Microsoft Sway is a free Collaboration tool
Sometimes I get a vague but great idea that I want to get it out of my head and share with others, even when it is not fully mature. The best way to share and collaborate is through a combination of text, image or video, in the form of a storyboard.
It isn’t that easy — without expensive software.
Afterall, you can’t be Productive without being an effective collaborator.
PowerPoint presentations are passé these days. They also cost money. Plus, exchanging them over emails, and merging multiple versions is a problem.
A free Product that helps me to easily create share and collaborate on a storyboard that can be shared and collaborated — was on my wishlist for long.
Recently when I was checking out my free Microsoft Online account, I was intrigued by an App called “Sway”. I had never noticed it earlier. It appears that it has been around since 2015.
Note that to use “Sway” you need to register for a free Microsoft Online account. If you have a Hotmail or outlook account, you can simply log in using your account.
As I started playing around and learning Sway, I felt dazzled. My problem of being able to create and share a great storyboard got solved instantly.
I was curious to check it out in detail. I clicked on the “Sway” Icon it led me to a page as below. You can also directly click here.
It allowed me to Create a New Sway. Soon I realized that Sway is just a free form Canvas that allowed me to create a Storyline, horizontally or vertically. The Storyline could be a combination of Text cards, audio, video, images or whatever.
Who can use Sway?
If you are a writer, you can piece your content together and rearrange them as you need. If you are a designer or architect, or a movie director or a student or anyone who needs to express, share and collaborate on your ideas, this is a great tool. You can even create a résumé and share it through Sway.
It is cloud-based. So all you need is only a browser to use it.
If you are interested in storyboarding your ideas and sharing it with others, even better allowing them to edit, Sway is the way to go.
In an Agile Word, where getting out and sharing your ideas quickly is key to success, this tool is a game changer. What keeps it even simpler is that it allows you to share it as a URL, so that others can simply view your site from any browser. They don’t even need Sway.
You can pull your content locally from your devices or from internet sources such as Bing, Facebook, OneDrive, YouTube or Twitter. There are ready-made templates that you can get started out of, or you can even start with some of your own documents as the (starter?) content.
How to use Sway?
It is simple. Click on Create a New Sway (or you can use dozens of existing templates). There are 2 tabs “Storyline” and “Design”. By default, you land on the “Storyline” tab.
Your storyline is a collection of cards. In this tab, you can create as many cards, and as many types of cards. They can be text, image, video or audio, or a combination. Each card can be edited and customized.
They can also be sorted and rearranged the way you want at any time. Drag and drop are all it takes to rearrange the cards.
Each card can also be formatted the way you like with standard formatting features like Emphasize (Bold), Accent (Italic), Bulleted list, and links.
You can also add images from Microsoft repositories like Sway, Office, your computer, or external sources like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.
Let us say you are done with the design, with a few cards.
Now you click on the Design Tab.
Now that you have done the hard part of putting your content together, you can try various Styles (Horizontal, Vertical, Slides formats – whichever way you like), custom colors and typography. You can click on the Design Tab. You get the screen as below.
Your storyboard appears on the Design Tab. You can click on the Styles link. (Right-hand top of the screen above)
On the right-hand side you see the Styles you can apply to your presentation. These are pre-designed and readily available. These let you change the complete look (font, color, background, horizontal or vertical or slides format) of your storyboard.
Do You see a button link called Remix on the screen above (within the Right-hand side square that I have highlighted)? It is a nifty tool. Yes. That is the Artificial Intelligence Engine of Microsoft to help improve your design.
If you click that button Microsoft AI helps to change the complete style of your storyline in ways you can’t imagine. Keep pressing it, you see many different styles. You can choose something you like when you get it.
If you like none, you can choose a template from the design tab.
How to share my Sway?
Before you share your storyboard can click on the play button (screenshot below) to see how your storyboard looks like. Then you can return to Editing Mode if you like to make changes.
Then you can click on share link at the top of the screen. That lets you share your sway through email, or visual link on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter or Linked In. See screenshot above.
You can share the Sway in view only mode if you want your team to view but not Edit. Or You can choose to make it editable so that your team can make changes to your Sway.
Note, however, that the Sway you create lives on the Microsoft Cloud. You can’t transplant it to your blog or wherever. You can only provide a link to this Sway in your blog.
If that is not a serious problem for you, you can plunge right in and take advantage of it.
There are oodles of videos and Tutorials on Sway. Most videos and tutorials are from Microsoft themselves. Just search. However, I found this video to be hyper-useful in understanding Sway. Check it out.
I hope you found this post useful. Let me know what collaboration tools you use to create and share storyboards.