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Office Online: Clip-Art’s Worst-Kept Secret

November 9, 2007

A request to all seven of my readers (Hi, Mom!):

Stop using the clip art that comes loaded with MS Office when you make your presentations and newsletters. Three reasons:

  1. The default Office clip art is uniformly hideous.
  2. Everyone has already seen it. A lot.
  3. You will feel inexplicably compelled to include a screenbean in your layout. This must be avoided.

So, if you shouldn’t use the Clip Art in the Clip Art menu, what are you supposed to do? I’m glad I asked you that rhetorical question:

Microsoft Office Online’s Clip Art Section

It seems that between rounds of monopolizing the computer market, terrorizing users of open source software, and burning down orphanages, Microsoft found time to do something nice. Really nice.

Searching or browsing takes you into the collection. Office Online has a really intuitive interface that lets you scroll through pictures of thumbnails, and mark the ones you want to eventually download (these go into a “shopping cart” style list over in the left-hand sidebar). When you’re ready, click download, follow the instructions, and the clip art will be loaded automatically into your local gallery.

Office Online: Clip Art offers tens of thousands of free images for use in documents, presentations, and web pages. The index is searchable, browseable by category, and regularly updated to put themed collections on the front page (check out the harvest motif, just in time for American Thanksgiving).

One of my favorite features is style grouping. Click on a clip-art thumbnail to see a larger image, and if the item is part of a larger series, it will have a “style number.” Click that number, and the system shows you all the clip art in the series. This is a huge help for keeping a consistent theme through presentations.

And clip art is really just the tip of the Office Online iceberg. The site is packed with useful stuff for Office users. I’m not going to go into any of it now, though. I need material for next week, and I plan to milk this site for a dozen or so blog posts.

A note to Mac users: when you download the clipart file, you will probably have to add “.cil” to the end of the filename. Otherwise, the file won’t open in Office. Now, I don’t want to suggest that this is some Microsoft conspiracy to make Mac users’ lives slightly more difficult, but that is unquestionably the case.

And a note to all those fancy-pants Office 2007 users: Maybe I’m out of date, and the default clip art has been updated. You can tell me in the comments. I’m on a Mac though, so until we get Office 2007 sometime in 2013, I won’t be able to see for myself.

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One comment

  1. […] So, we all know by now that adding pictures to your presentations make concepts doubly likely to be remembered than text alone, right? (You didn’t know that? Check out Dr. John Medina’s Brain Rules–or at least Garr Reynold’s slide-based summary of three of those rules–before moving on.) Sure, you can use PowerPoint’s built-in clip art, but that doesn’t do much to help your visuals stand apart from everyone else–those stick figures are overused. […]



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