In my recent blog post “Microsoft Can Do Cool”, I mentioned a new app Microsoft has in beta / preview called Microsoft Sway. I had some time to create my first Sway, and I thought I would give folks a brief overview of the capabilities. It was originally announced back in October 2014 as a private invite-only preview on the Office blogs. Almost 2 months to the day later, the Sway team announced that the Sway preview was expanded and open to the general public, along with some improvements based on initial community feedback.
Well you can probably get an idea from the tagline:
Reimagine the way your ideas come to life
Have you ever gone on a trip, had a cool experience, a cool idea, or had a story of some kind to tell? Technology has made this easier with smartphones, tablets and apps that create slideshows and collages. From my view Sway is aimed at solving this problem by providing a service in which it’s easy to create, build and share a polished and interactive “web canvas” with various forms of content intuitively. It provides different layouts and presentation styles that allow you to give your text, pictures or videos character, make them pop. One of the things that impresses me the most is the compatibility across platforms and browsers. Whether you’re on an iPhone, iPad, android tablet, Windows Phone or desktop, there is a very consistent experience based on the latest HTML5 / CSS technologies.
During the preview, users can provide feedback via User Voice.
Once a Sway is done, the experience depends on the layout options chosen for the design. Of course there are headings, text with images:
Images can be displayed in different ways, in a postcard style or a flipbook style. Clicking on the image stack flips through the images:
Or intermixed with images and video (with captions):
The videos play in place either from YouTube or OneDrive. There’s another example of a Sway that shows the experience from desktop or mobile device which you can watch over on the officevideos YouTube channel.
Once you sign up for Sway, you login with a Microsoft account (Live ID). Once you do, you can click on My Sways to get going. You are presented with any existing Sways, and large buttons to start the creation process:
As you can see, I’ve started two. Clicking New will open a blank new canvas to start, and Import allows you to upload a PDF to use as a starting point. From there, the interface is a top to bottom design storyboard, regardless if the display layout is vertical or horizontal. On the storyboard, you click the plus sign icon and start adding content (Headings, text boxes, media, etc):
The other main component is the canvas. If you click off to the right you switch to the canvas, it’s like a live editable preview. You can do some minor “tweaking”:
To get the back to the main editing Storyline, click on the heading on the left side of the window. At least currently, it’s not like Word where you have free control over the text or image wrapping. You can make text bold (emphasize), make bullets or numbered lists or add hyperlinks. You group content into sections, and within the sections, you add layouts of text, media, etc. I have found there is a lot of trial and error (arrange, go to preview, back to arrange) to get things to layout as close to what I want as possible. For the most part, it works out. To change some global styling, you click on Mood in the upper right. From here, you can change your layout between vertical or horizontal (under Structure), or choose and customize a theme and font (under Style).
One pretty cool feature is that from your images in your Sway, you can choose one to use a color inspiration. If you’re feeling whimsical, you can click the Remix button to let Sway choose a different design for you.
For media, there are many options. For videos, you can embed code or get from YouTube. For images, it provides “suggested” Bing image results or you can choose OneDrive. Within images you can choose two different layouts:
I won’t go into detail about how every part of my sway is setup, but I would suggest checking it out for yourself! I hope in the near future that they open up more of the options.
If you haven’t figured out by now, the Sway I created was about my experience with the life cycle of monarch butterflies over the fall of 2014 that I did my best to document. Using Sway, I was able to come up with something I think can be passed off as “professional” to help raise awareness of their plight. Regardless, you can see my Miracle of the Monarch Sway here:
When you share your Sway, you have the option to get a link, share to Facebook or grab embedded code. Pretty nice! Anyway, I hope this and the other multitude of examples spawn some great ideas. Get Swaying!
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