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Office Sway

Office Sway
Koen Timmers
by Koen Timmers
Educator - Author - Keynote speaker - Global Teacher Prize 2017 finalist

Sway and I, it was love at first sight. As a teacher I saw educational opportunities and as a web designer I instantly loved its ease of use. Sway offers the opportunity to create trendy onepagers in the blink of an eye. The attractive user-interface ensures a fast result. Sway is a webapp. This means you don't need to install software, don't need to save and have access to your sways at all places. No bother of resizing images or putting them in place. Sway takes care of all. Sway will soon also be available as app. This page will give you a quick impression.

Office Sway

How to position the thing Sway makes? Can we call it a website, a presentation or even anything else? David Alexander, member of the Sway team at Microsoft, explains:

"Specifically, a Sway is not just a website. While Sways are easily viewed on the web, and many will use Sway as a website, as we make more native apps for devices more people will experience Sway elsewhere than the web. So we tend to think about it more as a new type of interactive “document” with an adaptive layout."

Sway is still in beta. You can only access by invite and some features are still tagged as "coming soon". This gives the developers the opportunity to remove some bugs, listen to the early adaptors and implement as many requested features. Sway Preview is open-ended because we don’t want to limit the amount of feedback we get. To the developers it's key that the product evolves to be what the users want.

David illustrates the three main elements of Sway’s value:

  1. Sway lets you create and share an entirely new type of output (an interactive canvas of multimedia that you can use to express your ideas)
  2. Sway lets you easily add your content from a variety of built-in sources, right within Sway (and those sources will expand over time, largely thanks to feedback we get about which sources people request)
  3. Sway acts as your digital design assistant – it lets you focus on your ideas, while it continuously creates a polished and presentable output for you. You could decide “I’m done” at any time and be ready to share and know it will look great on any device.

Once you're working with Sway, you won't find the opportunity to change fonts, text size, etc. Chris Pratley is the partner director of engineering for the Sway team and tells us more about the Sway Philosophy. He evolved from wysiwyg (What You See Is What you get) to wygiwyw (What You Get Is What You Want). Everybody has ever been in contact with wysiwyg. We all know the text-editor which promises a lot, but sometime doesn't keeps its promises and gives a result far from earlier intensions. Wygiwyw aims to solve the adaptive layout problem, the design problem and improves the authoring experience.


Sway allows to create, present and share and thus is an interesting tool for educational purposes. Why? Constructivist teaching is based on the belief that learning occurs as learners are actively involved in a process of meaning and knowledge construction as opposed to passively receiving information. Sway can offer the opportunity to construct knowledge by gathering information, creating a presentation and can even evolve to social constructivism: learning by collaboration. Sway can be used by both students and teacher in project based education, the flipped classroom, collaborative learning, student self-assessment, knowledge building, etc. All 21st century skills can be covered by the implementation of Sway.

Let's ask for David's opinion:

All three elements listed above definitely apply to educators. #1 (the new type of format) is valuable because Sway provides teachers with a new, interactive, multimedia rich ways to present lessons and content to students. Particularly when you consider examples of non-linear Sways (such as this one, about the U.S. States), where students and teachers and pick the sequence of a lesson, peruse concepts at-will outside the classroom, or use the new format to help with a flipped-learning approach to teaching (where students learn at home and then apply the learnings in-class). As for #2 (easily add your content), Sway can help teachers save time by more quickly putting those interactive lessons/content together by helping them aggregate their content from a variety of sources. #3 helps in a similar way – Sway helps save teachers time by assisting with a lot of the design work, so teachers can focus on the ideas they want to teach, while having confidence that Sway will help them create a polished, presentable output that will engage their students.


Last but not least: For which purpose was this tool developed? How does Sway position itself towards PowerPoint and other presentation tools?

David clarifies that Sway is an addition to the Office family that adds additional choices for the way people create and share their ideas, depending on their circumstances. There will be situations where PowerPoint continues to be the best tool, and there will be situations where Sway will be the best tool. It’s something we’ve already seen and will continue to see. For example, Sway is a wonderful new option in situations where somebody is looking to quickly get their ideas formatted in a polished, cohesive layout, thanks to assisted authoring and content aggregation by Sway. Sway will save those people time by making design choices for them and allowing them to tweak the output based on their own unique style. PowerPoint continues to be a fantastic solution for people in situations where they want more specific design and formatting requirements, and the desire to have complete control over aspects ranging from font size, to (x,y) coordinate positioning of their content, to gradient pattern specifications, and exact crop handle and edge placement of their photos. The same person could use Sway for some situations and PowerPoint for others.



Want to start with Sway? I wrote a quick guide:

Want to know more about Sway? Visit Sway's blog and Touching Base on Sway Preview

Want to explore some beautiful Sways? Take a look at these from MIEs:


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