Microsoft has spent decades as both a hardware and software juggernaut. And when you look at their products, it’s not hard to see why – nearly every PC user on Earth has used Microsoft Office or Microsoft 365 at some point.
And although we tend to think of Office as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, there are actually a lot more programs out there.
With Sway, you can create anything from newsletters and resumes to portfolios and blogs. You can start from scratch if you have a specific design in mind, or you can upload images, documents, and YouTube videos, and Sway will design something for you around that.
Additionally, Microsoft Sway is hosted entirely online, making it easy to access and share your finished work anywhere with an internet connection.
How to use Microsoft Sway
To get started on Microsoft Sway, you need to choose one of three options from the application:
“Create New” will enable you to create a Sway project from scratch.
“Start from a topic” will let you search specific topics and create an outline for your presentation based on that topic.
“Start from a document” will prompt you to upload a document, which Sway will adapt into a presentation draft.
You can also click on one of the available templates for an instant outline.
There are two main components to Sway’s interface: the Storyline tab and the Design tab. The Storyline is your dashboard for organizing the presentation’s content, while the Design is where you’ll see how the presentation actually looks. To put it more simply, you create the presentation in the Storyline tab, and people who view it will see the Design tab.
If you’ve ever created a blog using WordPress, that’s a good reference point for how Sway’s Storyline works. The Storyline breaks up individual paragraphs, images, and videos into “cards” so that they’re easy to keep organized, move around, and tell the story you’re trying to communicate with your presentation. As you move items around on your Storyline, the Design tab will reflect those changes.
Once you’re ready to share your Sway, click the “Play” button in the upper-right corner to see how it looks, then click “Share” to send the finished Sway to whoever you want.
As with most creative endeavors, the easiest way to start putting together amazing Sways is to play around with it and see what works best for what you’re trying to do.
No matter what your content, you can make a more compelling presentation when you’ve toned some common presentation skills and also mastered some of PowerPoint’s lesser-known features.
How to make a better PowerPoint presentation
Here are nine ways to get more out of PowerPoint and create a killer presentation.
Start your presentation instantly
Few things look as unprofessional as fumbling around trying to start your presentation in the PowerPoint app. But you can skip all that by setting your presentation to start instantly.
1. When your PowerPoint deck is complete, click “File” and “Save As.”
2. In the Save As dialog box, change the “Save as” type to “PowerPoint Show” and store it somewhere easy to find, like your desktop.
3. When you’re ready to start the presentation, double-click this icon, and the deck will launch instantly in presentation mode, without needing to open the PowerPoint application.
Create an animated chart
You can format any kind of chart so each segment animates individually. This can help you call attention to specific parts of the chart as you discuss it. Add a chart in the usual way, then:
1. Click the “Animations” tab in the ribbon and then click “Animation Pane.”
2. In the ribbon, click “Add Animation.”
3. Choose the kind of animation you want to apply to the chart.
4. Right-click the effect in the Animation Pane and then, in the menu, choose “Effect Options.”
5. In the Properties box, choose the “Chart Animation” tab and then change “Group chart” to “By Category” and click “OK.”
Align your graphics
PowerPoint lets you add objects – shapes, lines, arrows, text boxes, and other elements – to the screen, but getting them aligned can be tricky. You might appreciate knowing you can perfectly align any elements on the screen with just a couple of clicks.
1. Press and hold the Shift key.
2. While continuing to hold Shift, click each item on the screen that you want to align. If you click an element by accident, click it again to de-select it. Release the Shift key when they’re all selected.
3. Click the “Home” tab in the ribbon.
4. In the ribbon, click “Arrange” and then, in the “Position Objects” section, choose an alignment to arrange or distribute the objects neatly on the screen.
Embed your fonts for portability
If you’re using special fonts in your presentation and you try to open the deck on a computer that doesn’t have those fonts installed, PowerPoint will substitute a local font, sometimes with disastrous results. You can avoid that problem by embedding the font in the deck, making the presentation fully portable (and possible for other people to share and edit the deck as well).
1. Click the “File” tab in the ribbon and then choose “Options.”
2. In the PowerPoint Options dialog box, choose “Save” in the navigation pane on the left.
3. In the section called “Preserve fidelity when sharing this presentation,” click “Embed fonts in the file” and then select “Embed all characters.”
Blank the screen to keep all eyes on you
It seems inevitable: For whatever reason, you find yourself needing to discuss a topic that’s not directly related to the slide on the screen. That’s when the deck can become a distraction, with your audience’s eyes focused on a pie chart when you’re answering an unrelated question. PowerPoint has an easy solution: Press the B key to blank the screen – it’ll turn black until you press B again or move to the next slide. If you prefer, press W to turn the screen white.
Easily jump between sections of your deck
Not every presentation is linear, and you might prefer to jump back and forth from sections of your deck to a common “table of contents,” so you can tackle the presentation in any order. This can be handy, for example, if you’re using a deck for training or education. PowerPoint’s Zoom feature is ideal for this.
1. Create a presentation and be sure to organize it into sections, ideally with title slides dividing each part of the deck.
2. Click the “Insert” tab in the ribbon.
3. Click “Zoom” and then click “Summary Zoom.”
4. In the “Insert Summary Zoom” window, select the title slide or start of each section and then click “Insert.”
PowerPoint will add a summary page to your deck. Now you can start your presentation here and click a section to go there. When that section is complete, PowerPoint will return you to the summary page.
Preserve the presentation as a PDF
If you want to share your presentation with your audience, a PDF file is an easy way to preserve the formatting, make it easily printable, and prevent anyone from modifying your content. Just click the “File” tab in the ribbon, choose “Save As,” and then select “PDF” as the “Save as” type. You can now share this PDF file quickly and easily.
Zoom in for a closer look
During a presentation, you might realize that the audience can’t clearly see a detail you want to focus on. That’s ok – PowerPoint lets you zoom in with a couple clicks.
First, make sure your presentation is set to Slide Show view. To zoom in, click on the magnifying glass in the lower-left corner of the presenter view. You’ll see a zoom box appear – position it where you want to zoom, and click. Now the presentation will be zoomed in on the part of the screen you want to focus on. You can even click and drag to move around the screen while zoomed in.
When you’re done and want to zoom back out, either press the Escape key or the magnifying glass icon again.
Add a musical soundtrack
You can easily add a musical score that plays in the background across all your slides. This is especially handy for “kiosk” presentations that run autonomously.
1. Go to the slide where you want the music to begin and then click the “Insert” tab in the ribbon.
2. Click “Audio” and then click “Audio on my PC…”
3. Choose the track you want to play.
4. In the ribbon, click “Play in Background.”
Now, when you reach this slide, the music will start to play automatically and it will continue playing across slides until the track is over, then loop and play again.