Sway, Microsoft’s cloud-enabled alternative to slide-based presentation tools including its own PowerPoint software, has gained new features designed to help user reach a bigger audience.
Sway presentations, called “Sways” naturally, now support audio recordings. Users can add their own narrations and voice commentary while using the web-based Sway application. New controls allow users to record audio, provided their PCs are equipped with microphones.
The feature, requested by Microsoft’s education customers, works with the latest versions of the Chrome, Firefox and Edge browsers on Windows PCs. On Macs, it works with Chrome and Firefox while Chromebook users can access the new functions with their device’s built-in Chrome browser.
Microsoft has been focusing lately on developing and promoting education technology.
On May 2, the company is hosting an education-themed event in New York City, where it’s expected to show new hardware and software. And earlier this week, the company announced new features in Microsoft Forms aimed at helping teachers better integrate test-taking functionality into OneNote.
“Integrating Forms and OneNote is one of the top asks from educators who use the OneNote Class Notebook and want to seamlessly integrate formative assessments,” said the company in an April 10 announcement. “Now, you can embed a form into OneNote Online in just a couple of steps. Under the OneNote Insert menu, click Forms, and then in the Forms for OneNote pane, select a form.”
Microsoft Forms now supports custom images and backgrounds, enabling users to add some personality to their forms. To improve collaboration, new sharing options enable users to return to forms authored by colleagues without having to dig through their inboxes or IM conversations to find the original links.
As for Sway, Microsoft added closed captioning support, allowing hearing-impaired users to follow along.
“We are excited to announce that authors can now associate closed caption files with their audio recordings or audio files added from their local drive or OneDrive/OneDrive for Business,” stated Microsoft in a blog post announcing the new features. “Office 365 authors can also associate closed caption files with any video files uploaded from their local drive or from OneDrive for Business.”
While adding audio or video content to their Sway presentations, users can now select closed caption files to include and the language they wish to show. Sway supports the Video Text Tracks (.vtt) format, a W3C standard used by web browsers for closed captioning.
Also new is a navigation view that provides thumbnail views of a presentation’s content. Sections appear as numbered tiles, allowing users to jump to a desired section. Sway also features an autoplay option that loops a presentation, provides uninterrupted playback for unattended applications, like billboards.
Finally, Sway authors can see how many times their presentations were seen with a new view count feature. Microsoft started tallying up views on March 13. If a Sway shows “no data” in its view count, it hasn’t been viewed since that date, according to the company.