Microsoft weaves around Office bloat complaints with Sway authoring tool

The new app, now in preview mode, meant to be simple yet powerful, and built from the ground up for mobile devices and cloud computing

Sway, a new Microsoft Office authoring app, is integrated with the company's OneDrive cloud storage service

Sway, a new Microsoft Office authoring app, is integrated with the company's OneDrive cloud storage service

Reacting to chronic complaints that Office applications have become unwieldy with endless menus and features, Microsoft is developing a streamlined presentation application built from the ground up for mobile devices and cloud computing.

The new Office app is called Sway and can be used to create a wide variety of things, including documents, flyers, presentations, albums, publications and Web pages and reports that contain elements like text, tables, photos, videos, music and animations. Sway has been designed to let users easily post their creations online and share them via social media.

Sway eschews the conventional menu-intensive interface of Office applications and relies mostly on graphical icons that users can click on to execute actions, and on drag-and-drop capabilities for formatting their creations. An underlying algorithmic presentation engine arranges the Sway designs on the fly and generates layout suggestions for users.

Sway, which Microsoft unveiled on Wednesday in preview mode, seems a good addition to Office, given that a number of competitors have come out with authoring applications of this sort positioned as more modern, friendlier options to Microsoft's venerable productivity app triumvirate of Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

In fact, it seems that Sway could be the blueprint for the future of Office applications, especially as Microsoft toils on the touch-first version of the suite for tablets, in the sense that it tries to simplify the user experience by being more "intelligent" and aware of what people are trying to get accomplished, and proactively helping them.

"Sway helps you focus on the human part: your ideas and how they relate to each other. Sway takes care of the design work -- a Sway is ready to share with the world as soon as it is born," reads the blog post announcing the application.

In a 17-minute video about Sway, David Alexander, an Office senior product manager, said one motivation behind Sway's creation was the abundance of Web and mobile apps that focus on narrow aspects of authoring, forcing people to learn and use multiple programs.

"Now we're in this position where people would love to take all of their ideas and content and just give it to a digital assistant and have them do all the hard work and heavy lifting to create a polished, cohesive output, and that's what Sway really provides," he said.

From the moment a user starts working on a Sway "Web canvas," the design engine formats the elements in real time cohesively, and analyzes and "learns" from the user's actions, incorporating that input into its assistive algorithmic calculations, according to Microsoft.

"You can adjust and customize the format Sway has created in easy and intuitive ways. Want a picture to stand out? Don't worry about exact pixel heights and widths or whether you have the design chops to keep things looking good. Just tap or click the image in your Sway and tap or click the star icons to emphasize it," the blog post reads.

Sway adapts its output to a variety of screen sizes so that the Sways look properly formatted in smartphones, tablets, PCs, large displays and the like.

Sway works from browsers and via a mobile app, and can grab content directly from OneDrive, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and local device storage. Microsoft plans to expand this list of sources from which Sway users can aggregate content.

Those interested in giving Sway a try can request access to it by submitting their email address to Microsoft on Sway.com.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags MicrosoftsoftwareapplicationsOffice suites

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Juan Carlos Perez

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Bang and Olufsen Beosound Stage - Dolby Atmos Soundbar

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Nakamichi Delta 100 3-Way Hi Fi Speaker System

Learn more >

ASUS ROG, ACRONYM partner for Special Edition Zephyrus G14

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean 9000 Toothbrush

Learn more >

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Teac 7 inch Swivel Screen Portable DVD Player

Learn more >

SunnyBunny Snowflakes 20 LED Solar Powered Fairy String

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?