Microsoft Office welcomes Sway, a new authoring tool for web content


— 6:00 AM on October 2, 2014

Microsoft is adding a new authoring tool to its Office suite. It's called Sway, which is the name of not only the application, but also the new form of web-based content it creates. The introductory blog post describes Sway an "entirely different way to express yourself and bring your ideas to life." Here's the official "vision video" pitching the concept:

Interesting. Sway was designed explicitly for the web and mobile devices, and it's supposed to scale elegantly across a range of screen sizes. There are provisions for embedding goodies from popular services like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter in addition to pulling content from cloud storage and mobile devices. Local PC files will presumably be accessible, as well, though they may need to reside in the cloud to be part of a Sway. Everything seems to be web-based.

Although users will have some freedom to arrange and style content themselves, Sway's most intriguing element is its ability to organize everything automatically—and dynamically—based on what lead engineer Chris Pratley describes as a "designer in the box." Microsoft worked with its "in-house professional designers to capture their instincts and their design skills in an algorithm." That intelligence tries to assess the user's intent without bogging them down in details of what element goes where. It can also "reflow" or switch layouts to adapt to different display sizes.

Sway seems to be a work in progress, with lots more functionality and styling options on the way. I'm not quite sure what to make of it, to be honest, but there is a certain elegance to the idea. Microsoft will be soliciting feedback through a preview program that prospective, er, Swayers can request to join at the official site. Sway.com also has some sample content to peruse.

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