FAQs

Frequently asked questions

You probably arrived here because you either wanted to understand the Why Penpot or the How Penpot questions. Both are fine and we have grouped those questions attending to that soft categorisation. This FAQ will continue to evolve and, at some point, will probably require more ergonomics, filters and search. For now, let’s see how it goes.

Missing a question? This is a work in progress, for any suggestions please write us at info@penpot.app


Why Penpot? #

These are questions related to the fact that Penpot even exists or what is particularly different and new about it.

Who created Penpot? Why? #

There is a company called Kaleidos Open Source that has been long known for its commitment to free & open source software and a more diverse and inclusive workplace where cross-domain teams really enjoy working together. Kaleidos launched Taiga a few years ago to deal with the absence of a truly agile open source project management tool. The next major pain in our ranked list of outrageous open source absentees was a design & prototype tool like Figma, Sketch or Invision.

At Kaleidos we believe that the tools that we use to build end products should be as accessible to everyone, regardless of their background, skills or purchasing power. Also, not having a free & open source UX/UI tool that would make devs participate in the design process and bridge the gap between UX/UI and code was a terrible itch for us.

We created Penpot out of the need to enjoy design freedom for cross-domain teams.

Why specifically Open Source? #

It’s our very personal choice to make sure that we create tools that inject more freedom into the system. Open Source means pursuing a fairer society, where opportunities are more evenly distributed. Software Technology has the unique advantage, compared to other industries and intellectual property, of having almost zero cost to replicate itself, thus providing a wonderful chance to massively distribute the tools for a more digitally sovereign society.

Besides the pure license aspect of it and its legal framework, Open Source fosters more engaging communities where the lines between user and contributor are often blurred.

In particular, we chose the very respected Mozilla Public License 2.0 because it made software delivered through the web or a service subject to the same rules as software that runs natively on your operating system.

Why SVG as its native format? #

SVG (Scalar Vector Graphics) is a widely used Open Standard by the W3C. It permeates the web, the mobile world and visualisation outputs across a myriad of platforms.

Embracing SVG was a technical challenge but it was a huge opportunity too. It makes a Penpot design itself valid code already. Moreover, the potential for integrations and interoperability are infinite.

When you are certain that a part of your design is SVG and you live-export that SVG as part of your code repository, you can have back and forth changes through the SVG files. Also, a “continuous design” process could be finally at hand.

Using SVG means that there is no translation between a design and its “mathematical” representation. The design is the SVG and the SVG is the design. This is a triumph for cross-domain collaboration.

Why is Penpot different from [X proprietary product]? #

It would be tempting to go on a feature-comparison mode here. That’s not going to happen. In terms of functionality Penpot is just fine already and with every new month, we will be bridging the gap between other well-known tools (founded between 2010 and 2012) and our hectic release cycle.

What is really different is the combination of four key elements:

  1. Open Source. This is a game-changer for the design and prototype world. It means you can trust your designs are your own. You can adapt or improve the code or benefit from others doing so. You can host your own Penpot instance (also, native app in the works). You can integrate it the way you want. There’s no limit with technology sovereignty.
  2. SVG. The fact that we don’t go for yet another proprietary format is a blow of fresh air. SVG is what code needs and wants, making the cooperation between design and code suddenly much easier.
  3. Cross-domain team focus. Teams that are able to integrate many different skills and backgrounds and still enjoy a fruitful conversation (and project) are amazing to watch. Penpot aims to deliver the perfect tool for visual designers that is wholeheartedly embraced by developers too.
  4. No platform dependencies. Penpot requires a browser, that’s it. If you want to host your own Penpot instance, that’s fine too. We plan to release a native app bundle later this year.

There is a theme here. Universal access. That’s why we love to call our product Penpot, there’s nothing more personal and yet more universal than a pot full of pens. It’s all about choice.

Why did you develop Penpot using Clojure and Clojurescript? #

Penpot is a very specific type of tool that demands high performance on the web. Penpot also has the challenging task of seamlessly manipulating zillions of mathematical objects with no information loss. Functional programming languages like Clojure excel at this.

It is one of those instances where you absolutely need a specific technology to be able to achieve a robust tool like Penpot in a short period of time.

Since Clojure is not (yet?) a mainstream programming language, we are making sure that there will be ways to extend Penpot using other more common languages such as Javascript. Also, at the backend level, appropriate APIs will be in place to easily connect Penpot with other platforms.

Why did you release Penpot as an Alpha? #

We couldn’t wait any longer. Back in February 2020 we promised that it would take as a year to develop a sort of 1.0. The “alpha” tag might be misleading, it’s quite stable and feature-rich but in some ways it’s still immature with regards to our vision.

Anyway, enjoy it for what it is, the first public iteration of our hopeful plans.


How Penpot? #

These are questions related to practical aspects of Penpot or its capabilities.

How do you plan to make Penpot’s development sustainable? #

Kaleidos Open Source, the company behind Penpot, has the resources and the team needed to do that. If Penpot really succeeds and demands more and more resources, a bigger team and a bigger infrastructure, we will need to find ways to monetize some aspects of Penpot. Many Open Source platforms have been very successful at that, without reverting to closing up the source code.

SaaS subscriptions offer a quite valid and straightforward business model on top of Open Source. We are also considering marketplace models à-la-Wordpress or big-enterprise-focused features for supported Penpot deployments à-la-Gitlab. At the moment, though, this is something we don’t plan to address until 2022.

If you would like to know more about our track record, just take a look at Taiga and its AGPL 3.0 licensing model.

How can I download and install Penpot for my team? #

Current private Penpot instances are only requiring basic Docker knowledge. You can run your own Penpot server following these instructions:

https://help.penpot.app/developer-guide/configuration/

How can I make Penpot work offline? #

At the moment that would require that you install Penpot locally and so you connect to localhost. Instructions for this using Docker can be found here: https://help.penpot.app/developer-guide/configuration/

For a simpler approach, more akin to downloading a piece of software and running it on top of your operating system, please wait for our Electron-based app bundle later this year.

Where can I find the code? #

You can download the code or clone the repository at Github.

How can I enjoy the best Penpot browser experience? #

Cross-browser support is a key aspect of Penpot so we give much thought and care to it.

Our current preference solely in terms of experience is:

  1. Chrome (or Chromium/Blink based browsers/Edge)
  2. Firefox
  3. WebKit (Safari / Epiphany)

How can I enjoy Penpot on the cloud? #

The easiest way to enjoy Penpot is quite simple. You simply go to https://penpot.app and click on the Signup button. You will be asked to create an account. We only ask for an email. There are some authentication providers available, too.

How can I work together with other people? #

The easiest way to do that in Penpot is to create a team and add projects as you need them. All those projects and files will be available for your team and you will be able to work either asynchronously or simultaneously.

A Penpot user can be part of many different teams and have access to all their available projects.

Of course, Penpot also gives you the possibility to work on your private projects or drafts.

How can I share my designs with external stakeholders? #

If you want to have a shareable URL to show your designs you can do it from the VIEW mode: launch it using the PLAY button at the top right of the file, and you'll find a SHARE URL button to create the link at the top right. Copy and send that link for other people to access the design.

You can always invalidate a shared URL if you don’t wish to continue to make it accessible through that link.

How can I stay up-to-date with the latest Penpot news and what's to come? #

We will be sharing our progress and news through different channels:

How can I join the community chat? #

You can jump in right here https://gitter.im/penpot/community

Say hello and introduce yourself! Happy to have you!

How can I use Penpot together with Inkscape? #

Inkscape is a very powerful Open Source vector drawing tool. At Penpot we use it daily for our SVG creations. A very common use case we have is to use Inkscape to work with vector illustrations, icon sets and other graphic assets, before importing them into Penpot to create more complete and visually attractive interface designs. There are other tools that can complete your workflow, such as Quant-UX, which is very good for learning about your users’ interactions with your product.

How can I learn how to use Penpot? #

Right now, our suggested approach would be to take a look at our Youtube channel and enjoy the quick tutorials on many aspects of Penpot.

How can I contribute to Penpot? #

We are working on a comprehensive guide on how to contribute to Penpot. There are many ways this can be achieved. Designs, code, testing, reporting bugs, improving documentation, sharing Penpot designs with #MadeWithPenpot, translating Penpot to your favourite language, setting up training sessions, etc.

For now, we have a rather limited contribution guide that you can already use but we plan to improve this very soon.


Other frequently asked questions #

Here we include some other interesting questions people have asked or that we would like to directly address.

What is in Penpot’s roadmap for the short-/mid-term? #

Some of the things planned for the near future:

  • Using local fonts as well as web fonts
  • Boolean operators
  • SVG export integration with other tools and processes
  • More advanced interactive mockup transitions
  • SVG import and edition

You can check the advance of the project at Taiga.

Did the team find a pattern (design, interaction, tool) that could be improved but decided to keep it because the reference tools already made it familiar to the user? #

Short answer would be no, we do not keep things from improving because of the potential loss of familiarity.

It is true that we are using known patterns to ease the learning curve, this is part of Penpot’s strategy. Given that, we could say that “familiar” is included in our definition of success, but this might be for a different, also interesting, conversation. We do not hide that we have kept an eye not only on Figma but also on many other “usual suspects” (Sketch, Adobe XD, Inkscape, Webflow, Blender...) to study common patterns. However, our design decisions are based not only on previous research but also on testing solutions with users. Therefore, if we were to find that something works better for us in a different way, we’d go for it. Masks and toolbars are some examples of this approach.