Since Thanksgiving is coming up, my friends and I have been talking a lot about our favorite foods for the holiday and sharing how we make them. While it’s easy to text each other recipes, I decided to make things a bit more organized and create a digital cookbook using the free Microsoft Office Sway app so I could access recipes from anywhere. Today, I will be sharing how and why to create a digital cookbook in Microsoft Office Sway, with limited technology skills required.
What is Microsoft Office Sway?
Microsoft Office Sway is a web app that allows users to create their own simple webpages and presentations with text, images, widgets, file attachments, and more. It’s a great substitute for PowerPoint or handouts, and every presentation I’ve done with Sway has earned a 100%. The app is free to use but requires a free Microsoft account to use.
Why I chose to use Sway
There are three reasons why I decided to use Sway for creating a digital cookbook to share recipes with my friends over more traditional apps or file formats. I chose Sway because:
It can be used on any device
Sway can be accessed on any internet-enabled device, which includes tablets, phones, computers, and similar. Many people aren’t taking their computer into the kitchen and instead read information off of tablets or phones, which can all have varying display sizes. Sway scales to all display sizes, so we don’t have to worry about information running off the page.
It’s accessible with screen readers
Sway has this awesome feature called accessibility view which simplifies the display of the page so it can be used with screen reading and screen magnification technology. People with vision loss are not the only ones who can benefit from screen reading technology- in this case, having information read out loud can help people who might have their hands full or covered with flour.
It’s really easy to create
If someone can click three buttons, they can create a Sway. Since many of my friends don’t have strong technology skills or the patience to create complex documents, Sway seemed like the best option to create an organized document that wouldn’t take a lot of time.
Places to find recipes
There are several ways to find recipes to include in a digital cookbook, and different ways to insert them as well. Some sources include:
- Social media posts
- Handwritten cards
- Email lists
- Typing in text
Attaching file printouts
Microsoft Office Sway allows users to attach files such as Word documents and PDFs that can be read within the app. If users want to add a PDF printout of a website, they can do one of two things:
- Click the print button on the webpage and instead of selecting a printer, select the option for “print to Adobe PDF”
- Add the “webpage to PDF” Shortcut on your supported iOS 12 device
Adding recipes from screenshots
If someone wants to add a recipe to the digital cookbook that is a screenshot from a website or social media post, it is strongly recommended that they add alt text, also known as image description, to the image so that the text can be searched and read out loud for screen reader users. To do this, type out all of the text that is on the screenshot when inserting the image- more on that in a minute.
Using Microsoft Office Lens for scanning
Do you have handwritten recipe cards? Use the free Microsoft Office Lens mobile app to scan them and convert the handwritten text into typed text using OCR technology. It’s worth noting that OCR isn’t perfect and may require editing to fix grammatical and spelling issues, but it’s definitely a great tool for people who may not want to just take a picture.
Audio or video recipes
One of my friends asked me if it was possible to add a video or audio recording to Sway, and I was excited to tell them that yes, this is definitely an option! Just click on the “audio” or “video” option when inserting media and either copy and paste a link or upload the file.
First, create an outline
Before adding any content, I like to create an outline of my Sway so I can figure out how I want to format things. Here is how I format a recipe for my digital cookbook:
- Heading 1 textbox for the recipe name
- Heading 2 textbox for labels- I label ingredients and preparation instructions
- Normal textbox for adding list of ingredients and preparation instructions under their respective headings
For recipes that aren’t text, I just add Heading 1 that shows the recipe title so I can find it more easily and then insert whatever media I want after that.
After ensuring everything has a place, I start adding information into its respective text box. One of the benefits of Sway is that the fonts and font sizes will automatically change to whatever the presentation font is, so there is less weird formatting. Depending on the text, I might go back and re-number lists so I can ensure everything is in the correct order. I found that each recipe takes about three minutes to format, sometimes even less, which is helpful for people doing this at the last minute.
Choosing a layout
There are several different options for how a presentation can be displayed. For a digital cookbook, I would choose either a horizontal or slides layout that staggers how information is displayed. I would also choose a simple theme that I can read easily. If users want to use different fonts or change the font size, they can do this in advanced settings on the customization bar.
Sharing the Sway
Now that you’ve created the Sway, share it with people by sending them the unique link generated for your presentation. The owner can choose whether viewers can edit or just read the Sway- I decided to share it with my friends to edit at first so we could all add content, and then reset the sharing settings so the it could only be viewed after we had all finished adding content. Sharing a Sway is as simple as copy and pasting a web link. Since I like to be overly cautious, I also back up my Sway presentation by creating a document with all of the text, links, and images on my computer, but this isn’t necessary.
I had a lot of fun developing this post and seeing all of the fun recipes my friends make each year, and having all of these recipes in an easily accessible format. I highly recommend trying this and learning how to create a digital cookbook using Microsoft Office Sway.