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October 02, 2014

Sway from Microsoft Lessens the Office Bloat

My father would often tell me “Too much is like not enough.” The meaning behind this is that everything, or at least most things, should be done in moderation. This is an expression that is true in so many different occasions whether it be eating, or yes, even applications. In fact, this mostly seems to be true when it comes to applications.

Just when you get comfortable using an application and knowing where to click, an upgrade comes along and you know how to go down a few more levels of menus in order to accomplish the same task. While I know that having more options caters to a greater audience, it may sometimes be the cause for others to stop using the application.

Microsoft (News - Alert) is currently experiencing such a scenario. The company has been receiving a lot of complaints concerning Office applications. It seems that a great number of people think that it has become unwieldy with endless menus and features. Hmmm, where have I heard that before? In an attempt to answer this foreboding issue, Microsoft unveiled a new Office application called Sway, on October, 1, 2014.

The new application is currently in preview mode and meant to be simple yet powerful. It has been built from the ground up for mobile devices and cloud computing. The idea is that Sway can be used to create various things, such as documents, presentations, albums, as well as Web pages. Sway has been designed to let users easily post their creations online and share them via social media.

According to a Microsoft blog posting, “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. 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.”

This is something that people have needed for a long time. These days, every smartphone and table has a different screen size, so creating something that works across the board is difficult. As it is stated by Microsoft, from the moment you start working on a Sway Web canvas, the design engine formats all the elements in real time cohesively while it learns from your actions. Sway will incorporate your input into its assistive algorithmic calculations. Sway adapts its output to a variety of screen sizes so that the Sways look properly formatted whether looked at on smartphones, tablets, PCs, or large displays.

David Alexander, who is an Office senior product manager, said that the abundance of Web and mobile apps that focus on narrow aspects of authoring, forcing people to learn and use multiple programs was one of the major motiving factors for creating Sway. He said, “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.”

The focus is on foregoing the multilevel menu driven standard interface for a mostly graphical icon based one. A user will be able to click on an icon to execute an action, or use the drop and drag capabilities as the method for formatting their creations. Since Sway can design on the fly and generate layout suggestions, users will find it easier to work on projects, especially from their mobile devices.

Sway works from both browsers and mobile devices through an app. Microsoft plans to expand the current list of sources from which Sway users can collect content, which today includes  OneDrive, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube (News - Alert) and local device storage.




Edited by Maurice Nagle
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