As Microsoft moves toward cloud and mobile apps, the company has invested in several cloud-only additions to legacy Office apps that you are familiar with. One of them is Sway, a friendlier alternative to PowerPoint.
Why does Microsoft need a PowerPoint alternative?
If you've ever worked in an office environment, most likely you will not associate PowerPoint with salespeople and managers who are interested in brilliant public speaking skills. That's not fair, because you can create brilliant presentations in PowerPoint. But life is not fair, and PowerPoint is a big, heavy business tool with a corresponding reputation.
Enter Sway is Microsoft's effort to provide lightweight cloud-based solutions. A story-telling application that is easier to use than PowerPoint and that offers more narrative devices than just pushing slides from point to point.
Can anyone use it?
Anyone can use Sway when signing up for a free Microsoft account. People with an Office 365 can also use SWAY. There are some differences between the free version and the Office 365 version. However, these are mainly on the admin page. For example, you can protect a sway with a password (oh well, sway documents are called "sways") or remove the footer. There are also some differences in the number of content you can put into a single SWAY, but the free version still provides more than enough for the average user.
Let's take a look at why you want to use Sway.
What can I do with Sway?
If it's a bit more frightening than staring at a blank Word document and wondering what to write, then it looks at a blank PowerPoint presentation wondering what to add. Presentations are inherently intended for others, and many people are afraid of public speaking at first, so a blank PowerPoint may be enough to give you up.
This fear has always been one of the biggest problems with PowerPoint. Luckily, Microsoft has recognized this and they've been working hard to prevent that fear with Sway. Most people are not specialists in design and layout, so Microsoft has provided a set of templates (18 at the time of writing) for general presentations that allow you to leave the creator's block behind and begin designing.
These templates include things like company presentations, portfolios, resumes and newsletters. They also offer several "inspirational" presentations to give you an idea of what Sway can do.
If what you are writing about does not appear here, or you just have to record what you want to include in your presentation. Sway can help you get an overview. There is a "Start From a Topic" option that displays a topic selection.
We can not stress enough how impressive this part is of Sway. When you type in a term (we've used "technology") ,way creates for you the outline of a presentation with definitions, uses, areas to cover, suggested linked topics, images, and more. This is based on Wikipedia data and contains full links to the pages it uses. There is only so much to say before we run out of superlatives. So try it yourself. It's just awesome.
There is also a decided emphasis on storytelling, not presentation. Sway is designed for a narrative structure that flows either from left to right or from top to bottom. The presenter (or reader) can use a mouse wheel to move through them instead of pressing a button or a click. This is a small but subtle distinction. PowerPoint feels like a series of steps, but Sway feels like a journey. Therefore, it is easier to follow the process as if you were reading in a natural way. Because of this, Sway has no slides . it has a single story .
Whether you have selected a template, start with a topic, or start with an empty sway, add What Sway calls Maps to enter new content.
There are a variety of different cards to choose from, such as: Text, video, grid, or headline, and each is tailored to a particular type of information. However, unlike PowerPoint slides, the cards work together seamlessly as you scroll through the finished Sway. This means that they are read as part of a narrative, not as individual elements.
If you have finished your Sway or want to see what it looks like so far, there is a design option that will help you in using finished product.
You can browse through your Sway and switch between storylines and design to make changes and review. Sway also helps you design the elements once you have started to create the content to your liking. At the top right of the Design page is the Styles option, which lets you access layout options and "remix" your design.
 You can choose to have your Sway scroll horizontally or vertically (and as individual slides, if desired), the color scheme, the background, and some other things. Of course it can be difficult to know if what you have chosen looks good to others, and there are many options to choose from. Sway gives you a remix button that lets you assign a random design to your Sway. You can click Remix as often as you like, and it will take some time for designs to be repeated.
If you have your Sway the way you want, it can be published and shared. Remember, this is a pure cloud app, so there are no files to download, but you can embed a sway in a web page if users want to see it without getting to a specific sharing link.
Sway is a simple tool that can achieve great results. It's packed with features to help you with the tricky design bits so you can focus on the content, and the best of everything is free. Microsoft has not always done everything right, but Sway has created something practical at the best possible price.