Adobe has released a free version of its XD design software

The company has also announced that it's paying developers to write plugins, in an attempt to take on Sketch.

Adobe XD is powerful, slick UX design and prototyping tool – but hasn’t dislodged Sketch as the software of choice for most UX designers we know. In an attempt to woo over creatives, Adobe has released a free version of XD called the Starter Edition for both Mac and Windows – and has launched a $10 million (around £7.4 million) fund to encourage development of plugins for the software, as well as integration with other tools and services.

There’s also a bunch of new features being released alongside the free version, including better integration with Sketch and Adobe Photoshop.

Adobe XD Starter Edition has all of the design and prototyping tools of the full version – and you can preview using its iOS and Android apps – but you can only share a single prototype and a single set of design specs. This pretty much limits its usefulness to students, those looking to learn the software and designers working alongside others with paid licences – though possibly a single UX designer working within an organisation could work within those limitations.

Users of the free version of XD can upgrade to the full version via a subscription for £9.98 inc VAT/US $9.99 – or as part of a Creative Cloud subscription.

Adobe XD plugins

One of the reasons why Sketch is so embedded in the workflow of many design teams is its open plugin architecture, which allows it to be customised, extended and integrated with other tools. Some of these plugins can be bought or downloaded for free from the Sketch website, others are available from the developers of tools they integrate with, and some are developed in-house by studios and larger companies.

Adobe XD has some plugins – including recently launched integration with the likes of Zeplin, Avocode and Sympli. But Adobe wants XD to be as extensible as Sketch, so has created the Adobe Fund for Design, a $10 million pot that it will invest in companies developing XD plugins – or developers in other tools who extend their software and services to integrate with XD. The money will be invested in the form of grants and buying equity in companies.

Other new features launched today include the improvements to opening Photoshop and Sketch files in XD, drag and drop options to swap symbols, the ability to paste to multiple artboards, and file auto-recovery if XD crashes. You can see them in action in Adobe’s videos below.

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