade of experience in UI/UX design, Sérgio has been working with small and large teams in several areas such as education, enterprise, pets, sports, entertainment, automobile industry and more. Design interfaces and shape experiences are what he really likes to do. He's a technology and games enthusiast who's interested in the way people interact with the digital world and how this changes over time.