The Microsoft Office 365 Suite doesn’t just include the venerable Office apps (Word, Excel, Outlook, etc), but also incorporates an evolving suite of cloud-based tools that provide useful productivity enhancements. When a new program gets added to the collection, you can’t help but be curious. One of these new Office 365 apps is called Sway, which is available as an app through both the Windows Store and the Apple Store for iPhone and iPad, and as part of Microsoft’s Office 365 Online suite.
Think of Microsoft Sway as PowerPoint on steroids. Sway builds on the capabilities of PowerPoint, offering users new and innovative ways to create presentations and interactive reports, making it a great tool for business professionals. Sway allows you to build your presentation using a wide range of media, including text, graphics, videos, charts, maps, and even Tweets.
Desktop Web Browser or Mobile Device
The online version is compatible with Windows 7 and 8.1, while the app is only available for Windows 10. Microsoft is in the process of developing an app for Android and Windows Phone. Not only can your Sway projects be created on a variety of devices, but they can also be viewed and shared on a desktop web browser or mobile device – with no special software required.
Sway projects are extremely customizable, allowing you to start completely from scratch, choose from pre-existing topics and build from there, use a document of your own as a starting point, or select a template. The templates provide a ton of options, with formats that include blog posts, newsletters, portfolios, and resumes.
Text can be added without having to delve into any of the menus, and photos can be pulled from just about any source, such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Bing, and your personal photo gallery. While it’s possible to use any media content you can get your hands on, it’s important to be mindful of copyright laws, especially when you’re creating a presentation for commercial use. Microsoft helpfully provides links to help you work around that speed bump.
Customizing your presentation starts with clicking on the ‘Design’ menu. From there, you can tweak fonts, colors, and other design elements.
The ‘Layout’ button lets you choose from the three layouts available – horizontal, vertical, or slideshow. ‘Settings’ will allow you to give viewers control over the presentation, navigating using text direction buttons. The ‘Autoplay’ setting lets the presentation run on its own, switching from one section to the next after a pre-determined amount of time.
Media and Audio
Adding media to your presentation is easy. You can simply drag-and-drop images, videos, or other content to a specific spot in the presentation. Creating cards gives you added control over how content will be displayed. Each card can be a different type of media, and they can be grouped together to create a slideshow, transformed into a grid pattern, or stacked up like a list.
An audio file can be included to play over the other content, and you have the option of using Bing to search for additional content without having to leave Sway.
Once you’re satisfied with your presentation, you can preview the finished product by clicking ‘Play’. Presentations are automatically saved to your Sway page, and by clicking the ‘Share’ menu, you’re given the option of sharing your presentation as a webpage, complete with its own unique URL. Alternatively, you can send a link to co-workers, clients, or associates via email, post it to Twitter or Facebook, or embed the URL in a page on your company website.
Sway has a slightly steeper learning curve than PowerPoint, but with a little practice, you’ll be able to create engaging and memorable presentations that are guaranteed to hold the attention of your audience – something that is notoriously difficult to do with PowerPoint.