Microsoft released the preview iteration of it’s new Office Sway product, and we’ve had a few days to play around with it. The product itself is not difficult to use, but we’re still working out exactly how to build complex artifacts with it. The premise seems to focus around making ideas and content more easily exploratory and visual, which is great to see. We’ve all interacted with one of those touchscreen kiosks at a museum that let you navigate around and learn about the exhibit, so having a quick and easy way to create one yourself is going to be a huge win with the growth of the touch enabled device arena. Sway makes it incredibly easy to build a touch-friendly UX for your presentation, images, information, etc, and we’re excited to see Microsoft provide another tool for non-developers to build products (for another example, see Project Siena).
When building a Sway, you select from various components such as a Header, Text, Media, etc. You can add this content to the Sway from top to bottom, with the top object being the first section in the Sway, and you slide/swipe to the right to get to the other sections. It appears as if at this time you can only align these sections in a vertical fashion from top to bottom, however in some of the sample Sways that Microsoft provides, it appears as if there will eventually be the ability to have parent/child relationships to the sections so you can navigate around various areas of the Sway. This would be a very powerful tool for anyone that wants to create a kiosk display, a sales presentation for an expo, or just about anything else. There’s very little doubt that this could eventually be used in place of PowerPoint for a lot of content.
At this time, there are very few features available in the preview, as most of them are highlighted as ‘Coming Soon’. It will be exciting to try these out as more features become available, and start building more complex Sways that can be used in production. The style of a sway can be easily modified using the ‘Mood’ option in the top right, and there’s also a ‘Remix!’ button which applies new layouts, styles, and other ‘magic’ which can change your Sway.
This is actually a rather exciting product, as it’s adding a completely new product to the Office lineup that is designed from the ground up for the touch interface. After testing it on various devices, using the touchscreen on a Surface really did provide a great user experience, so I know we’ll be using this for some of our presentations in the future.
Sway and Project Siena are really showing Microsoft on the forefront of enabling users with touch, and that’s exiting to see them leading the charge.
Here are some sample Sways to check out: