Thursday, October 16, 2014

Playing around with Office Sway

Office-Sway-hands-on When you talk about Microsoft, it's most likely about Windows or Office. The Office brand is synonymous with the Microsoft brand and when it comes to word processing and spreadsheets, Microsoft Office is still ruling the desktops. In today's world where users try to get the most out of their software, Microsoft seems to be losing it everywhere except on the desktop. That however, brought upon Office Online which is probably the most versatile Microsoft product yet. All you need is just an internet connection paired up with a modern browser and you're on your way to becoming a productive person.

Compared to Google Docs, Office Online is a lot more graphical and retains the iconic office ribbon which makes doing work feel right at home. Currently there are a couple of Office applications available on Office Online and last week, Microsoft showed off the latest edition to the family. They call it Office Sway and it's ready to redefine how we share and express our thoughts.

Office-sway-hands-on-preview As you might not already know, Office Sway is the latest productivity software from Microsoft and unlike the rest of the office suite, this product is built to be mobile. Like what I said earlier, Sway is a new way to channel your thoughts and it's something like a blogging software. The interface is simple and adding content onto the canvas is just a drag/drop away. Sway is currently available through a closed preview and I managed to gain access to the preview, so here is what I think about it. Oh yeah, head over to sway.com if you would like to try out Office Sway.
"It's like your personal blog, but it's not a blog"
The first thing I noticed when I was introduced to the Sway storyline is that, everything is well hidden and contextual menus will appear wherever needed. When you first create a new Sway, you'll be directed to the storyline page which is where most of the content is dropped in. The interface is very beginner friendly and without much help, I was able to figure things out. Funny thing is that I actually signed up for this preview just because I read a tweet about it on twitter and even when I started to use sway, I still didn't know what it's supposed to be. Anyways, In the storyline everything is grouped into cards and each card can either be a photo, video, media or text. From there you can manipulate the placement of the item in the final page just by simply dragging the card up or down.

For more fine tuning of let's say a picture, there will be a contextual lightning bold icon when you hover near the card and that'll allow you to change the size and scale of the image. After inserting all the necessary information to make your page look awesome, you can preview it by clicking on the right hand side of the page. Not to mention, Sway supports both the conventional vertical scrolling as well as horizontal scrolling of the page to suit your needs.
Office-sway-storyline Well, the things I've told you up to this point is quite normal and the thing which makes Sway stand out from the crowd is the ability to allow you to easily manipulate the look and feel of your page. You could style each card one by one according to your needs but on the top right corner, there's a green colored button labeled 'Remix!' which is just like the 'I'm feeling lucky' button on Google and basically what it does is it randomizes the look and feel of the entire page. I've tried clicking this button and the results are surprisingly good.

For years, I've been using blogger to blog and recently I started using wordpress but comparing these two services to Sway, I have to give it to Microsoft because they have simplified the process of beautifying the page. Usually on blogger, the animations and page layout needs to be meticulously inserted with CSS. But with Sway, you can just drag and drop what you see fit and viola, similar results will appear. Overall, I'm quite happy with this new Office application from Microsoft and I can’t wait to play around with the other features which are currently labelled as 'coming soon'. Sway is built for mobility and the cross platform mobile apps means that this might just become the best way to blog on your phone. The success of this will heavily count on how Microsoft plans to push this new office application because the service itself is good. Sway will be available on iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Office Online, no exact date on when it'll be open to the public. In the meantime check out this Sway I created based on my Windows 10 impressions article.