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IntroductionThe Big Box of Art's 410,000 images sounds like a big number for a clip-art collection, but the number is somewhat inflated by 200,000-plus variations on small web icons in multiple colors. Still, 200,000 clip-art items and photos is a good value in the $15 price range.
You will find that the searching is intuitive, fast, and has a reasonable number of search results for common searches. However, since the actual image files are distributed across eleven CDs, there is a lot of disc swapping involved to see the actual images. You can copy them to your hard drive but it's not done for you as part of the installer.
For someone who just needs clip art a couple of times a year for scrap-booking, posters, or personal websites, The Big Box of Art (410,000) is a great value.
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Price to ValueRating What's Hot:
The price range for this type of product is $15 to $40, so there is plenty of reason in shopping around the discount stores. For $15, you really can't complain too much about what you get. Even if you only use a few items a week from The Big Box of Art (410,000), you will get your money's worth in no time.
The box makes a claim of 260,000 web graphics and animations, which is over half of the 410,000 in the program. These graphics are not incorporated into the main application and the 260,000 appears to be made up of many copies of the same graphics with subtle detail, color, or orientation changes. So while it is technically correct as to the number of items in the box, you may feel a little ripped off here.
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Installation & SetupRating What's Hot:
The Big Box of Art (410,000) comes on eleven CDs, although only one is required for installation. Installation was straightforward and followed a traditional Windows installer model. The Big Box of Art (410,000) installed and ran correctly on Vista and allowed me to install it to a different drive. The only other thing in the box was a very small Getting Started manual.
I was disappointed to find no option to install all the discs to my hard drive. Modern hard drives are large enough to store eleven CDs of content and its obvious at install time that without the option, there will be a lot of disc swapping.
In addition, I was surprised to find there was no DVD option to purchase. Eleven CDs would fit on a couple of DVDs, making for less packaging and less swapping.
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Product FeaturesRating What's Hot:
The Search works just as you would expect it to right out of the box. You type into the box and as you type each character it progressively refines the search. The results are instantaneous. If you want to refine to certain media types or categories then you can use simple drop-down boxes.
The Big Box of Art (410,000) gives you the ability to add your own images into personal collections that can also be searched. There's no way to merge other clip art, such as that from Microsoft Word, but that's not unexpected because there appears to be no standard for clip data files.
The thumbnail images are very small (64x64 pixels) and not sufficient in size to make any decisions. In addition, there appears to be no temporary caching of the bigger images, so if you want to look at images on different CDs you have to continually switch back and forth. When you insert a new disc there is a large delay as The Big Box of Art (410,000) and Windows AutoPlay compete to open the drive. In this case, it's obvious that AutoPlay should have been temporarily disabled by the application; Windows provides APIs to allow developers to do this.
The progressive search feature causes one odd quirk. Until you type a space, it doesn't know that you are looking for a single word. For example, if you type in CAT you may be surprised to find pictures of CAThedrals, mousetraps (keyword CATch), serving dishes (CATering), and animal skulls (CATtle) mixed in with your cats. Once you discover that hitting the space bar fixes the search to CAT it's not a problem, but for a while I thought the search was useless.
Over half the claimed 410,000 images come in the web graphics and animated GIF categories and these are not integrated into the main search and graphical browser. Instead, there is a link that opens up your web browser along with security warnings about Active content. There is no search functionality; you have to browse and guess where the images you want may be.
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User InterfaceRating What's Hot:
The user interface is simple and straightforward. Searching is about as obvious as it could be and there is no confusing advanced modes required.
The image thumbnails are far too small to see enough detail. There appears to be no way to increase their size.
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PerformanceRating What's Hot:
Search is instantaneous as thumbnails and all of the categories and keywords are loaded into the product and no disc access is required. The Big Box of Art (410,000) runs very well on my three year old computer.
All the disc swapping causes the only real performance issue. If you have enough disc space or a writable DVD drive, there are instructions, at the support site, to copy the discs to your hard drive after installation, but this isn't something most users will seek out.
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Security & PrivacyRating What's Hot:
No registration is needed to run The Big Box of Art (410,000), and the product does not have any privacy issues.
Hemera maintains an update and patches site, presumably so that they can respond to security and/or other bugs.
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Help & SupportRating What's Hot:
There is always a limit to the support you can get for a product that costs about the same as an hour of minimum wage. The Big Box of Art (410,000) comes with 90-day free support from the day you first contact the company, and support is done via email only. I did not have opportunity to test the email support.
In addition, there is a community forum support, which has a large collection of well-written FAQs.
The help file is not overly detailed, but this isn't a product with a lot of features. The few things I checked were well-written and correct.
Some people prefer phone support. The menu option for technical support has a bad URL, so if you select it you don't get to the support page. The correct URL is http://support.encoreusa.com.
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Image LicensingRating What's Not:
The Big Box of Art (410,000) proudly proclaims; "No strings attached. Every image is royalty free--which makes for flexible usage with no additional fees." As the saying goes, there is no such thing as a free lunch.
Finding the real rules and restrictions is not straightforward; they are not in the online help, nor in the installed license. The only place you can find them is in the small manual in the box. There are several restrictions that few people would think about: the images in this product cannot be used as part of a trademark; if you publish the work you are obligated to provide a copyright message from Hemera; and you must ensure that others do not make copies of the images if you include them in documents, or at least warn them.
Some of these are going to be tough to enforce, and I have no idea if Hemera pursues cases. But if you were thinking of using the images for business or commercial ventures, you may want to let an attorney take a look at the license agreement.
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Suggested FeaturesFuture releases would benefit from less disc swapping via DVD distribution; an installer option to copy the images to the user's hard drive; and caching of previewed images.
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ConclusionIf you use clip art on an irregular basis, you don't need a huge archive. The Big Box of Art (410,000), for around $15, is a great way to build a clip-art collection.
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