Microsoft Kicks Off Sway for Office 365 Rollout

Soon all Office 365 business and education customers can start crafting their own interactive, Web-based presentations with Sway.

Sway for Office 365

Microsoft is now enabling Sway for organizations that have signed up for business and education Office 365 plans.

First introduced in October, Sway is a mobile-friendly alternative to building presentations with tools like the company's own PowerPoint software. Users can drag-and-drop text, images and Web content to interactive presentations that automatically scale to fit smartphones, tablets and PC displays.

The cloud-enabled Web application supports content from an ever-expanding set of online sources, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and, of course, Microsoft's OneDrive file storage, share-and-sync platform. Sway automatically places the content into eye-pleasing layouts, allowing even users who lack design skills to craft shareable, eye-pleasing presentations.

"This means that from the first word, image, Tweet or graphic you add, your Sway is already being formed for you," said Microsoft during the Oct. 1 announcement. "As you add more of your content, Sway continues to analyze and arrange it based on the algorithms and design styles we've incorporated."

Since the beta's release, Microsoft has been steadily updating Sway with an iPhone 6-optimized app, support for Bing Image Search and PDF import capabilities. Now, businesses and schools can start creating their own co-called Sways.

In a May 21 update, the company announced: "Sway for Office 365 is initially rolling out to First Release customers, and it will become available to all eligible Office 365 customers over the coming months." Organizations belonging to Microsoft's First Release program for Office are essentially first in line to receive software updates.

Sway's Web application now boasts support for six more languages. "Now you can use the Sway Web interface in Dutch, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish (in addition to English). Support for Japanese is also coming soon, with other languages to follow," the company said.

In addition to YouTube and Bing Image Search, the Sway's Suggested Search feature now taps into Flickr and Wikipedia, one of the Web's most popular and sometimes controversial repositories of knowledge. "Now, Suggested search results include Wikipedia snippets that you can easily add to your creation to complement the other multimedia you use to share your narrative," announced Microsoft.

"As long as a Wikipedia article exists, and it has an infobox containing an image (an infobox is the small fact table on the right side of many Wikipedia articles), the Suggested search results will include a Wikipedia article abstract. Then you can easily add that snippet to your Sway, which brings the snippet's picture together with the Wikipedia article's first paragraph as its caption, as well as a citation," added the company.

On the authoring front, the Sway team added a new Grid Card layout that automatically arranges text, images and videos into a consistent grid that adapts to various screen sizes. Sway accomplishes this with user-selectable Focus Points and by intelligently inspecting and cropping images to fit the grid.

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...