EXCLUSIVE: Interviews with Sway Creator Chris Pratley & Program Manager Nathan Freier

And just to make things interesting those interviews are actually in the form of a Sway below! Yeah, when someone said, "think outside the box." I asked, "What box?" If you're reading this in the Windows Central App, swipe right and view in the browser!

Power position

Without question, Microsoft's Office Suite is the industry's standard for productivity. This widely accepted reality couldn't have been made any clearer than when a Microsoft rep was called on stage during Apple's "Hey Siri" event on September 9th, 2015 to demo Office on the new iPad Pro. His arrival on stage was preceded with the acknowledgment by the Apple presenter,

"Microsoft knows productivity."

Redmond's Office Suite has maintained its dominance despite both Google's and Apple's attempts to usurp its reign with their own flavor of productivity portfolio. Its cross platform appeal and availability (with over 100 million downloads on iOS and Android) have made it the default productivity suite on every platform. Of course, Redmond must constantly outdo itself with refreshes to its suite to stay ahead of the competition.

All in the family

Consequently, last October Microsoft introduced Sway as a new addition to their Office family of products. Undoubtedly, any new product to Microsoft's Office Suite has a powerful legacy to live up to. Microsoft gladly accepts this challenge, having proven with OneNote (also created by Chris Pratley, the creator of Sway), that the company has what it takes to keep Office competitive.

So make no mistake, Sway is not an experiment nor a passing fad. Microsoft is dead serious about Sway. Chris Pratley puts it this way:

"We're on a path to see it (Sway) reach the ubiquity of the other Office products… We're essentially doubling our users every month at the moment. For the last few months, that's an incredible growth curve. In five years…. we'll have apps on every platform that people expect them on. We'll be used as much as Word or PowerPoint. That's what I'm hoping for in about that time frame." – Chris Pratley


So maybe you haven't heard much about Office Sway. Maybe you have yet to try it for yourself. Well, who better to introduce you to this revolutionary storytelling tool than two of the men behind the story.

I had the honor of speaking with General Manager of Microsoft's Sway team, Chris Pratley, and Sway Program Manager Nathan Freier, about Sway.

Both of these gentlemen were very generous in that they spent a total of nearly two hours sharing their passion about this product with me. Which I am now very excited to share with you. Quite appropriately, I've included the interviews in the form of a Sway.

Dive into the Sway below to learn from the horse's mouth, as they say, what Sway is, when it is appropriate to use, how it differs from other products, Sway's ambitious future and much, much more! Also, keep an eye out for fuller versions of these interviews. These men are a wealth of information!

"The magic that I think Sway brings is really empowering individuals who might not otherwise have the time or the design skills or the technical skills to create really engaging beautiful output, digital documents that live easily in the cloud. It empowers them to really produce these things really quickly and easily." - Nathan Freier, Sway Team Program Manager

12 Quick Interview Takeaways

  • A Windows Phone app may be next in line according to Chris Pratley! (before Android)
  • In the future, Sway may be able to detect the "tone" of your text and automatically provide design and colors for your Sway based on that tone!
  • Even more exciting, according to Sway creator Chris Pratley, one day Sway may be able to do research for you and automatically compose a brief summary of what it finds!
  • Hyper – documents may be on the way! (someday)
  • Sway users have been doubling every month for the past few months! Build it they will come!
  • Sway is hitting it big in education! From elementary school to post-secondary education Sway is revolutionizing the way students and teachers learn and share information!
  • Offline editing and more control over formatting? Yep. You asked, and it shall be given!
  • Chris Pratley's goal is that within five years, Sway will be used as much as Word and PowerPoint and that there will be Sway apps on every platform!
  • The initial goal for Sway was that it would "remix" the web. Sways are intended to be everywhere on the web!
  • Problem creating Sways in your mobile browser? That's by design! There is no phone web UI. Sway creation via mobile browsers was never meant to be supported (hence the poor experience). Presentation via the phone, however, is. Mobile apps are the solution for Sway creation on phones!
  • Searching for specific tweets and YouTube videos via Sway's search tool is difficult. Here's Chris Pratley's workaround: Place the exact URL for the tweet or YouTube video directly in the Sway search field and then add that to the Storyline!
  • Docs.com was created by Microsoft as a publishing platform for the Sways you create. Whereas Sway was designed as a document creation tool. Docs.com is a solution designed to help users promote their Sways. From independent authors to small businesses, to the regular Joe, Docs.com is your tool to promote your Sways!
  • Sway is the native editor for Docs.com. Docs.com (opens in new tab) will eventually have richer analytics so you can monitor how users are interacting with your Sways!

"We're on a path to see it (Sway) reach the ubiquity of the other Office products… We're essentially doubling our users every month at the moment. For the last few months, that's an incredible growth curve. In five years…. we'll have apps on every platform that people expect them on. We'll be used as much as Word or PowerPoint that's what I'm hoping for in about that time frame." – Chris Pratley

The main event

Talking "Sway" with Chris Pratley and Nathan Freier - Jason L Ward (opens in new tab)Jason Ward (opens in new tab)Docs.com (opens in new tab)

Don't miss Part I of this series:

Office Sway and Docs.com storytelling tools for the storytellers in each of us

Jason Ward

Jason L Ward is a columnist at Windows Central. He provides unique big picture analysis of the complex world of Microsoft. Jason takes the small clues and gives you an insightful big picture perspective through storytelling that you won't find *anywhere* else. Seriously, this dude thinks outside the box. Follow him on Twitter at @JLTechWord. He's doing the "write" thing!

  • Hey everyone follow this link to the Sway containing the interviews with Chris Pratley and Nathan Freier! Be sure to give it a share if you're so inclined. https://doc.co/MCMtxm
  • I'll read the article in the browser because it's best to do it there. But the Windows central website needs major help. Too dang slow
  • Scary picture
  • " Windows Phone app may be next "... "MAY"... Users MAY leave the platform after so many "MAY"s, "SOON"s, "WAITING"s...
  • I've been listening to that since wp7.
  • @GuilhermeManso:
    Which means there will not be a Sway app for Windows Phone at all.
    I expect Satya Nadella to close shop on Windows Phone/Mobile by the end of 2017 if they don't make any significant strides; and the designated "flagships" won't bring anything to the table in this regard...
  • @gullermeManso @rld082982 @WindowPhoneix He guy's I hear you. As a Windows and Sway fan trust me I want an app (as well as app parity across the board). I don't know if this will offer any consolation to you, I hear your frustration. But when speaking to Chris I pressed him on the order of the releases regarding WP before Android. One an Windows phone app is DEFINITELY coming according to Chris. So we can rest easy on that. And based on their current roadmap a Windows Phone app IS DEFINIETELY before the android app. The caveat that he expressed and that I communicated in the piece is a result of how MS regularly re evaluates its backlog. So, just in case something does change, he made sure to throw a caveat in the conversation. But I do have the advantage of having been able to hear both the toe and the words he conveyed. Unfortunately you all don't have the benefit of having heard the tone in which the info was conveyed. I'm sorry about that. But he was honest, amicable and very is passionate about Windows phone himself. He shared that he has a Windows Phone (1520) and wants Sway on Windows phone as well. He said that with a smile and a point of his own passion. Again I dong know if this offers any consolation at all, but it was at least a little more that I could share. Thanks for reading. :-)
  • Like the rest of Office2106, Sway will defintiely have a Windows Phone app. We just launched the "big Windows" Win10 app so can't do everything at once. We're still building the core functionality after all! Thanks for your passion!
  • Hey Chris thanks for jumping in. :-)
  • always "may" !!!!!!!!!!
  • l Love Sway!!!!! But... When I saw the post yesterday I kept my mouth shut. Now I see yet another post today. Really? I love the app but it's a joke I can't get it on Windows Phone. I'm. A mobile guy and I'm tired of iPhone and I hate google. This leads me to WP. The platform is stable and is awesome. The only drawback is lack of apps. This leads me to Sway. I can't get it on WP. Yes I know all the corporate BS and it's about money now and not long term customer service. I know because I work for a fortune 100 company and they have the same problem. Thanks to the field and customer service for the 100 rating or we would be in ruins. Long term is always best. Bottom line! So you want to tout Sway, well that is fine but let's not forget about your core base, WP users and all MS products. If you're going to squash us then just do away with the phone platform already. If not then give us the apps that will help us proclaim the MS gospel! At this rate when my company phone subscription is up next August I will be forced back to iphone. Ugh... Sometimes life is hateable!
  • Hi TCE64. Please see comment above that may offer some consolation. :-)
  • Our focus until recently has been on big Windows and desktop browser use because the current functionality suits that form factor better. But as Jason says, WP is on our minds!  Give the Win10 app a spin and see what happens!
  • Lol that cover photo reminds me of the video of that douche crying in bed and yelling at people to stop making fun of Brittany spears
  • I gotta see that. Link?
  • Anyone else think that guy looks like Biff from Back to the Future?
  • Hey McFly! Why don't you make like a tree and get outta here? :)
  •   Okay, I just recently downloaded Sway on WinCentral's recommendation...but now, seeing that Chris Pratley was at the help, diving in is a MUST! I was one of the early adopters of OneNote, and I read Chris' AMAZING blog on the tool daily! It's was so well-written and informative, that OneNote soon became the most important application on my computer -- and it still is! If you're reading this, Hello Chris, and thanks for all the work and energy your put into your products.      
  • Thanks! Very kind words. We're working hard to make Sway great and available everywhere.
  • So far Sway has crashed edge on my W10 mobile (Ok, that's easy to do) and IE11 on my work PC. 8^(
    For some reason, the style of the storytelling sway works much better in my browser than the one with Chris Pratley. The former has a nice horizontal scroll with next page buttons. The latter does not and does not work smoothly.
  • Sorry to hear that. I was able to view both on my Lumia 1520 (still on 8.1) without issue. We'll see if we can reproduce your crash. On the interview Sway, scrolling down didn't work?
  • Thanks for responding, Chris! I'll have to wait to get home to try sway on desktop again. The vertical scrolling did sort of work, just pretty unevenly and then it crashed the page. On Edge mobile, it sort of scrolls but seems to get bogged down as more elements slide in. Eventually it stops scrolling altogether. It would be great if the vertical scroll version had similar next page options to the horizontal one.
  • OK, it seems like the vertical version works just fine on desktop if you view it page by page. If I press the down arrow key, this is similar to pressing the right arrow key on the horizontal version or clicking the right arrow on the screen. The transitions flow much better than scrolling with the scrollbar or mouse scroll wheel. Maybe for the vertical version we could have a down arrow on the screen? That would be especially helpful for mobile. Also, just want to say that those embedded mini-sways are awesome!