Sway vs PowerPoint: What’s the difference?

Sway: Microsoft Office presentation software. PowerPoint: Microsoft Office presentation software. So what’s the difference?

You’re watching Jeopardy! when the presenter utters the following answer in keeping with the game show’s famous format: “A software tool from Microsoft for creating presentations, web-based reports and projects.” Quick as a flash you spit out the question in unison with the contestant: “What is PowerPoint?” To your astonishment, presenter Alex Trebek shakes his head and utters a curt “No”. The correct question was “What is Sway?”

To the best of our knowledge, that scenario has yet to surface on the American quiz show, but it’s hypothetically possible. After all, there are a number of similarities between PowerPoint and Sway on first inspection:

  • Both are part of Microsoft Office
  • Both can be used to create rich presentations
  • Both support multimedia including video, audio and images
  • Both feature customisable templates

There’s no disputing that there are areas where PowerPoint and Sway overlap. But if you’re thinking Sway is just a web-based clone of PowerPoint, think again – each piece of software has highly specific functions. It’s well worth familiarising yourself with the differences between the two, cos if you Sway when you’re meant to PowerPoint, you’re gonna have a bad time.

PowerPoint in a paragraph

As the world’s preeminent slideshow software, PowerPoint requires no introduction. From classroom projects to delivering keynote addresses, Microsoft’s easy to use presentation software has graced overhead projectors on every continent. Slides; audience handouts; speaker’s notes. Whatever you choose to create and however you choose to deliver your story, PowerPoint makes it simple.

Sway in summary

Sway is an online presentation and storytelling app that’s free for anyone with a Microsoft or Office 365 account. The newest addition to Microsoft Office, Sway helps schools, businesses and consumers create slick-looking presentations, websites and reports. Because it’s entirely web-based, Sway allows users to drag in content from Facebook, YouTube and other online sources.

Sway and PowerPoint: irreconcilable differences

Immediately, there are some key differences between the software pair. Sway is free and online; PowerPoint is licensed and on desktop. Sway is better suited to integrating online content; PowerPoint is better for offline usage, including printouts and presentations featuring static media such as charts and graphs. Think of Sway as the hipper, more excitable sibling of PowerPoint. The former boasts a mobile app and has the school crowd in its pocket, while the latter has the experience and the enterprise audience onside.

There’s much more to the Sway/PowerPoint debate than new/old, online/offline, however. The tools are designed to be complementary, with the one covering for the other’s shortcomings and vice versa. In other words, you don’t have to choose between them – you just have to know when to rely on PowerPoint and when to turn to Sway.

Sway’s greatest strengths

Sway is designed to be viewed in a scrolling linear fashion, just like a single page website. This is in contrast with PowerPoint, where you can jump from slide to slide, especially when you harness Zoom for PowerPoint. Sway is no slouch though, and its web-based format means it trumps PowerPoint when it comes to creating collaborative presentations. Team up with colleagues to create and edit content in real-time. In this respect, Sway is competing with other cloud software such as Google Slides. When you’ve finished your presentation, Sway allows you to share it via social media or a direct link. And, just like Google Documents, you can dictate who’s allowed to view your content.

Sway truly comes into its own when creating image-heavy content. If you’re planning to assemble page after page filled with stats and financial projections, however, PowerPoint is the tool for the job. Its customisable templates will enable you to rapidly throw together a professional-looking presentation. While Sway comes with pre-designed templates, it offers less choice than its older, wiser sibling.

PowerPoint’s greatest strengths

For creating data-intensive presentations, PowerPoint is as mighty as its name. Whether you’re pitching to a room full of venture capitalists or addressing a packed convention centre, PowerPoint is the presentation software you can rely on. Its transitions, professional-looking templates and seamless integration of charts and graphs – which can be created in PowerPoint – make it a natural choice.

That’s not to say Sway is unsuited to business users; Microsoft’s younger progeny is ideal for presentations that draw upon reams of video or other web-based content. If you’re outlining your company’s digital strategy, plotting your new-look website or launching a mobile app, Sway will prove its worth.

Sway vs PowerPoint: in conclusion

At Buffalo 7, we will continue to support our clients in developing great looking presentations that are created with PowerPoint. Microsoft’s well-established software remains our tool of choice, but we’re certainly not blind to Sway’s benefits. Ultimately, we’re a presentation design agency that isn’t bound by software. We’re here to help you create engaging, immersive presentations that will hook your audience and draw them in. Choose your weapon and we’ll help you turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Ask for help designing your presentation.

Contact us at:  
+44 (0)161 533 7777  
[email protected]

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