Microsoft is launching Sway today, a new app that’s part of the company’s Office family of products. It will sit alongside the regular Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote apps as a rich content creation tool. In its most basic form, Sway allows anyone to create a beautiful website from just images and text without any effort, and it’s all what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) — a modern and simple version of FrontPage. Despite that, Microsoft is taking an interesting approach with Sway, using the company’s powerful Azure cloud servers to suggest page layouts and quickly render content on the fly.
Sway will format pictures and text in a way that its algorithm feels is appropriate, even picking colors from photos to apply to the site. Although the end result is on the web as a site, it’s actually a complex new format that’s stored on Microsoft’s cloud servers. Sways will render differently based on device type, but they’re not traditional responsive design as Microsoft simply creates separate views on the backend.
iOS and Android apps on the way
You can create a Sway from the web, and soon Microsoft will have iOS and Android apps to make it easy to build one on the go. "Our intention is to go native where we can," explains Microsoft’s head of Office marketing Michael Atalla. "We totally want native experiences." In time that will include a Windows Phone app, and possibly a Windows app. Sway also features the ability to bring in content from OneDrive, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, so you could create an interactive Sway that includes a Twitter hashtag or timeline. Sways can then be shared on social networks and embedded on sites.
Microsoft is simply previewing Sway today, and the app is "incomplete by design" according to Atalla. Microsoft is planning to gather lots of feedback about what Sway designs work best and how people start to use this tool before it continues to tweak and improve it. You can imagine scenarios where small businesses like a restaurant could use Sway to create a menu they can regularly update, or a student uses it to build a better looking PowerPoint presentation. You can sign up for Microsoft’s Sway preview at sway.com.