Today marks the general release of Sway, Microsoft’s new presentation app.
Undoubtedly dreamed up as an easy-to-use response to zoom-happy market entrant Prezi, the software has been making waves in the presentation design scene since its reveal in October – and now Sway is available to everyone.
What is Microsoft Sway?
Sway differs from PowerPoint in that it makes use of an intuitive drag-and-drop interface that adapts contextually; simply place your content into the editor and let its algorithm-powered design engine handle the layout, background, fonts and transitions.
Running in-browser, Sway’s Google-drive style collaboration means multiple people can work on one project – and the presentation itself is then stored on the web and can be shared through a URL or easily embedded in pages using HTML.
But Sway’s real appeal lies in its ability to pull in content not just locally from your device, but also from web and social services like YouTube, Facebook, Vine, Flickr, SoundCloud, Google Maps and your cloud storage.
Microsoft is calling Sway a ‘digital storytelling app’, underlining its intention that it will be used beyond traditional face-to-face and online presenting – it envisages Sway being used for compiling reports and even personal stories and mood boards; you could imagine sharing the story of your backpacking trip using Sway, but PowerPoint… not so much.
Will Sway replace PowerPoint?
We feel that reports of PowerPoint’s demise have been greatly exaggerated by the tech press.
PowerPoint has endured so long (it’s 25 years old this year!) because of its versatility – while the average user might not consider it to be the most dynamic presentation tool, we believe that PowerPoint can look amazing in the right hands (*cough, cough*).
Sway’s automation is a double-edged sword: while it removes the arduous formatting tasks that have long been the bane of PowerPoint-averse users, this means that users must relinquish control over the exact way each slide appears.
Lack of tight control over design, loose responses to user intention, and an inability to conform to brand guidelines (all big no-no’s in our line of work) mean that Sway is unlikely to be adopted by the corporate market, but we can see Sway becoming a prevalent choice for less formal use.
Chris Prately, Sway’s founder and general manager acknowledges the differentiation between the two products: “anything where you’re building a complicated layout, that’s really a PowerPoint scenario, and not a Sway one.”
What does excite us about the service’s easy-to-use tool set is that it could potentially open up a new community of users getting into visual storytelling and sharing their creations.