Sway - privacy and offline concerns

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We’ve been writing Office-Watch.com for almost 20 years and still our readers manage to surprise us.

All our readers Sway questions are about using it offline and privacy of data in Sway presentations.  The number and nature of the questions was unexpected.

They are good questions and not just because both issues are things that Microsoft considers ‘second rank’ matters.  Microsoft will talk about privacy, but the public release of Sway shows that customer confidentiality isn’t considered much when a new product is being created.  Data privacy should be ‘baked in’ from the start of development, not an afterthought.


There’s no password protection or encryption in Sway.  Your presentations are all stored online without any customer created blocks on access.

If your Microsoft account is compromised, anyone can open Sway presentations and read the content.  As several readers have pointed out, that can include proprietary or confidential information for businesses.

Anything saved on Microsoft’s online storage can be viewed and used by Microsoft staff without notice to you.  Microsoft’s terms of use explicitly allow for that and Microsoft has used that power in the past (and maybe more that we don’t know of).

As we all now know, anything saved online can be accessed by government agencies.  At the very least, the US government gets the so-called ‘metadata’ about who accessed the Sway, when and where


The workaround for the lack of online privacy is to take the Sway presentation offline.   You’ve always been able to do that with Word, Excel or PowerPoint documents.

That’s possible with Sway but its not obvious, clumsy and incomplete.  Even an offline Sway is just a temporary copy of the online presentation.

The Sway app for Windows 10 lets you open a Sway then edit or view it online.  There’s no ‘take offline’ or ‘Save As’ to a local folder option.

To keep a Sway offline.  Open a Sway in the Windows 10 app then take the computer offline while leaving the Sway app open.  The offline Sway is editable to a limited extent.  We tried restarting the Sway app and then the previously open Sway was available, but only for viewing.  Eventually the Sway app will insist on logging into Microsoft’s server.

So, if you want to use a single Sway presentation offline.  Open it in a Sway app and keep it open on the computer for as long as you might need it.

Sway doesn’t let you fully keep a presentation offline.  The same ability we have with PowerPoint decks.  Ideally there’d be a .sway or .swy file that contains all the Sway presentation in one file.

An offline Sway won’t be able to link with online content if there’s no internet connection.  That’s no different to Excel or PowerPoint documents that have external links to data or content.

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