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

Microsoft offers two popular presentation software tools – PowerPoint and Sway. While both can be used to create visually appealing presentations, they have some key differences in features and intended use cases. This article explains the similarities and differences between Sway and PowerPoint to help you determine which tool may be better suited for your needs.


PowerPoint, first released in 1987, is likely the most well-known presentation software globally. It allows users to create slide-based presentations that can include text, images, charts, animations, narrations, videos, and more.

Sway, introduced in 2015, offers an alternative approach to presentations. It uses an interactive, web-based canvas where you can add images, text, videos and other multimedia. Sway then automatically designs visually striking presentations optimized for any device.

So should you use Sway or PowerPoint for your next presentation? Below we’ll compare the features and capabilities of each to help you decide.

Key Similarities

As both tools come from Microsoft, Sway and PowerPoint share some common capabilities:

  • Ease of use – Both tools use an intuitive drag-and-drop interface to add and arrange content. No design experience is required.
  • Visual appeal – Presentations created in Sway and PowerPoint can incorporate multimedia elements like images, charts, and video to engage audiences.
  • Sharing and collaboration – Presentations can be easily shared, opened and edited by multiple people using Office 365.
  • Custom branding – Users can apply color themes and logos to match an organization’s branding.
  • Multiple export formats – Finished presentations can be exported as PDFs, videos, and more.

Key Differences

While Sway and PowerPoint overlap in some functionality, there are some important distinctions:

1. Creation Process

PowerPoint uses a slide-based metaphor for building presentations. Content is added slide-by-slide in a linear sequence.

Sway does not use slides. Instead, it allows users to add content in a free-flowing canvas. The positioning and layout is determined automatically by the app.

2. Level of Control

PowerPoint offers more precise user control during the design process. Users can meticulously arrange every element on each slide.

Sway emphasizes ease of use over control. It leverages AI to handle design details like positioning, spacing, and responsiveness. Users have less direct manipulation of layout.

3. Templates

PowerPoint offers a vast library of templates – over 100,000 available online. These provide pre-designed slide layouts and color schemes.

Sway has a relatively small set of templates. However, its smart design engine means less manual template customization is required.

4. Animation and Multimedia

PowerPoint includes sophisticated options for animations like transitions, motion paths, and triggers. This helps presentations come alive.

Sway focuses more on the seamless incorporation of multimedia like images, videos, and charts. The animation capabilities are relatively basic.

5. Presentation Delivery

PowerPoint is optimized for live, in-person presentations using a projector or connected monitor. Presenter mode displays notes and upcoming slides.

Sway is better suited for self-running presentations that will be shared online via a link. There is no dedicated presenter view.

6. Offline Access

PowerPoint desktop app allows presentations to be created without an internet connection. Files are accessed directly on a local hard drive.

Sway runs entirely in the cloud. An internet connection is always required to create, edit, or view Sway presentations.

7. Learning Curve

PowerPoint has a steeper learning curve, especially for creating advanced animations, triggers and transitions.

Sway is extremely user-friendly. The smart design engine means less manual customization is required for polished results.

8. Pricing and Availability

PowerPoint can be purchased outright or accessed via an Office 365 subscription. It is compatible with Windows and macOS.

Sway is available for free to anyone with a Microsoft account. It runs entirely in the web browser so works across platforms.

Which Should You Use?

So when should you use PowerPoint over Sway or vice versa?

If you need to present in-person using a projector, require offline access or want maximum control over your design, then PowerPoint is likely the better choice.

However, if you want to create a self-running interactive presentation to share online, don’t want to worry about manual layout decisions, or need a free tool, then Sway may be better suited.

Ultimately, assess whether precise control over animations and transitions or smart automatic layout is more important for your purposes when deciding between PowerPoint vs Sway.

Try Sway and PowerPoint Today

As you can see, both Sway and PowerPoint have their own strengths and applications. We recommend trying out both free online tools for yourself to get first-hand experience of the interfaces and capabilities as you make your decision.

To start with Sway, simply visit and sign in with your Microsoft account.

For PowerPoint, an Office 365 subscription provides full access via the web browser, as well as the ability to install the desktop app on your own devices.

Now that you understand the key similarities and differences, will you use Sway or PowerPoint for your next presentation project?