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Microsoft Says Goodbye To Clip Art

Microsoft's Clip Art has come to an end.
Microsoft Office
Microsoft's Clip Art has come to an end.

Microsoft Office announced Tuesday that it's moving on from Clip Art, the image service that proved oh-so-popular in many a school paper and work presentation for years:

"The Office.com Clip Art and image library has closed shop. Customers can still add images to their documents, presentations, and other files that they have saved to their devices (phones, tablets, and PCs), OneDrive, and SharePoint."

Theage.com says over the years, Clip Art grew into an expansive library, from "only 82 illustrations built into Word 6.0 in 1996 ... to more than 100,000 static and moving images housed online."

Microsoft will now send Office customers to its Bing search engine for images that are cleared through the Creative Commons licensing system. A Microsoft spokesperson said this move won't be a big change for most users, as Microsoft, for years, has been using an online Clip Art database:

"The change will only impact scenarios where a user searches to insert new art into their work. The experience will be the same as it is today, except that the images being searched and pulled for the user will not come from Office.com Clip Art, but rather from Bing Images filtered for Creative Commons licensing."

But it's still a big moment for anyone who for years relied on Clip Art's ubiquitous, if sometimes rudimentary artwork.

NPR spoke with one of Clip Art's most prolific artists, Cathy Belleville.

"I grew up my whole life knowing that I wanted to be an artist," she said. "And then my senior year of college it kind of hit me... oh, my God, I have to get a job."

Belleville started working on PowerPoint for Microsoft. But in 1995, she left the company and came up with the idea for "Screen Beans," a series of simple, black stick figure guys wearing hats. You've probably seen the guy jumping in the air clicking his heels in celebration, or the guy with a light bulb over his head, who just had a GREAT idea. Belleville said she's not satisfied with that one.

"He's the most poorly drawn and sadly one of the most used ones," she said. "And so I see him a lot and think, 'Wow, I really drew that badly.' "

Belleville says she sees her work everywhere now.

"I've been to Africa and seen them on a menu," she said. "I've been to Singapore and seen them. I've been sitting on planes and seen people walk by me with them on T-shirts and with them on baseball caps."

Whatever Belleville's legacy may be, and regardless of Microsoft's latest announcement, Clip Art's images are likely to keep turning up. Earlier editions of Microsoft Office still have them stored in their programs, and sites like openclipart.org can continue to help you get your fix.

And Microsoft has been known to bring back discontinued features in Office. For years now, the company has been sneaking Clippy, that annoying, and discontinued paper clip Office assistant, into new versions of its programs.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sam worked at Vermont Public Radio from October 1978 to September 2017 in various capacities – almost always involving audio engineering. He excels at sound engineering for live performances.
Sam Sanders
Sam Sanders is a correspondent and host of It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders at NPR. In the show, Sanders engages with journalists, actors, musicians, and listeners to gain the kind of understanding about news and popular culture that can only be reached through conversation. The podcast releases two episodes each week: a "deep dive" interview on Tuesdays, as well as a Friday wrap of the week's news.