PowerPoint vs. Sway: What’s the difference?


Most people are familiar with Microsoft PowerPoint. It is one of the most popular and widely used slideshow apps. But Microsoft has another app for creating presentations called Sway. So how is Sway different from PowerPoint and which one should you use?

How PowerPoint and Sway are similar

Each of these Microsoft apps provides a workspace with tools to help you make presentations. They can meet both business and personal needs, provide you with features to make engaging presentations, and let you showcase your end 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 that’s about where the similarities end. When you look at the differences between PowerPoint and Sway, you can see that they are actually two very different applications.

They have different intentions

One important thing to keep in mind when comparing PowerPoint and Sway is that PowerPoint is a slideshow application while Sway is a presentation application.

In PowerPoint, you create slides and move through each slide to present your slideshow. PowerPoint is a real slide show software.

PowerPoint Slide Sorter View

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.

Part of a Sway Presentation

You access Sway primarily through the web

Microsoft PowerPoint is primarily a desktop application that you can install on Windows and Mac. It also offers a web version in the same way android, iPhones and iPads apps; however, these additional options are a bit limited in functionality compared to the desktop version.

Microsoft Sway is primarily a web application. You can download the free desktop app for use on Windows 10, but there is currently no desktop version for Mac. Also, you won’t find a Sway app for Android and the The iOS version was retired in 2018.

The interfaces are very different

The the user interfaces for PowerPoint and Sway are completely different. Although they both offer a view of your recent files on the main screen, the workspaces are nothing alike.

PowerPoint mimics other Microsoft Office applications with its tabs, ribbon, and canvas. You will find many different tools and can customize its appearance and options.

PowerPoint interface, Home tab

Sway, on the other hand, has a simple and above all intuitive interface. You will only see two main “tabs” which contain the tools you need to create and design your presentation.

Sway interface, Scenario tab

PowerPoint has more extensive features

With the different intents in mind, comparing PowerPoint features to Sway is kind of like comparing apples to oranges. For instance, PowerPoint lets you choose unique slide transitions as subtle (or more dramatic) ways to transition from one slide to the next. Since Sway isn’t limited to slides, this feature wouldn’t make sense. So, let’s take a look at what they each have to offer in their field.

RELATED: How to Create a Summary Zoom Slide in Microsoft PowerPoint

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 a full set of features beyond Sway.

PowerPoint Transitions Tab and Animation Pane

In Sway, you can add text, images, videos, audio files, and embedded content, just like PowerPoint. But a noticeable difference lies in the images function. When you insert images or photos into Sway, you can display them in a grid, as a comparison, in a stack, or as a slideshow for your audience to review.

When choosing a layout for your presentation, since Sway uses a webpage structure rather than a slideshow arrangement, you have several options. You can choose between a vertical, horizontal or slide layout depending on how you want your presentation to flow.

Although Sway doesn’t have as many features as PowerPoint, the ones it does offer are useful and smart. They focus on displaying an interactive continuous feed suitable for CVs, portfolios, newsletters and stories.

Building blocks in Sway

Sway has fewer collaboration tools

PowerPoint and Sway both have sharing and collaboration features with permissions to view and edit a presentation.

RELATED: How to Collaborate on a Microsoft PowerPoint 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 edits as you work on the slideshow together.

PowerPoint link settings for sharing

Sway offers a way to collaborate by adjusting “view and edit” permissions and optionally requiring a password when you share the link, just like PowerPoint. However, there is no comment function like PowerPoint to discuss changes together. In that sense, Sway is a bit more limited.

Sway Sharing Settings

They have different presentation channels

To present a show in PowerPoint, you do it from the application itself. You then control the progress of the slides. The intention is that you present your slideshow to your audience. However, PowerPoint offers tools to automatically broadcast the show on a kiosk or on a monitor in a waiting room or conference room.

RELATED: How to Record or Convert a PowerPoint Presentation to Video

If you want to share a completed presentation, you can save it as a video or GIF. Then email it or share it on social media.

PowerPoint Presenter View

With Sway, you don’t have to control the presentation. What’s displayed is an interactive page that your audience can navigate at their own pace. They can scroll up or down, click a link, watch a video, etc. You can use the Autoplay setting and have it loop continuously if you want. But your audience can still interact with the presentation.

You can share a link, embed the presentation on a website, or post its link to Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn right from Sway. Because it’s a self-guided web application, and it’s where your audience watches your presentation, on the web, Sway offers allow you to reach the audience even if they don’t have PowerPoint .

Sway sharing and integration options

Sway is always free

When it comes to the price of each app, there is a huge difference. PowerPoint is a paid application which is included in Microsoft 365 but can also be purchased alone. There is a free web version of PowerPointbut it is severely limited compared to the paid edition.

Microsoft PowerPoint Pricing

Sway is completely free. All you need is a Microsoft account (also free) to log into 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 essential

Do you have the option of using either app, but just don’t know which is best for you?

PowerPoint is a robust slideshow application that can provide businesses, charities, and educators with a complete and comprehensive tool for creating presentations. Due to these sound and robust features, the interface may take some getting used to, especially for beginners.

Sway is an easy-to-use app that can produce eye-catching interactive presentations. It is ideal for professional CVs, artistic portfolios, companies newsletters, announcements, educational materials and personal stories. Showcasing your Sway is as easy as sharing a link.

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