Most people know of Microsoft PowerPoint. It’s one of the most popular and widely used slideshow applications. But Microsoft has another application for creating presentations called Sway. So how is Sway different from PowerPoint, and which should you use?
How PowerPoint and Sway Are Similar
Each of these Microsoft applications provide a workspace with tools for you to make presentations. They can both accommodate business and personal purposes, provide you with features for making attractive presentations, and let you present your final product without leaving the app.
You can customize the text, add images and videos, and view your presentation as it progresses through the creation process.
But this is pretty much where the similarities end. When you look at the differences between PowerPoint and Sway you can see how they’re in fact two very different apps.
An important thing to keep in mind when comparing PowerPoint and Sway is that PowerPoint is a slideshow application whereas Sway is a presentation application.
In PowerPoint, you build slides and move through each slide in order to present your show. PowerPoint is true slideshow software.
In Sway, you have one continuous “page,” so to speak. Although you use building blocks (cards) to create the presentation, it appears as one flowing piece when complete.
Microsoft PowerPoint is primarily a desktop application that you can install on Windows and Mac. It also offers a web version along with Android, iPhone, and iPad apps; however, these additional options are a bit limited in features compared to the desktop version.
Microsoft Sway is primarily a web-based application. You can download the free desktop application to use on Windows 10, but there is not currently a desktop version for Mac. Additionally, you won’t find a Sway app for Android and the iOS version was retired in 2018.
The Interfaces Are Very Different
PowerPoint mimics the other Microsoft Office applications with its tabs, ribbon, and work area. You’ll find many different tools and can customize its appearance and options.
Sway, on the other hand, has a straightforward and mostly intuitive interface. You’ll see only two main “tabs” that contain the tools you need to build and design your presentation.
PowerPoint Has More Extensive Features
With the differing intents in mind, comparing the features of PowerPoint versus Sway is, in a way, like comparing apples to oranges. For instance, PowerPoint lets you choose unique slide transitions as subtle (or more dramatic) ways to move from one slide to the next. Because Sway isn’t limited to slides, this feature wouldn’t make sense. So instead, let’s look at what they each have to offer in their realm.
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In PowerPoint, you can add slide transitions, use text and image animations, and include charts and tables. You can create a summary slide, present a screen recording, add narration, and include a live camera feed. There’s no doubt that PowerPoint offers an extensive feature set beyond Sway.
In Sway, you can add text, images, videos, audio files, and embedded content, just like PowerPoint. But a notable difference is in the images function. When you insert pictures or photos in Sway, you can display them in a grid, as a comparison, in a stack, or as a slideshow for your audience to control.
When choosing a layout for your presentation, because Sway uses a web page structure rather than a slideshow arrangement, you have multiple options. You can choose between a vertical, horizontal, or slide layout depending on how you want your presentation to flow.
Although Sway may not have as many features as PowerPoint, the ones it does offer are useful and smart. They focus on displaying an interactive continuous flow suitable for resumes, portfolios, newsletters, and stories.
Sway Has Fewer Collaboration Tools
Both PowerPoint and Sway have sharing and collaboration features with permissions for viewing and editing a presentation.
In PowerPoint, you can share a link to the presentation file that your recipient can open with PowerPoint for the web to collaborate. You can use comments and resolve changes as you work on the slideshow together.
Sway offers a way to collaborate by adjusting the “view and edit” permissions, and optionally requiring a password when you share the link, just like PowerPoint. However, there is not a commenting feature like PowerPoint to talk through changes together. In that sense, Sway is a bit more limited.
They Have Different Channels for Presentation
To present a show in PowerPoint, you do so from the application itself. You then control the advancement of the slides. The intent is for you to present your slideshow to your audience. However, PowerPoint offers tools for automatically playing the show at a kiosk or on a monitor in a waiting room or conference room.
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If you want to share a completed presentation, you can save it as a video or GIF. Then, send it via email or share it on social media.
With Sway, you don’t have to control the presentation. What displays is an interactive page that your audience can go through at their own pace. They can move up or down, click a link, watch a video, and more. You can use the Autoplay setting and have it continuously loop if you like. But your audience can still interact with the presentation.
You can share a link, embed the presentation on a website, or post its link on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn directly from Sway. Because it’s a self-guided, web-based application—and that’s where your audience watches your presentation, on the web—Sway offers lets you reach audiences even if they don’t have PowerPoint.
When it comes to the price tag for each application, there’s a huge difference. PowerPoint is a paid application that’s included in Microsoft 365 but can also be purchased alone. There is a free web version of PowerPoint, but it’s severely limited in comparison to the paid edition.
Sway is a completely free application. All you need is a Microsoft account (also free) to sign in on the Sway website. The fact that Sway is free makes it an attractive and more available option for anyone who wants to create a presentation.
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The Bottom Line
Do you have the option to use either application but are simply unsure which is the best for you?
PowerPoint is a robust slideshow application that can provide businesses, charitable organizations, and educators an extensive, full-featured tool for creating presentations. Because of these healthy and hardy features, the interface may take some getting used to, especially for beginners.
Sway is an easy-to-use application that can produce eye-catching, interactive presentations. It’s ideal for professional resumes, artistic portfolios, company newsletters, announcements, teaching materials, and personal stories. Presenting your Sway is as simple as sharing a link.
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