Are you a Microsoft Office user who’s interested in quickly creating a web-based presentation, interactive report, or personal portfolio? PowerPoint can be intimidating to learn and put to use, so consider using the lighter alternative, Microsoft Sway.

With Sway, you can create a presentation without design skills or creative experience. The application provides you with cards, or blocks, for a structured way to build your content. You can easily insert text, images, and videos, give your Sway an attractive appearance with subtle animations, and share it easily.

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Getting Started on Sway

Visit the Sway website and sign in with your Microsoft account. You then have a few different ways to create your Sway.

Ways to create a Sway

Create New: Start with a blank document where you add all sections and design elements.

Start From a Topic: Enter a search term and Sway creates an outline of sections for you.

Start From a Document: Upload a document such as an outline or article and Sway inserts your content into sections.

Start From a Template: Use one of the templates for a jump start on your project. Topics range with options for a newsletter, resume, portfolio, announcement, story, and business presentation.

After you pick one of these options, you’ll see two main areas on the top left for building your Sway: Storyline and Design.

Note: As you build your presentation, your Sway is saved automatically.

Create the Storyline

Select “Storyline” on the top left to build the sections, add the cards, and insert your content. This is a central point for building your Sway.

Storyline button on Sway

The card at the very top is your Title card and can include both text and an image background.

Title card with an image

To add the next card, click the plus sign at the bottom of the previous one. You’ll then see Suggested options, or you can pick Text, Media, or Group specifically.

Add a card options


When you select a Heading card and add your text, this appears large and highlighted in your Sway. As you can see in the screenshot below, Etymology and Taxonomy are headings.

Headings in a Sway

Note: This is a sample style; you can change the colors, font, and layout.

Headings are good ways to divide your Sway into sections. You can then include the cards you need below each heading.

Text Cards

Insert a text card to add paragraphs, bullet points, or a numbered list. Enter your text in the box and use the options in the toolbar to format it or add a link. On the right of the toolbar, use the boxes to set the emphasis and the trash can to remove the card.

Text card

Media Cards

You can insert an image, video, or audio file as well as embed 3D content or tweets or upload an item from your device.

Media cards

Each type of media has its own options. For example, you can include a caption for an image or record your own audio.

To add an image or video using a web search, click the spot in the card for the image or video to open the sidebar. Use the tabs or search at the top to locate the media. Then, select it and choose “Add” or drag the item onto the card.

Image search on Sway

Tip: Check the box at the top to look for Creative Commons images.

You can also use the emphasis options in the toolbar for media. Choose from subtle, moderate, or intense to display that item differently in your presentation.

For images, you can also use the Focus Points tool to zero in on a specific part of the image.

Image emphasis and Focus Points

Group Cards

You can group images in a handful of unique ways in Sway.

Group card options

  • Automatic: Let Sway decide the best layout.
  • Grid: Places images in a grid layout.
  • Comparison: Place two images side-by-side.
  • Stack: Place images in a pile you can click through.
  • Slideshow: Move through each image just like a slideshow using one of three views.

To change the layout after you add the images, select “Group Type” in the toolbar. Then, pick the new layout on the right side.

Change the Group Type with options

Design Your Sway

You can work on the design portion at any point in your Sway creation. Select “Design” on the top left next to Storyline.

Design button on Sway

Depending on the option you selected to create your Sway, you may see a default style. To choose a different one, click “Styles” on the top right.

You’ll then see the layouts for the entire Sway at the top. You can pick Vertical, Horizontal, or Slides depending on the direction you want your Sway to flow on the screen.

Layouts in the Styles sidebar

Next, you’ll see a collection of Styles you can pick from with different colors, shapes, and backgrounds. Use the arrows along the right to see all options within a style.

Styles on Sway

Once you pick a style, use the Customize button near the top to change the color inspiration or palette, font style, animation emphasis, and text size. Animations are what you see when the elements of your Sway appear on the screen.

Customization options for a style

One other option for designing your creation is to let Sway do it for you. Select “Remix!” at the top of the Styles sidebar to see what Sway comes up with for you.

Remix style option

You can undo any change you make easily by selecting the Undo button above the Styles sidebar. Plus, you have a Redo button if you change your mind.

Play, Share, or Tweak Your Sway

On the top right of the Sway screen, you’ll see a Play button. Select that to view the presentation as your audience will.

Select the icon in the bottom right corner of the Play view to jump to a particular section of your Sway. Then, click “Edit” to return to the Storyline and Design screens.

Navigation for a Sway during Play

Select the Share button to obtain a text or visual link to your Sway, share it on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, or get the embed code. You can also set the permissions for those viewing your presentation, require a password, or include Share buttons.

Share options for a Sway

To duplicate your Sway, save it as a template, print, or export your presentation, select the three dots on the top right and pick an option.

Sway options menu

You’ll also see Settings for This Sway in the above menu which allows you to choose a language, show direction buttons, adjust the view settings, and autoplay your Sway.

Sway settings

For an easy way to create an eye-catching, web-based presentation, check out Microsoft Sway.

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Profile Photo for Sandy Writtenhouse Sandy Writtenhouse
With her B.S. in Information Technology, Sandy worked for many years in the IT industry as a Project Manager, Department Manager, and PMO Lead. She learned how technology can enrich both professional and personal lives by using the right tools. And, she has shared those suggestions and how-tos on many websites over time. With thousands of articles under her belt, Sandy strives to help others use technology to their advantage.
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