Veronica With Four Eyes

How To Create A Cookbook In Microsoft Office Sway

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 free 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 it’s by far my favorite Microsoft Office application. I have been able to use it for lots of interesting projects over the years, including a cookbook, a formula sheet, and several different class presentations- all of which have earned a 100%. Users will need a Microsoft account to create and edit Sways, but the Sway itself can be accessed from any device with or without a Microsoft account.

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Why I chose to use Sway

Here are some of the many reasons I love Sway, and why I chose to use it for a collaborative digital cookbook:


Sway can be accessed on any internet-enabled device, which includes tablets, phones, computers, and similar. There are many users who prefer to read information off of tablets or phones over their computer, which can all have varying display sizes. Sway scales to all display sizes, so users don’t have to worry about information running off the page.


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. Some users may feel more comfortable using a mobile screen reader such as TalkBack or VoiceOver instead of using their computer, and I wanted to use a program that would be compatible across various devices and accessibility settings.


If someone can click three buttons, they can create a Sway, and it doesn’t take a lot of time to turn a traditional worksheet into a digital Sway document. While some tasks may require more time than others, Microsoft Office Sway makes it easy to add information and create beautifully organized documents.


Users can add a variety of different types of content to their Sway that they would not be able to add to a traditional document, such as audio files. These additional content types can help to bring documents to life and allow users to include recordings and other helpful information.


While users will need to have a free Microsoft account to create a Sway, they can share the finished link with anyone regardless of if they have a Microsoft account or not. They also will not need to download any special software- a Sway can be accessed directly from the web browser just like any other website.

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Examples of recipe sources

Instead of being limited to a website or social media platform, a digital cookbook combines recipes from a variety of sources, including (but not limited to):

  • Social media posts
  • Handwritten cards/pages
  • Photos
  • Websites
  • Dictation
  • Emails or email lists
  • Manual input/typing

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 have a few options:

  • Click the print button on the webpage and instead of selecting a printer, select the option for “print to PDF”, which works on computers or mobile phones
  • Take a screenshot of a page and select the option to save it as a PDF, or add “.pdf” when saving the screenshot
  • Download the iOS Shortcut for “save website as PDF”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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How to create an outline in Microsoft Office Sway

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:

  1. Heading 1 textbox for the recipe name
  2. Heading 2 textbox for labels- I label ingredients and preparation instructions
  3. 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.

Add content

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.

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 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. I also back up my Sway presentation by downloading a copy of it as a Microsoft Word document or similar file format.

More tips for how to create a cookbook in Microsoft Office Sway

  • Microsoft Office Sway links are not public and cannot be searched for in a search engine, though users can add a Sway link to a webpage or email, and anyone who views the link can see the content.
  • I prefer to share a Sway link over a link to a OneNote notebook to reduce the risk of accidentally editing content, and because I can display Sway content on a larger screen more effectively than OneNote
  • Want to learn more about image descriptions for food? Check out  How To Write Alt Text And Image Descriptions For Food

How to create a collaborative and accessible digital cookbook and store recipes for free with Microsoft Office Sway