Major Update to Office Sway Adds Focus Points, Interactive Charts and More

Posted on April 17, 2015 by Paul Thurrott in Office with 0 Comments

Office Sway received a major update today that adds image Focus Points, Accent highlighting, interactive charts, and easier document embeds to Microsoft’s cloud-based app for dynamic, interactive web apps. The iPhone version of Sway—currently the only native client—was updated as well.

Generally speaking, Microsoft’s Office group has been on a tear lately, releasing a steady stream of updates over the past several months. But I’m particularly interested to see how quickly the company is updating its new Office solutions, whether it’s new mobile apps like Outlook (which came from Accompli) or totally new products like Office Mixwhich was just updated with slide notes and closed captioning support—or Office Sway.

Microsoft last updated Office Sway two weeks ago, adding co-authoring support to the tool, something that should be huge in education especially. But this week’s update is even bigger, with a wide range of additions.

Here’s what’s new.

Image Focus Points. This interesting feature lets you tell Sway which part of a picture is the focus, helping Sway create the best layout for your image. This focus point is retained even when you “remix” a sway or manually change the layout, ensuring that what’s important is always viewable and not cropped out. Focus Points is such a big deal that Microsoft has even written an entire blog post just describing this feature.

Major Update to Office Sway Adds Focus Points, Interactive Charts and More

Accent. This other new Sway feature works a bit like image Focus Points except that it lets you highlight any part of a sway that you feel should be emphasized. (It works in tandem with a previous feature called Emphasis, which let you highlight important text.) Accent is a way to subtly differentiate an element in a sway from its surroundings. It only works with text right now, but will be expanded to other content types in the future.


Interactive charts. Now, you can create interactive charts right within Sway—previously, you could embed charts and graphs that were created in Excel Online—letting you add neat data visualization elements to your sways. Here’s a Microsoft example sway showing off this feature, but the important thing to remember is that these charts are interactive: you can design them so that the user can filter charts and change the view.


Easier document embeds. Microsoft previously made it possible to embed content from popular third-party sites using embed codes, and has expanded the list of compatible sites since then: you can do things like embed a OneDrive-hosted Word, Excel, PowerPoint or PDF document in a sway. The problem with this functionality is that it requires you to use embed codes, which is a bit technical. So now you can embed some content—Word, Excel, PowerPoint and PDF documents—in your sways more easily, by drag and dropping a document into Sway from OneDrive, or by uploading a document from your PC or Mac. (You can still embed the old way too, of course.)


Sway for iPhone 1.3. The Sway native app for iPhone was updated as well, to support Emphasis for text, bullets and numbering, support for video and more, an improved sign-in experience, better support for reading and editing using Apple’s VoiceOver accessibility feature, and bug fixes. You can find Sway for iPhone in the Apple App Store.


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