Microsoft throws open doors to Sway beta

Large response to the new Web-based publishing tool led Microsoft to expand its test program

The beta test of Microsoft's newish Web-publishing app, Sway, is no longer by invitation-only: the company said today it's open to all.

Since Sway's October debut, more than 175,000 people have requested an invitation to the trial preview, with thousands more submitting requests daily, Microsoft said in a Monday blog post. This response contributed to the decision to expand the test program. Microsoft hopes an even larger base of users will provide it with more ideas for how to improve the application.

Unlike the traditional productivity tools in Microsoft office, Sway was designed for use on mobile devices and in Web browsers to publish web-based content. Its interface emphasizes dragging and dropping images and text into pre-formatted layouts. The application allows people to access content from Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, among other popular cloud-based services, as well as from their mobile devices, and add it to their projects. The software handles formatting aspects like pixel heights and adapting projects to display correctly on mobile devices and desktops.

Some of the improvements recently added to Sway include undo and redo functions, which Microsoft said was the most-requested feature, and the ability to add bullet points and numbering. Sway will review previous projects for workarounds to bullets, such as using an asterisk at the beginning of text, and change the asterisk to a bullet. Other functions include the ability to move entire sections of content and edit paragraphs after they've been added to a project.

In other Sway news, the software's iPhone app is now available in Australia after launching in New Zealand. Other English-speaking countries will be able to download the app soon, Microsoft said.

Fred O'Connor writes about IT careers and health IT for The IDG News Service. Follow Fred on Twitter at @fredjoconnor. Fred's e-mail address is fred_o'

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