Fellow Singaporeans, do not be deterred by its name, Microsoft’s new presentation app Sway is not as bad as it first sounds.
(For our non-local friends, “suay”, pronounced “sway”, is a Singlish term for being unlucky, unfortunate or plain-out jinxed.)
As of yesterday, the long-awaited app is now available for you to try.
Sway is a slick-looking web-based app that allows you to create aesthetically-pleasing interactive content at your fingertips. The app boasts of an intuitive WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) platform without the hassle of going through its technicalities.
For example, if you would like for a picture to stand out, don’t worry about the pixels or widths of the image, or whether you have the design skills to keep it looking good. Sway will take care of it. Simply tap to emphasise it, and the app will work its magic on the final product.
Similarly, if you want to rearrange your ideas, simply drag and drop any set of your content anywhere you want, and Sway will automatically reorder it for you.
What’s even sweeter is that the content will automatically adapt appropriately across devices, so you no longer have to worry if your images will look squashed or alignment changed when others view it on mobile.
Since its invite-only preview 10 weeks ago, Microsoft reports that there has already been over one million unique visitors to Sway.com and over 175,000 requests to join, with the numbers growing by the thousands daily. We took the app briefly out for a spin on a desktop to see what they hype’s all about.
What We Loved About Sway
Adding images has never been this easy
You can literally just drag and drop images from the web into your presentation, instead of having to go through the tedious process of downloading, resizing and pasting the image on your presentation slides.
Want to add a personal touch? You may also pull files from your OneDrive, Facebook, Twitter, or your device itself to personalise your presentation.
Aesthetically pleasing options to suit your every mood
Halfway through your presentation and not liking how it looks? Change structures, styles and colour schemes at a whim with a click of the Mood panel. Don’t worry about your content, Sway will seamlessly integrate the existing content with the new look.
Still not satisfied? Give the Remix! button a try for layout and style settings Sway suggests based on your current content and layout. You can always undo it with the Undo option also on the panel if you prefer your previous look.
Now you don’t need a design degree to create beautiful, polished, designer-worthy content.
Microsoft presentations never looked this beautiful
We love how versatile the app really is. As you can see, the app supports the creation of way more than Powerpoint presentations as we know it.
Whether you are student creating a class presentation, a professional compiling an annual report, or an hobbyist creating a do-it-yourself guide for a crochet project, Sway gives you the platform to get you up and running to present your ideas in an interactive and creative way.
What We Didn’t Like About Sway
Designed for Touchscreens
The first thing that leapt at us when trying to use Sway on our desktop was our same gripe with the Windows 8 interface: the app was designed for use on a touchscreen.
Granted that it can still be used on a desktop, the controls to swipe, tap, and swish things around gracefully on a tablet did seem rather awkward with a mouse and keyboard. The instructions to “Tap on the right” didn’t help either.
But with the rise of the mobile generation, I guess that’s just another thing that us ‘keyboardists’ will just have to take some getting used to.
Lacks User Control
Granted that Sway has fancy algorithms to feed us with the design aesthetic that we sometimes try so hard to achieve, it’ll be nice if we could still have more control over design decisions.
I tried to recreate a slide I once did on Powerpoint that looks like this.
Instead, Sway left me with a visualisation that looks like this.
Not only was I unable to customise the font to something outside of Sway’s pre-assigned “Styles”, I was also unable to control the alignment, the size of the subtitle and text, and the negative space I desired on the page.
There were also no options to add or remove how certain animations turned out in the final product.
For control freaks like me, that was just not cool.
Inability to Create Tables and Graphs
As an undergraduate, among the main tools I use on Powerpoint are the tables and charts functions. On Sway however, I first had to create the table somewhere else, take a screenshot of it, and upload the file as an image to Sway. That was so very inconvenient.
I would go so far to say that the app is made for visuals, but still has some way to go before it can replace Microsoft in terms of functionality, especially for educational purposes.
No Offline Mode
Sway is a browser-based platform, and sharing a presentation or report is as simple as sharing the unique link given to each new piece of content you create.
On one hand, this takes away the hassle of saving and transferring huge files, or the gripping fear you get when your computer crashes while you’re in the middle of creating an unsaved presentation.
But this also means that work comes to a grinding halt each time you lose your Wifi connection. For someone who prefers working on the go, this might prove to be a problem for me.
On a side note, allowing for your friend to edit after sharing the link with them would also be very useful.
The Sway app allows for an intuitive expression of creativity like never before. Despite its current shortcomings, we see the potential in the app, and can foresee it to be the next go-to tool for students and professionals in the near future. This is definitely an app to watch.
Although the app is still in its preview mode, Microsoft appears to be taking in suggestions and tweaking the app for form and function accordingly.
But before Sway does all that, it might first like to change its name.