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Remember Microsoft’s clip art? Neither did I until this week, when Redmond announced that clip art gallery is going the way of Clippy.

Or, to put it another way: once upon a time, we were all…

…but now, anyone looking for classic clip art feels mostly…

To be fair, the clip art gallery you remember from days of yore is already long gone – in Office 2013, clip art was an online-only feature. If you’re like most people you didn’t notice, because you haven’t used clip art since Google Image Search 7 Vital Google Image Search Hacks 7 Vital Google Image Search Hacks Where do you go when you need to search for something? Probably Google. Where do you go when you need to find images? I’m guessing the same again. Google’s image search has been around for... Read More  launched in 2001, but for quite a while Office’s clip art feature was an embed of an online service.

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It’s that online service that is, as of this week, gone. In it’s place: a Bing Image Search, filtered to only show you Creative Commons images.

Why Clip Art Was Somewhat Good

It’s easy to make fun of Microsoft’s old image gallery. There’s a Tumblr page full of famous album and movie covers, re-created with clip art and it’s freaking hilarious.

Microsoft’s gallery had an aesthetic, to be sure, and it wasn’t high art. But these images, cheesy as they are, were also incredibly useful in their time. It wasn’t easy to quickly find images in the dial-up age, and an entire industry of CD-ROMs you could buy for $50+ tried to fill that niche. You could buy those, or you could stick with what you already had: Microsoft’s clip art.

There it was, inside the program you were already using. Sure, it wasn’t pretty, but you could quickly add a visual highlight to your document or presentation. Even better: everything was rights-cleared, meaning you could use it in your document or PowerPoint presentation without the fear of legal repercussions Confused About Copyright Law? These Online Resources Can Help Confused About Copyright Law? These Online Resources Can Help It's a confusing subject, yes, but it's important that you wrap your head around it. If you're involved in any sort of creative work, these resources will help you do just that. Read More .

In 2014 there’s a lot more choice out there – images you can use, free of charge 5 Easy Ways To Grab Free High Resolution Stock Images With Your Email 5 Easy Ways To Grab Free High Resolution Stock Images With Your Email Finding a great photo isn't that hard. Using that perfect photo can also come without sweat and cost. The five sources here ease your hunt because you simply subscribe to them with an email. Read More , without much legal worry. Even better: a lot of them look great. You just need to know where to look.

Microsoft’s new embedded search will help with this.

What Is Creative Commons?

It’s not hard to find images to use online – just use an image search. This works well, but it’s worth noting that doing so isn’t necessarily legal. Most of the images you can find this way are owned by their original creators. This likely doesn’t matter if you’re only using something for private use, or even a school assignment, but if you intend to publish a work you need to make sure all rights are cleared.

Which brings us to Creative Commons, the license Office’s new Bing-powered search filters for. My colleague Danny explained what Creative Commons is, and why you should use it What Is Creative Commons, And Should You Use It? What Is Creative Commons, And Should You Use It? Creative Commons is a set of licenses which automatically give you permission to do various things, such as reuse and distribute the content. Let's find out more about it and how to use it. Read More , but the quick version is that it’s a way for artists to tell the web their images are free to use.

So Microsoft took down the clip art gallery, but is arguably offering something even better: a constantly updated stream of rights-cleared images. You’ll find photos, which look a lot better than clip art ever did. It’s hard to see this as anything but an improvement, really.

Is there a potential downside? Yes. Just because a search engine sees something as Creative Commons doesn’t necessarily mean that it is. Here at MakeUseOf, for example, we’ve had at least one photographer threaten to sue us over an image he didn’t realize he himself licensed as Creative Content. He backed down when we pointed this out, and it’s one example resulting from thousands of blog posts spread over a decade, but know that this isn’t without risk.

I Don’t Like Bing, What Should I Use Instead?

Just because Bing is built into Office doesn’t mean it’s your only option.

My colleague Chris compared Google Image search to Bing Bing Images vs Google Images - Which Has Better Results? Bing Images vs Google Images - Which Has Better Results? Bing’s image search once challenged Google, offering more features and a better design. With infinite scrolling and the ability to search for similar images, Bing was legitimately better than Google at image search just a... Read More , and found Google’s results to be better. If you feel the same way, don’t worry: you can use it to find rights-cleared images. While searching for an image, click Search Tools then Usage Rights.

With this your results will be filtered, showing you images you can reuse.

Be careful: most Creative Commons images require attribution, meaning you need to give credit to the artist in order to use the image. Make sure you understand Creative Commons and other licenses 3 Popular Image Licenses You Need To Be Familiar With Before Using Someone's Photos 3 Popular Image Licenses You Need To Be Familiar With Before Using Someone's Photos Read More before using such images.

If you’d rather not make room for an attribution, there are other sites made up entirely of images you can use free of charge. My preferred choice is MorgueFile, a collection of high-quality photos you can use free of charge with no strings attached whatsoever.

Or, if you really prefer that “clip-art look”, you should check out OpenClipArt.org. It has the cheesy aesthetic you crave.

It’s a Christmas miracle!

RIP Clip Art

A lot of jokes have been cracked at clip art’s expense this week, but for many this was a useful feature of Office that will be missed.

We want to know: how do you feel? Was clip art useful, or not? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

Oh, and Mac users: Clip Art is still an offline feature in Office for Mac 2011, so you can still use it.

You won’t. But you can.

  1. Jane
    September 25, 2016 at 7:34 am

    Why is it that every time Microsoft make another edition of their software it makes it harder and harder to use. Seriously frustrated. Clipart was so darn useful. I was always ungrouping it to pull apart and use just some little images or to recolour to match my document / presentation. now I have to go and try and completely redraw things. This is a complete waste of time. Microsoft, you continue to be morons. Just once, I'd like to see an upgrade that actually added value and didn't make it harder for people to use. User UNfriendly. Seriously considering heading back to an earlier version of PowerPoint just so I can get that feature back.
    i wonder who Microsoft actually *does* consult when it decides to make these changes?

  2. Connie Lee
    May 1, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    I use clipart often and transport it into other programs such as Print Master to make cards. It was easy to make a few small changes in it and use what you redesigned. I hope you'll reconsider it's removal and put it back. Personally, I don't care for Bing's images. And I don't want to go out on the net to find other clipart when I'm in the process of getting a manuscript together. It's a waste of time.

  3. KATHLEEN TANGNEY
    February 21, 2015 at 6:15 am

    FOR PITY'S SAKE
    Keep It Simple S.......
    not everyone has the inclinatiion or the time or the patience to be messed around all the time......

  4. yekcal
    February 17, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    This pretty seriously ticks me off. Why in the world would a company delete something that far ranging without at least sending an email to the customer or broadcasting it on every platform possible? I used clip art on a regular basis....making cards, mailing labels, chore charts, papers for my homeschool, etc. It would have been nice to be able to save off all those clip art graphics to my own drive before MS Office did one of their lovely updates and removed everything. Personally, I detest Bing and I'm not even remotely interested in getting involved with anything involving copyright law. Maybe it's time to make the journey to Open Office at last. Buh bye Microsoft!

    • Justin Pot
      February 17, 2015 at 5:45 pm

      http://openclipart.org and you don't have to worry about the copyright issues. But yeah, I can understand you being upset.

  5. devary smart
    February 13, 2015 at 12:01 am

    search.creativecommons.org is a much better way to find free images because you can search by the "flavor" of creative commons you want to use. Not all CC licensing is just a matter of attribution. The owner has the right to allow only specific people under specific circumsntances and conditions to use their art. That's as it should be.

    As an artist I resent some people's assumption that original art from my abilities and imagination, which I have sacrificed a lot to develop, should somehow default to public property. If we require artists to participate in a money economy their art belongs to them. Copying images and not following the copyright owners permissions to the letter is stealing, outright. And deep pockets like Disney has taught individuals that the hard way.

    Teachers: if you copy it, you are PERSONALLY liable infringement. Know the Fair Use laws and understand the TEAACH act. Until we fund all artists as a social service, artists have to make a living in the same marketplace as everyone else. Don't exploit talent. Reward it.

  6. Heather Pelham
    February 2, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    Thank you for the tip about OpenClipArt and MorgueFile. We're a small library, with about ten minutes a week allocated to creation of publicity, and the attribution required with Bing images was wasting time and space. Plus, we kinda adore the clip art.

    • Justin Pot
      February 2, 2015 at 6:32 pm

      I'm so glad the links helped you guys! Keep up the good work, libraries are so important.

  7. Sandra Shill
    January 28, 2015 at 8:45 pm

    This is TERRIBLE! Besides being able to edit vector images like Will mentioned (which is important for those of us who don't have graphic artists available to create custom images or the budget or time to buy that service ad hoc), you could also search for style "families" (different graphics that were all in the same style). There was a huge range of files and styles in the collection and it was much faster to find what you need than to do a Bing search. Plus, you knew that everything there was free and free to use, without having to worry about CC license issues.

    This is seriously the worst work-related news I've heard in a long while....it will be a huge blow to my ability to find/make effective images for my future e-courses (or the existing ones that I have to maintain -- god forbid I need to find another image to match the style I've already used in one of them!).

    • Justin Pot
      January 29, 2015 at 1:10 am

      Writing this article is showing me just how many people depend on clip art for their jobs, I had no idea. I'm wondering if Microsoft didn't either...

  8. Will
    January 26, 2015 at 10:28 pm

    I'm seriously angry that Clipart is gone. Why? Because many of those cheesy images were available as Vector Graphics. So, I could quickly insert a crappy clipart into my powerpoints, ungroup the elements of it and delete all but what I wanted. I used it and it worked awesome for me multiple times. I wrote clipart off for years and only started doing this in the past 2 years...I wish I had known earlier.

    • Justin Pot
      January 26, 2015 at 11:19 pm

      I didn't realize you could do that! You can find lots of great vector images online, though, check out OpenClipArt and let us know if it works for you.

  9. Landryprof
    January 18, 2015 at 10:41 pm

    It was easy and quick in powerpoint, and as an elementary online teacher, I was using it constantly. Especially helpful because many times I need a cartoon-type image as an historical representation--I teach eras of history before photography existed. I guess my wee little finger has to make a few more clicks now...

    • Justin Pot
      January 19, 2015 at 2:27 pm

      Alas, it seems that's true. Sorry!

  10. Maureen
    January 13, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    Elementary technology teachers all over America are crying. My lessons will all have to be revamped....can't you think of the little people for once?

    MB

    • Justin Pot
      January 13, 2015 at 5:15 pm

      Don't cry! I don't think clip art will disappear from your existing document! So don't panic about that. As for finding clip art for future projects, have you looked into OpenClipArt? You'll find a lot over there.

  11. robh
    December 6, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    There are circumstances where clip art serves a purpose.
    I had a customer who explicitly requested crappy clip art images on his web site. His reasoning was that he wanted to project an image of "cheap and cheerful" like a market trader. A glossy high production values website would make visitors expect correspondingly high prices.
    And maybe there's some scope for home or small scale events: invitations, flyers, decorations.

    Actually I guess the title of the article is a bit misleading: clip art isn't "gone", it will appear in Google/Bing image search, what's (largely) gone is its inclusion in products like MS Office.

  12. Battlespeed
    December 5, 2014 at 11:59 pm

    Like most things, clip art is very useful in its own way. It's not clip art that's cheesy. It's your ignorant comments - with just that certain whiff of elitism - that are cheesy.

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