August 6

Microsoft Sway: A PowerPoint Alternative

If you’re as tired of PowerPoint slides as, well, everyone in the world, you’ll be happy to hear you have many choices these days. Prezi is one of the most popular competitors, and many presenters have changed to its zooming navigation and embedded multimedia to create more engaging presentations that tell a story.

Every few months this category grows even larger, and recently Microsoft itself released a competitor to its own flagship product. The tool just came out of beta with the release of Windows 10, and you can also download apps on iOS devices or use it online. Microsoft bills it as more of a storytelling tool than a point-telling tool (like PowerPoint).

Here’s a 10-minute program I did a few months ago using Sway. I embedded it below, or you can see it in a browser for the best effect.


Microsoft Sway is an online presentation tool that lets you create what are effectively sliding web pages that can hold your videos, links, text and pictures. The format wows crowds with its fluid motions, and I found it fairly intuitive to use. Here are a few pros and cons:

  1. Sway is hip.
    I have done, I don’t know, a billion or so PowerPoint decks. I work very hard to make them interesting without being busy, but they’re still the same kinds of slides you’ve seen a billion times. Sway slides through a presentation, and the animations are both aesthetically pleasing and fluid. Every time I use the format, I hear the ahhhhhs. 
  2. If you’re not using the Sway app with Windows 10, you have to be online to present.
    This is a very scary proposition for those of us who bite our fingernails with worry about the stability of an unknown wifi connection at a conference. But now that it’s out of beta, they let you
  3. A longer presentation gets cumbersome quickly.
    This sample presentation has just ten sections, but the navigation area makes it challenging to reorder sections.
  4. Sway is free and open to all.
    Microsoft is changing from the old model where you bought Microsoft products and used them and then bought them again. Now they offer many free options as well as free upgrades to their new stuff.
  5. Sway lets you collaborate online.
    If you’re working with a team on a fun program you’ll be presenting during an awards lunch, you can invite collaborators to, well, umm, collaborate. Changes are saved instantly, and you always have access to the most recent version.
  6. It’s hard to upload images.
    Since the navigation was challenging, I often deleted a section and inserted it later rather than trying to grab the section and move it. But I soon discovered that when I deleted a picture I had uploaded, I had to upload it all over again instead of having a library of recently uploaded files to choose from. Yes, I could have moved all the images into Microsoft’s cloud and accessed them there, but that would have been a pain as well.You can pull in your photos and content from Facebook and a couple of other services, and it looks like they’re considering adding access to your Dropbox, iCloud and Google Drive.
  7. Finding online content is very easy.
    I think one of the coolest things about Sway is the ease of finding content. You can search across the internet and find all kinds of videos, social media posts, images and more. The default search engine searches for images that fall under Creative Commons (which generally means you’re free to use them with attribution), but you still need to double check to make sure you’re not stealing someone’s stuff.
  8. Sway will even do the work for you.
    Say you’re doing a presentation about cats. As soon as you start typing cat-like words, Sway will suggest images and other content related to cats. I also like that you can do a search and click off a whole bunch of content to add it in one lump move rather than one image or post at a time.

Bottom Line:

Microsoft Sway is a shiny, flashy new presentation tool that works well for a short program, but I would hesitate to use it for a presentation with more content, and I will definitely keep worrying about its availability if you’re not sure you have rock solid wifi and you don’t have the app on a Windows 10 device.



PowerPoint, presentations

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