Sketch Auto Translate Plugin (Englisch)

Sketch Auto Translate Plugin (Englisch)

The journey to my first own plugin for Sketch


Working as a designer at an international (digital-)design agency with offices in Oslo, Berlin and Porto, it happens to me from time to time that I receive a Sketch file that includes text which is not written in the final language or even worse in a language I barely understand.

The latter happened last week when I joined the team in Oslo on a project for an investment app targeting the Norwegian market. My mother tongue is German and my Norwegian is, well … elementary. ^^

Born was the need to translate the file to get an understanding of its content.

Sketch Translation Plugins

Some of the plugins which I found extract text blocks into a JSON file. After that you have to add your translations there in a manual way. These text pairs can then be re-imported to replace the original texts. To me, this had meant a lot of copying back and forth between online translation tools… very tedious.

Automating the boring stuff

Shortly after those initial findings, I came across a plugin called by Guillermo Seis and Eduardo Gómez. According to their description it seemed to be exactly what I was looking for.

But the euphoria dropped quite fast when I discovered that the translation worked only for one selected Text Layer at a time. The other promised features didn’t work at all. When I looked into open issues on GitHub, I discovered that I was not the only one facing this issue.

Screenshot from GitHub’s Issues Page


As I had the urge to get my actual work done, I decided not to line up in the queue, waiting for a new release. This was the moment that I dared to right-click on a .sketchplugin file to choose Show Package Content for the first time wasn’t that hard, huh? Ō.Ō

For a quick fix, I decided to only extend the plugin by the functionality to handle multiple Text Layers at once. For this it needed a simple iteration loop that goes through the array of selected items instead of just the first item.

Back in the Sketch file I bulk-selected all Text Layers with help of the Automate Sketch plugin and hit translate.

Side Note: The plugins Sketch Translate and Qordobar for Sketch which I discovered later, seem to handle multiple Text Layers but at this point I had already gotten my hands dirty with the quick fix. ツ

Bug Fixing

I saw how simple it was to speed up a task with just a little knowledge about JavaScript. The fever seized me and I decided on tackling more issues.

Just duplicates artboards?
I was wondering why it should duplicate the Artboard at all. In my opinion, it is not a consistent behaviour when considering that this is not the case for the Translate Text Layer either. Also, there is no clue about this behaviour anywhere.

Request Quota?
This issue deals with the question whether there is a free translation quota (since the plugin is based on the Google Translation API).

Screenshot from Google Cloud Platform Console

I can confirm that Google gives away a credit of $300 which you can use within one year for any of their APIs. This means you will only need to pay according to their pricing if you exceed this credit.

Doesn’t translate overrides in symbols ?‍♂️
For this issue I just looked into the Sketch Developer Reference where it showed me how to access those values in Symbols and their Sub-Symbols. I then just added this lookup to the loop.


Being a designer day-in and day-out, I noticed that the current plugin concept has some weaknesses in terms of usability such as it differentiates between Translate Layer, Translate Artboard and Translate Everything ( ~ not meaning ‘everything’ but actually Text Layers on the current page)

This obviously doesn’t cover every possible case and furthermore throws an unnecessary error message when the user selects an Artboard but accidentally presses Translate Layer (or vice versa).

With the core design principle Don’t make me think in mind, I started a complete revamp with the following functionalities.

Translate Selection

It translates your selection on the current page no matter which type (Artboard, Text Layer or Symbol Override).

Shortcut: ⇧⌘X Translate Selection

Screen Recording “Translate Selection”

Translate Current Page

It translates all Text Layers and Symbol Overrides on Artboards in your current Page but skips them if placed outside.

Shortcut: ⇧⌘P Translate Current Page

Screen Recording “Translate Current Page”

Translate Entire Document

It translates all Text Layers and Symbol Overrides in the file that are on Artboards but skips them if placed inside a Symbol or outside an Artboard. I made the skip decision to avoid messing with the file structure.

Shortcut: ⇧⌘D Translate Entire Document

Screen Recording “Translate Entire Document”

Set Google API Key…

Well… unfortunately I couldn’t streamline this step: To create a Google Translate API Key you need a paid account. Google offers a One Year Free Trial, though, where it gives you away $300 in credits.

This means, as long as you don’t exceed that amount (within one year) you won’t have to pay anything. Check out their pricing to find out how many Language Detections and Translations this means.

1. Create a new Google Cloud project

To create your API key please go to the Cloud Platform Console and create a new project with any name you prefer.

2. Enable Google Cloud Translation API

With the new project selected, go to API & Services > Credentials. At the Credentials page search for the Google Cloud Translation API and enable it.

3. Create API Key

Go to API & Services > Credentials again and click the button Create credentials inside the credentials card.

4. Use API Key

Copy your API Key, go back to Sketch and select Plugins > Translate > Set Google API Key... in the menu. After that you get prompted to paste your key.

Checkout the Sketch Auto Translate Plugin

Feel free to download the plugin from my GitHub account or install it with Sketchpacks.


I have to admit, I am a big fan of the quality of Google Translate but for future versions I could imagine to let the user decide between multiple API keys such as Yandex and Bing Translator.

As I left out the feature to rename Symbols I am considering to code another plugin that does this job plus translates the Layer names. Let me know what you are thinking :)

Closing words

I have to thank Guillermo Seis and Eduardo Gómez for the amazing pre-work. You inspired me to look into Sketch plugin development more deeply.

Also, I read about your plugin’s origin at a hackathon in Berlin. Since I’m living in Berlin for half a year now, I hope meeting you there, soon! This will be my first hackathon as well.

And lastly, I would like to encourage other creatives to skim through the Sketch Developer’s Guides and spend some time to get started with your plugin. It really isn’t that hard and just some basic JavaScript.

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