Administering Sway in the Office 365 Admin Center

With the release of Sway as I discussed in my earlier post today, Sway for Office 365 and What It Means for PowerPoint there is another application in Office 365 than now can be managed by tenant administrators.

For some organisations, they may want to stop users from using Sway or they may be happy for people to use Sway but don’t want anything authored in it to be shared outside of their organisation. To this end, we have some new administrative controls in the Office 365 Admin Center for managing Sway.

After logging in to the Office 365 Admin Center as a Global Administrator, expand the Service Settings node in the menu and then select the Sway option.

Office 365 Sway Admin

As you can see in the screenshot above, we don’t have many options right now but remember that Sway is a preview product and with more features destined for the product there I suspect will be more options for management over time also.

As of today, we have two management options. Firstly, we can completely disable Sway if we don’t want users to be able to access it. Changing this setting does not remove the Sway icon from the Office 365 App Launcher.

As you can see from the first screenshot below, when the Let people in your organisation use Sway option is disabled, users can still log in to Sway however if they try to access the My Sways menu or do anything, they will be shown the accounts are not yet supported error message.

The second option we have is to disable sharing outside of the organisation. When this option is selected, users will still be able to login to Sway and they will still be able to select the share with public option on their Sways however trying to access a Sway link as a user outside of the organisation, you will be shown an unauthorised access page as shown in the second image below.

Office 365 Sway Disabled  Office 365 Sway Unauthorised

Sway for Office 365 and What It Means for PowerPoint

This week, the newest product for Office 365, Sway has been made public and is rolling its way out to Office 365 Tenants around the world.

I first noticed Sway had appeared in my tenant last night although it could have been earlier. Users can access Sway from their Office 365 Apps with the green Sway icon as shown below and they can login using their normal Office 365 credentials.

Office 365 Apps with Sway

In addition to the web interface for Sway, there are currently Sway apps available for iOS and Android and in typical Microsoft fashion of late, not for Windows Phone, something that continues to frustrate me that Microsoft leave their own platform to last to get access to apps and features.

So What is Sway?

Well that is a good question and in reality, it is a bit of whatever you really want it to be. I think of Sway as a modern cross-over between OneNote and PowerPoint, allowing you to record and collate information from various sources such as images and text, social links to Twitter, Facebook or YouTube like you can use OneNote for casual note taking and collation of text and images however with Sway, it presents it in a beautiful reflowing format that makes your content look great across a multitude of devices and form factors including the ability to automatically reflow the content for the screen resolution and orientation for you. This is where I liken it to PowerPoint in the sense that it is designed to present and portray your content in a way that people will be drawn to it and want to read it or at least that is the intention with slide decks right?

Sway has been designed for a mobile and cloud first world such that you can not only view but also author a Sway using just your web browser making it ubiquitous across platforms. The mobile apps are there in order to enhance the experience and make it easier to author Sways from portable devices.

I haven’t really played with it myself much right now but I’ve watched a few videos on it over on Channel 9 and it certainly does produce nice aesthetically pleasing output but I think that the usual rule of garbage in, garbage out will still apply. Yes, if you provide Sway with garbage input it will make that garbage look nice but it will still be garbage. I think that Sways will be best suited to those who can make the most of a host of information be it text, images or multimedia from a range of sources because Sways consisting of just plain text won’t be very engaging.

The PowerPoint Replacement

What interests me with Sway is how it could potentially be used? We’ve all seen far too many dull PowerPoint decks that make us want to either play Candy Crush on our phones instead or simply roll over and sleep so I would be interested to see how in the real world, with real information to convey, Sway could be used as a replacement to PowerPoint to deliver an engaging presentation.

I tested this theory earlier today using my Logitech R400 slide clicker that I bought for driving PowerPoint decks hands-off and to my surprise, it works really well with Sway, advancing through the Sway as you would expect it to so Microsoft have done a great job of linking Sway controls to the mouse click events that the clickers commonly use for advancing and rewinding PowerPoint slides. If we could just bring some of the multi-authoring capabilities from Office to Sway so that multiple people in an organisation could work on a Sway together that for me would seal the deal.

What I would like to see though, to make this truly possible for a mass market is two things. Firstly, I think that there needs to be some kind of offline mode for Sway so that I can download a Sway that I have created into a single file package or a HTML5 local cache so that I can launch from my laptop without connectivity because we all know that when delivering customer or board room presentations, you can’t always be sure that there will be internet connectivity to access Sway online.

Secondly, there needs to be some kind of presentation mode in Sway.

Right now, we have an option in the toolbar at the top for Preview which puts the Sway into a chromeless view port and I can hit F11 in Internet Explorer to make that full screen which gives the impression of a presentation however there are a few problems I see with Preview mode like this today. For one, the Sway logo is shown in the upper left corner when you are at the start of the Sway which I don’t want to see on my slide decks along with the fact that the forward and back controls are permanently visible in the lower right corner. The biggest problem though is that most users won’t know that F11 is the full-screen view shortcut for Internet Explorer and Project Spartan or Microsoft Edge as we should call it doesn’t even have a proper full-screen mode right now and I definitely don’t want to see a presentation within the Internet Explorer or Microsoft Edge window.

I genuinely think that with the right introduction of multi-authoring tools and a fully fledged presentation mode, Sway could be the death of PowerPoint as we know it. I think Sway has a lot of potential and I really look forward to seeing what Microsoft do with it once it’s an official product and out of preview.

Windows 10 Build 10122

As we know, I’ve been running the Windows 10 Technical Previews on my daily driver laptop, a Dell Latitude E7440 provided by work since the first builds and there have been moments of greatness as well as moments of sadness.

The defining moment of sadness came with Build 10049 when the Cisco AnyConnect VPN client ceased to work due to stack changes Microsoft were making to the networking. It’s understandable that changes like this would occur but it was an inconvenience too. I resorted to enabling the Hyper-V role on my laptop and running a Windows 8.1 virtual machine so that I could get to my corporate resources.

I reached out to Cisco on Twitter at the time and they responded that they were aware of the issue and they were working with Microsoft on it. Fast forward to present time and I installed the update to move to Build 10122 last night at home after Windows Update prompted me that the update was available for download whilst in the office yesterday.

Cisco got back in touch with me last night with the following response.

The fact that Build 10122 allows VPN clients to function against is obviously positive news but I wasn’t going to build a-fresh with an unofficial .iso built from the .esd file download in part because I don’t want to have to reinstall and re-configure all my applications but also because there are threads circulating online that Windows 10 will fail to activate if it was built using an unofficial media.

You can probably therefore imagine my surprise when after doing the upgrade, I found that the Cisco AnyConnect client in fact was actually working and I responded to Cisco accordingly.

Given that their initial statement was that this would require a fresh install to work, I have no doubt that I could be in an edge case and that some people may still find this to be now working however I want to point out that I hacked or modified nothing to make this work. I didn’t previously have AnyConnect installed due to it not working so this was a clean install of the AnyConnect 3.1.05182 client package.

Although this post largely centres on my relief that VPN is now working, I am having an issue with Cortana right now where she doesn’t want to acknowledge the UK as a functioning region even though I have all the relevant language and speech packs for en-GB installed. Working from home today, when I connected my laptop to my Lenovo USB 3.0 Dock, I also found that ports on the dock weren’t detected the first time around. I had to connect and disconnect a couple of times before the Ethernet and DisplayPort connections for my screens were detected but it is all working okay now.

All in all, I’m pretty happy with Build 10122 thus far and it seems like we are slowly working towards a solid build for RTM. If only the same could be said for the current crop of Windows 10 Phone builds.

Cireson Announce Partner Only Channel Sales Model

This week, Cireson, the company best known for their System Center Service Manager extensions such as the Self-Service Portal have made an exciting announcement regarding their sales channels.

Historically, Cireson have offered customers both a direct and a partner channel for purchasing their products however this week, it has been announced that Cireson are moving to a partner only model to align themselves with the Microsoft global partner ecosystem.

For some, this may come as a bit of a disappointment if you have previously purchased products directly however working for a Cireson partner organisation as I do, I see this as a great thing for our customers as it allows us to really help customers ensure that they are making the most of their Cireson product purchases. If you are based in the UK or Ireland you have four partners available to assist you currently with Cireson products and services with Fordway Solutions, the company that I work as a Microsoft Consultant at being one of them.

If you are interested in Cireson products for System Center Service Manager such as the Self-Service Portal, Knowledge Base, Dashboards and more then please get in touch with us at Fordway and we’ll be sure to help you with your service management needs.

You can read the Cireson announcement at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/4/prweb12690930.htm and you can get in touch with Fordway Solutions regarding Cireson, System Center and more at http://fordway.com/contact-us.