Meet a Lesser-known Program in Office 2016: Microsoft Sway

Create Interactive Photo and Text Designs with the Newest Program for MS Office

Design Tab in Microsoft Sway for Mobile
Design Tab in Microsoft Sway for Mobile. (c) Courtesy of Microsoft

Meet Microsoft Sway, the newest program in the Microsoft Office 2016 family.

Microsoft Sway is a borderless canvas for capturing and communicating your ideas, and since it is built for the web, those ideas can be accessed on pretty much any device, from desktop to mobile.

Check out these details on how Sway compares to other programs in the Office suite, and why it has the potential to change how you get projects done!

What Sway Is and How It Differs from Other Office Programs

The best thing I can compare Sway to is the paper rolls I used to draw on as a kid, where we would scroll each end, to create a kind of slide show or movie effect. It was a way to capture and retell a story. Sway is similar because it is an interface without borders. It is a design-oriented program that is less regimented to document type than Word (word processing), Excel (spreadsheets), PowerPoint (presentations) and so on.

Instead, users get to choose from several dynamic document types or layouts when working with photos. Sway can also be thought of as a content aggregation tool, focused on making things look good on a variety of screen sizes, rather than the rectangular restrictions of PowerPoint, for example. 

Microsoft's blog explains it this way:

"Your ideas have no borders, edges, page breaks, cells or slides. Your mind is a continuous canvas, and Sway brings this canvas to life.

Sway helps you focus on the human part: your ideas and how they relate to each other. Sway takes care of the design work—a Sway is ready to share with the world as soon as it is born." 

Where to See Microsoft Sway in Action

If you are still trying to wrap your mind around how this tool differs from other Microsoft programs you are familiar with, you may just want to check out a video:

The Lingo

Each Microsoft Office program has its own jargon, and Microsoft Sway looks to be no different. The files created are themselves dubbed 'Sways', just like PowerPoint presentations are often called 'PowerPoints'.

Microsoft OneDrive Cloud Integration

Sway is intended to operate in the web and in the cloud. Projects are created from users' photos, which are then saved in Microsoft's OneDrive cloud environment. The actual Sways themselves are saved to Microsoft Azure.

Sway also integrates with content you may have stored on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and er popular cloud services, particularly given Microsoft's strengthened partnership with Dropbox.

Sway's Amped-up User Interface

Since Sway is a design-oriented app, its own user interface has been consciously conceptualized. More customization has been added in to make the user experience personalized as well as functional.

Interestingly, these types of changes could be reflected in future versions of other Microsoft Office programs.

The Design Power of the Remix Button

Sway builds off of user input, to help create polished designs.

For example, if a user selects a specific element such as a color, they can activate the Remix Button for suggestions on what other elements might pop as an overall design configuration.

It makes me wonder how much more we will see this in future versions of Office. After all, the latest version of Excel already suggests chart styles and such.

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Additional Development Goals for Sway

Microsoft already has several improvements in mind for its new Sway app. The company plans to expand Sway to more languages, for example. As far as internal features, business users are likely to see some fine-tuned tools geared toward professional uses, including integration with Microsoft OneDrive for Business, SharePoint, and more.

How to Try Out Sway

Microsoft is allowing interested users to sign up for the free preview of Sway at www.Sway.com.

Ultimately, Sway is a tool for the web, which you can access through an app. The preview is for a Windows desktop version of Sway, however, the development team working on the project has also been building apps for Windows Phone, iOS, and Android.