Microsoft's latest addition to the Office family, a presentation app called Sway, is now available for anyone to test drive.
Microsoft launched the new presentation app as a preview this October. It complements OneNote's ability to organise ideas but emphasizes presentation and sharing a finished product via the web or mobile devices.
As part of the announcement that the Sway preview is now available to all users and not just those with invites, Microsoft also released some data on the app's usage over the last two months.
"It's been only 10 weeks since we kicked off Sway Preview, and we've already had over one million unique visitors to Sway.com and over 175,000 requests to join, and those numbers grow by thousands daily," Microsoft said on its Office blog.
Some of the presentations that have been created with Sway include a discussion about technology in education by a teacher in New Zealand (where Sway has been released as an iOS app); an author's preview of a new book; and an account of a backpacking trip.
As well as adding more users, Microsoft announced this week it has filled in some gaps in Sway's functionality. Recent improvements to the app include the integration of Bing Image Search and Suggested searches.
Some of the feature updates for Sway.com are the result of user feedback, including the Undo and Redo buttons, bullets and numbering, editing paragraphs of text from the canvas, and an easier way to reorder sections of a Sway document.
Other updates include the ability to import PDF files directly to Sway and a broad array of colour palettes.
"So we're rolling out improvements to our color palette algorithms to help you better personalize your Sway. In the next few days, you'll start to see a lot more color palette options when you choose the Curated option. Or, if you pick an image as inspiration for your color set, you may receive an additional choice with a more dramatic impact on your Sway's overall look and feel," Microsoft said.
Sway is one of the apps that CEO Satya Nadella believes illustrates the next phase for productivity - one that offers users flexible layout options as well as the capacity to format photos, text, and video from the web in a presentation.
Users' Sway files are stored in Microsoft's Azure cloud while photos used in presentations can be stored in Microsoft's OneDrive storage app. As ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley noted recently, Sway is currently more of a consumer app than business tool, since it's not yet integrated with OneDrive for Business, SharePoint, and Office Graph. Of course, that may change in future with Microsoft looking for users to influence Sway's direction as it develops the product.
Sway for Apple
Microsoft also announced more news on the Sway Preview app for iOS.
New Zealanders have had access to the Office Sway for iOS preview since the end of October, and now Microsoft has opened up the preview to Australian users too.
Those interested in using the Sway iOS app can visit sway.com and sign up with a Microsoft account. Microsoft is also working on native apps for Android and Windows Phone, set for release in the coming months.
As well as broadening the app's user base, Microsoft has added new features to the iOS app, including offline support, adding background images for titles and section headers, and an updated design to support Apple's larger iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
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