Microsoft Expands Office Sway Preview, Mobile App

Formerly part of an invite-only preview, the mobile-friendly presentation software is now available to everyone. iPhone app availability remains limited, however.

Microsoft Office Sway

Microsoft has opened the gates to Office Sway, the company announced.

"Now anybody can be a part of Preview and start creating Sways immediately by signing in with a Microsoft Account–no more waitlist," stated a Dec. 15 Office Blogs post authored by the Microsoft Sway Team. In the 10 weeks since the company kicked off the formerly invite-only preview program, Microsoft fielded 175,000 requests to join and attracted more than a million unique visitors to the Website, they reported.

Office Sway is a cloud-based, touch-enabled toolset that allows users to create interactive documents. In a break from its PowerPoint-based past, Microsoft is positioning "Sways" as an interactive, mobile-friendly alternative to static documents and presentations.

"It's a new way for you to create a beautiful, interactive, Web-based expression of your ideas, from your phone or browser," said Microsoft during Sway's Oct. 1 reveal.

In addition to opening up the floodgates, Microsoft had incorporated some of the suggestions made by Sway's early adopters. "By far the most-requested feature we've received has been the ability to undo (and its counterpart, redo) actions one has taken in Sway, both during the course of normal work with Sway, as well as when giving the Remix! button a spin," said Microsoft. Now, with undo and redo added to the editing options, "you can make your changes without worrying about recovering a previous state of your Sway."

Making edits in Sway is now a more intuitive experience, added the Sway Team. Building on the ability to edit headings and captions in place by tapping or clicking them, Microsoft announced that users can now "also edit paragraphs of text from the canvas in the same way. Simply tap or click and select 'Edit' and then make your edits in the moment."

Bullets and numbered lists have been added to the toolbar, providing a native list formatting experience. "Also, with bullets and numbering implemented, Sway will automatically go back and look for existing Sways where you used mark-up as a workaround for bullets," providing a polished look.

Rounding out the features is a new PDF import function, drag-and-drop reordering of sections and enhancements to the software's color picker. Tweaks to Sway's color palette algorithms offer more options, including color palettes derived from select photos or images.

An update to the Sway for iPhone app has been released, but availability is locked to New Zealand and Australia. The iPhone 6-optimized app features an offline mode and background image support for titles and section headers.

For those outside of Australia, the app is on its way, said Microsoft. "We'll continue making improvements based on your feedback as we head toward releasing it in the U.S. and other English-speaking countries soon," stated the Sway Team. "This will help us ensure that the Sway authoring experience works great on mobile devices before we go big in lots of markets."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...