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Microsoft Issues Broad Public Preview of Its Sway Office App

Microsoft is now offering its new Sway Office app as a general public preview.

Uses can sign up at Sway.com without having to join a wait list, Microsoft announced today. Sway, which is the company's newest addition to its Office suite, is an application that helps with content aggregation and design, allowing people to quickly create interactive documents that look like horizontally or vertically scrolling presentations.

Microsoft launched a limited preview of Sway in October but it has now opened up the preview to anyone. This newest release includes undo and redo buttons, bullets and numbering for text, the ability to more easily reorder sections and edit copy, and the ability to import PDF files.

Sway already has the capability of generating color palettes for use in Sway presentations based on the images that a user imports. Microsoft plans to add a new "curated" option that will expand those color palette options "in the next few days."

Smartphone support for Sway is now slowly expanding. Microsoft originally just released Sway for iPhones in New Zealand, but it has now expanded that trial to Australia. Eventually, Sway will be available for Android and Windows Phone devices, too.

The iPhone version of Sway can create content while offline and it can now add background images to titles and headers. iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus devices are now supported.

Microsoft had previously indicated that Sway for iPhone required having iOS 8 or higher operating system versions on the device. In addition, to create or edit content, a device needs to have a screen that's 600 pixels in width at minimum. In general, though, any up-to-date browser can be used to view Sway content. It just requires having a Microsoft Account.

In addition to the iPhone, Sway currently can be used on any PC, tablet or Mac computer with a "major browser." Those supported browsers include "Internet Explorer 10+, Firefox 17+, Chrome 23+, and Safari 6+ (Webkit 537+)," according to a Microsoft spokesperson.

Microsoft had set out to solve adaptive layout problems with Sway since content creators now face building for various device screen sizes. It created design algorithms that "express an intent," rather than present the user with a bunch of individual text formatting tools, according to Chris Pratley, partner director of engineering for the Sway team, who outlined Microsoft's Sway Philosophy.

Pratley noted that current "responsive design" principles used to make Web content fit on different screens may involve using rigid templates or writing custom code. Microsoft aimed to create algorithms with Sway that will let content "look good on any target device."

Microsoft hasn't clarified how Sway will be released as a product, or when. The company is aiming to improve it for release as another Office app included with its Office 365 subscriptions.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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