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What is Sway? | A quick look at Sway for Office 365

Last updated on January 28th, 2019

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What is Sway?

Sway is a presentation tool included within Office 365 and fulfils the role of a “digital storytelling application”. It’s the ideal program for creating business reports, presentations or updates as it allows users to make visually compelling, content-rich presentations without needing any serious design skills.

Sway and PowerPoint are often compared with one another, however whilst they are both presentation tools, they both fill very different niches. PowerPoint is the ideal tool for presenting to an audience, whereas Sway is best used for presenting content onscreen to an individual.

What are the benefits of Sway for businesses?

Optimised for mobile:

With an increasingly mobile workforce, it’s vital that applications can be used by workers on whatever device they are using, wherever they are. Sway has been optimised for mobile devices to accommodate this and even has a range of features which allow created sways to look just as good on a phone or tablet as they do on a desktop.

In-built mobile previews, touch screen friendly interactions and an image ‘focus point’ customiser all contribute towards making Sway a superior presentation tool, optimised for the modern, mobile age.

This makes Sway ideal for sending a report to a travelling executive or for ensuring an important company announcement can be accessed by anyone at any time, regardless of the device they are using.

The Sway mobile preview for images showing a desktop and mobile preview

Sway’s mobile preview is just one of the features it includes to ensure optimal performance on mobile as well as desktops or tablets.

Customisable templates:

Ensuring a consistent visual approach is integral to having a solid brand style. Therefore, Sway’s in-built ability to save a created sway as a template to use for future documents is highly valuable. This also becomes increasingly important for partially automating the creation of recurring documents such as sales reports or newsletters.

Additionally, Sway comes with a massive range of pre-set layouts, plus the ability to tweak these or create a new one from scratch. This results in a plethora of visually unique styles which can be created to align with your brand’s identity.

Accessible to everyone:

Something easy to overlook but valuable nonetheless is the fact that Sway has its own accessibility mode which enables created sways to be used by everyone. Features like adding in alternative text for images to assist with screen readers, automatically restructuring to a simplified layout and an in-built accessibility checker all ensure created sways are accessible.

Sway also has a set of free guidelines available for ensuring created sways are accessible to those with dyslexia or visual impairments. You can also use the Accessibility Checker to analyse the document and find issues like insufficient colour contrast – which can cause problems for those who are colour-blind or have low vision.

The Sway accessibility checker

An example of the suggestions the accessibility checker provides for ensuring an optimal Sway experience for everyone.

Quickly import content:

As well as being able to write content natively, it’s also possible to import a pre-existing document such as a Word file or a topic outline from Wikipedia into Sway. From there, Sway breaks the document down into its main components (a headline, titles, body text, images and tables for example) and displays it into the document.

Sway then takes this a step further, adding in a few extra touches such as text extracts to improve the visuals of the document. Once the document is imported it can still be edited manually, but from experimentations, Sway tends to do a good job of presenting imported content nicely.

Accessible anywhere and shareable with anyone:

Sway stores created sways in the cloud, which means as long as you have an Internet connection and access permission, you can access any sway you want. Whilst this does mean that without an Internet connection, you won’t be able to access any sways. For the greatly increased flexibility offered by taking the cloud approach, it’s a worthwhile trade-off.

Being stored online also has the advantage of incredibly simple sharing. There’s no need to transfer a file since it’s stored in a single static location. And considering sways are often densely packed with rich media or images, this prevents long transfer times due to a large file size.

Supports embedding rich content:

Sway allows users to insert content from a variety of sources to enrich their presentation. Flickr, Bing Images and Pickit all offer a variety of stock images or images under Creative Commons licence which can be used as backgrounds or features within the sway. Additionally, YouTube videos, tweets and Facebook posts can be embedded into sways, allowing for easy viewing and no need to link out of the presentation for content which is located on an online platform.

Of course, if you already have the image or video you want to use in the sway it can be embedded manually or inserted via OneDrive and you don’t need to rely on these tools to get rich media into a sway.

An example of the image import via Bing

In addition to images, Sway allows users to easily import videos, social media snippets and other rich media.

Slick presentation:

A major issue with sending a PowerPoint presentation for someone to view is that it can seem unprofessional or lack finesse, which in turn reflects poorly on your business. Likewise, Word documents are difficult to organise and are often visually sparse. Sway on the other hand is built with elegant design and impressive visual performance in mind.

Through using the premade templates and styles – or creating your own ones of these – it’s simple to create a presentation which looks good and impresses your client or manager.

How to get Sway for your business

If you’re interested in getting Sway, it’s included freely within certain Office 365 licenses. If your business is yet to adopt Office 365, see our blog post on the topic to discover some of the great features you’re missing out on.

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