Microsoft Sway vs. PowerPoint: What’s the Difference?

If you’re wondering when you’d want to use Sway instead of PowerPoint, read this.

Microsoft Sway is a presentation program that is a part of the Microsoft Office family of programs. You might be thinking, “Microsoft presentation program? Isn’t that what PowerPoint is for?” Sure, it is, but why limit yourself and your creativity to one program?

Many may say that Sway is the cooler and more modern version of PowerPoint, but Microsoft has designed these two products to fill two different niches. Despite the rumors that swirled when Sway was first announced, Sway is not a replacement for PowerPoint. Rather, it’s a more web-centric sidekick to PowerPoint that has a greater focus on collaboration, responsive design, and shareability.

Read on to find out how and why you might use Sway for your next presentation.

microsoft sway screenshot

Differences Between Sway and PowerPoint

One of the main differences between these two is that Sway is web-based and free to use, while PowerPoint is a licensed desktop product. Sway can be accessed from any web browser on any platform via, but there’s also a Sway app in the Microsoft Store. They look almost identical on a Windows 10 PC, except the web version can be used if you have a Mac or Linux computer, too.

When it comes to authoring your presentations, there are some pretty sharp differences between PowerPoint and Sway. While PowerPoint leans heavily on templates, clipart, and content you can pull in from other Microsoft Office programs, PowerPoint remains relatively freeform. You can do pretty much whatever you want in PowerPoint, making it the weapon of choice for meticulously branded presentations, where things like the font size and exact position of your logo matter.

Making a presentation with Sway, on the other hand, is a bit more like remixing content than composing it whole cloth. The design process in Sway is on rails—there are a few different layouts and themes you can choose. You customize them by adding your own content or content from the web and tweaking colors and imagery, but for the most part, you don’t have as much freedom to get down into the details as with PowerPoint. This makes putting together a visually successful presentation faster and easier—the tradeoff is that you are limited in how deeply you can customize the content.

Sway also has a better collaboration system than PowerPoint, as it allows more than one person to work on a presentation simultaneously. It’s easy to share a project in Sway and allow editing. Just press the share button and make sure you select edit next to where it says “Invite people to.”

invite people to a sway

Now, more than one person can edit the Sway Presentation simultaneously, making it easier to get things done.

Mobile View and Accessibility

One of the big benefits of Sway’s prefab designs is that they make your presentation responsive and accessible. That means that even if you make your presentation on a desktop, it’ll scale to be viewable on a mobile device or tablet. And because it’s web-based, you don’t need to have a licensed application installed on your computer to view it, as you would with PowerPoint.

Sway is also accessible in ways that pave the road for more products and companies to learn from. Many of us take the fact that we can see, touch, hear, and essentially do everything and anything easily on a computer, but that’s not the case for millions worldwide. Sway is taking a look at the bigger picture and opening the doors for more people to create share, and experience presentations.

  1. You can use the Accessibility View found in the options, which allows for assistive technology to access all the content on Sway.
  2. You can use the Accessibility Checker on your own projects in Sway to make sure it’s accessible to everyone.

Designing Presentations in Sway

When using Sway, you will notice that it is focused a lot on visual representations of what you are trying to get across. It’s in the name—you want to sway the people looking at what you’re presenting. The best way to do that is to have great images and images that have high resolutions. Adding images is easy as well—just hit the plus sign and select an image.

Choosing high-resolution images is important to making your Sway presentations look fantastic. To that end, Sway helps by providing an extensive library of Creative Commons-licensed stock photos. You can pull your own in as well, but make sure they are of sufficiently high quality and that you have the right to distribute them to a wide audience.

Layouts in Sway

When presenting with Sway, you have a choice of three types of layouts:

  • Vertical
  • Horizontal
  • Slideshow

To select your layout, open your Sway file and go to Styles in the top right corner.

It comes down to preference or what you’re presenting. If it’s a presentation in the style of PowerPoint, then you might want to use the Slide Show Option. The Horizontal one may work for this as well. The vertical layout is more like a webpage where you will scroll through the layout.

Bring Sway to Life with Colors

If you have ever struggled with matching colors and images in presentations, you can say goodbye to that frustration with Microsoft Sway. If you have an image you would like to have the entire design match, then in the Styles section Click Customize.

When the next window opens, you can select the image you would like to create some color pallets from. Sway will give you several color options to choose from just from that one image you select.

This allows for a more aesthetically pleasing presentation experience.

Sway Remix

You may notice in the styles section that there is a button that says Remix. Considering this isn’t a music program, you probably wonder what this little button will do if you click it. It will simply and incredibly randomize your layout and figure out a design for it. If you are not the most creative person or want to see some alternative design options, you can click on Remix and change your layout.

Don’t like the changes? No worries. You can click the undo button, which looks like a curved arrow, and it will revert to your original layout.

Sway is fairly new to the Microsoft Office family, so it’s not a widely used program, but it’s easy to get started with Sway and can be a great tool for team projects or presentations. Allowing accessibility for more people to view your projects.

Have you used Microsoft Sway before? Share your presentations in the comments below!



  1. Wayne

    March 9, 2018 at 12:14 pm

    Is Sway a part of MS Office or not? How does someone update their version of Sway? I don’t know if I have the current version of Sway, and I’ve been trying to update it, but it doesn’t update like any of the programs like MS Office.

  2. Maus Nelson

    October 3, 2019 at 4:02 pm

    You do know that there is a web-based version of powerpoint now, so multiple people can work on a powerpoint now.

  3. Ferris

    November 2, 2020 at 9:46 am

    Great article. thanks. I love Sway, so much better than PPT, it reminds of Publisher and Mix combined. Do you know if there is a clean way to upload PPT to Sway?
    Also, do you think I can use Sway instead of Wordpress for blogging?

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