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Spotlight On: Microsoft Sway

Not all of your team are graphic design whizzes. And why should they be? That’s not what they were hired for. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t have to put together presentations every now and then – either for internal use or to show outsiders.

Presentations need to be slick and interesting, not dated and ugly, particularly if it is a presentation for outside distribution. However you don’t want employees to be putting in hours and hours (sometimes days), worth of time to make something look good.

What if there was a better option? A way to easily put together modern-looking presentations without spending hours doing so? That is the premise of Microsoft Sway.

What is Microsoft Sway?

Microsoft Sway is a tool that’s used to create presentations, pitch decks, technical instructions, newsletters, sales content, and more.

While it’s often compared to Powerpoint, it’s more like creating a dynamic website quickly filled with the content you need, automatically presented in a modern design (with modern animations) that can be quickly adjusted and added to. Once you’ve finished your design, it’s published at a web address (under sway.office.com) and you can share the link with anyone to view or edit it. You can also share the design to Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, or embed the design directly within a webpage via html code.

It’s far more versatile than Powerpoint, plus you can directly add content within your design; images from Flickr, videos from YouTube, or gifs you’ve made and saved to OneDrive. It’s simple to add links that the viewer can click for more information.

Sway designs are responsive, so they will adapt to every screen they’re displayed on. This makes presentable on a projector screen, laptop, phone, you name it.

How much is it?

Microsoft Sway is a free web-based app that’s available for all users with a Microsoft account. You don’t need to purchase any Microsoft products with a Microsoft account to simply try it out. Sway is also bundled with O365, which means businesses can use Sway with organisational data, with the data stored in Azure data centres. 

To use Sway, simply go to sway.office.com.

Microsoft discontinued Sway native apps for mobile, but you can access and work with Sway designs on the go from your iOS or Android browser.

How does Microsoft Sway work?

With Sway, you’ll be presented with the option to start from a brand new design, start from a topic (powered by Wikipedia), or start from a document (Word, Powerpoint, or pdf). For other document types, you’ll need to copy and paste, or convert to one of these formats first.

There are also ready to go templates to choose from, which include newsletters, business presentations, portfolios, announcements, and more.

You start by working on the underlying content of the design, then you can press Play to see how the design looks in its finished state.

Instead of slides, you have cards, each of which can be filled with multiple elements like headings, body text, backgrounds, images, embedded content (via html), and more. You can then arrange these via stacks, grids, slideshows or comparisons. Cards are added vertically, but can be displayed vertically or horizontally.

While it can take a little while to get the hang of initially, once you’ve played around with Sway for a couple of hours you’ll see how simple it is to create designs that can be used for all sorts of things.

Is Microsoft Sway right for my organisation?

Sway is a hidden gem within Microsoft’s suite of products. It’s free and underutilised by organisations, usually because they don’t know about it, or haven’t seen the wide ranging applications of using it.

Sway is particularly useful for presentations that evolve; you can update content whenever details change, and people you’ve shared it with will automatically see the new content when they visit the presentation.

The main factor that throws people off using Sway is that you need an internet connection to view your designs – although these days you can get a connection just about anywhere. 

Want to learn more?

We have covered some other handy lesser-known Microsoft apps in previous weeks; check out our deep dives into task management app To Do, document scanning app Lens, and Remote Desktop for logging in remotely to a Windows computer.

We can help your organisation achieve greater levels of productivity with the Microsoft suite. Ask us for a consultation to see where you can help save time and money by freshening up your existing systems and workflows. 

With many businesses undergoing the process of digital transformation, it can be difficult to know just where to start. By working within the Microsoft framework, where you will already own and have access to many of the products necessary to undergo transformation, you will be able to have a smooth transition to a more modern way of working. 

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