Cautionary Review of Art Explosion 800,000 - There's No Search!

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There’s a pretty common theme all the way through this review. Providing 800,000 images with no way to search across all of them makes this product, in my opinion, useless. Most of the images are not even tagged with keywords, so that even if you open multiple portfolios, you can only search based on file name. A technical support person for the company suggested copying all the portfolios to a hard drive; this is highly impractical, given how many files you would have to open.   The product’s image browser seems like a capable feature if, for example, you want to create your own repository. However, it’s effectively useless unless the data fields are populated, and Art Explosion hasn’t completed most of the data. It appears that after the images were sourced into the product, they were roughly grouped by category in folders. Organizing the images in this fashion doesn’t match my expectations for a product at this price point.   On a positive note: the inclusion of a vector drawing application adds value to the product as many users will like having the ability to print out all the vector images. 

Price to Value (2 out of 5)

What’s Hot:

Eight hundred thousand items is a pretty large number of things to choose from. Art Explosion 800,000 comes with a copy of Serif Draw Plus 5, which, though a few versions out of date from its current commercial release, is an adequate vector-image editing program.

There is a very large book with printed versions of all of the clip art images, which is a nice touch if you like to browse images while not at your computer.

What’s Not:

At an average price of $90 (though shop hard and you can find it cheaper), a product with 800,000 files and no search feature is not a good value.

The printed images are monochrome and about 1/2" square, so you may need your reading glasses. Only the clip art images are printed; the photographs, backgrounds, classic and fine art and fonts only have a few samples in hard copy.

Be skeptical about the number of images. 200,000 vector, 35,000 raster, 5,000 CAD symbols, 120,000 photos, 12,000 backgrounds, 72,000 illustrations, 1,000 photo clip art items, and 1800 fonts give a total of around 450,000 items. I therefore have to assume the remaining 250,000 are many variations of web art buttons and animated gifs.

Installation & Setup (3 out of 5)

What’s Hot:

Art Explosion 800,000 comes on 34 CDs. Only the first is required for installation of the image portfolio browser. Installation was very simple–there are no options other than install location, which defaulted to the correct C:\Program Files. There was no option to install the discs to the hard drive, which is disappointing given the amount of disc swapping. Hard drives are cheap these days.

After installation there was no forced registration or any other blocking issue.There does appear to be a DVD edition of this package if you look around. I would recommend getting this version to avoid disc swapping.

What’s Not:

After the program is installed, you are hard-pressed to locate the application to run it. No application group or folder called Art Explosion is created in the Start menu; nor is an application shortcut with that name. Instead, you have to have read the manual to know that the application is called Portfolio Browser. This has to be confusing for the casual user.

The Serif DrawPlus application is rather confusingly hidden on disc 34 among the web graphics.

Product Features (2 out of 5)

What’s Hot:

The DrawPlus application seems like a nice editor; however, this really is a bonus free product, and not why you buy a clip art package.

What’s Not:

Unlike competitors’ products, there is no way to search across the entire 800,000 items. Once you have loaded a single image portfolio, you can search within that group of files. However, since most of these contain less than 200 images, the feature is essentially useless. I called Nova Development about the lack of searching and they confirmed that’s its not possible. They suggested a workaround of copying all the images and portfolio files onto a hard drive. Even doing this, however, would mean you had to open all of the portfolio databases before you could search. Since the portfolio files are often at different levels in the folder hierarchy, this would be a very tedious process.

Even when you use the paper index and printouts, it doesn’t tell you on which CD a piece of art is. You have to use the category name and look through the CDs. They are in alphabetical order by category, so its not too bad. However, each image type (vector, photo, illustration) is categorized individually.

The box makes a big deal about their 15,000 “hi-res” photos; I’m not sure what definition they use for hi-res, but I don’t consider 800 x 600 pixels to be hi-res. The quality of these pictures varies between “great” and “looks like a scan of a photo taken with a disposable camera.” My randomly selected “US cities” appears to be 80 percent photos from Seattle, San Fransisco and New York–not a great selection.

A lot of the portfolios I selected didn’t have any keywords attached to them, so even the limited search functionality available is useless. Given that most of the photo portfolios are not printed in the manual or included in the paper index, and are not keyword searchable, you have but one choice to find these–browsing.

The portfolio viewer has no clue about the fact that the images are on multiple discs. It doesn’t prompt you to insert or remove discs. If you look into it, you discover than Nova

User Interface (3 out of 5)

What’s Hot:

If there were a properly marked-up database with descriptions and keywords, the browser would seem like a competent package. There are searches for all kinds of metadata and various modes to do those searches. Its a shame Nova Development didn’t include this data with its images.

What’s Not:

The portfolio browser application suffers from the fact that its a standalone image-cataloging application that has been dropped into a clip art package.

The Find dialog box is very confusing–after a search, there appears to be no way to cancel the search and show the whole portfolio. It turns out that this is what the Find All button does.

The portfolio browser has no comprehension that discs will need to be swapped–it appears to assume everything comes from a hard drive. Thankfully, it doesn’t crash when you remove CDs but it does prevent searches and cannot refresh the thumbnails.

There are many options greyed out in the menus–the help files don’t describe them or explain how to enable them. I assume this version of the browser is somehow restricted from the full version.

Performance (2 out of 5)

What’s Not:

Performance is fine as long as you only open one large portfolio. I tried to open all eight portfolios from the business and office category as was recommended by technical support for searching. Several of the portfolios have thousands of images ,and scrolling through them was slow. It’s impossible to open portfolios from multiple CDs unless you copy everything to your hard drive first.

With the lack of a usable search function, the workflow involves browsing through a paper catalog and index, finding the right CD out of 34, and finding the correct image portfolio directory to load. While this isn’t actually application performance, it’s a vital part of how people use clip art.

Security & Privacy (4 out of 5)

What’s Hot:

The product required no registration or personal information to install or run.

Nova Development has a website with patches so any security issues can be dealt with.

Help & Support (4 out of 5)

What’s Hot:

The product comes with unlimited email and phone support with an 800 number to call. When I called to enquire about the missing search functionality, I was put on hold for about five minutes. The solution I got was not really adequate, but the tech admitted that what I wanted was not really available.

There is an online FAQ available.

What’s Not:

There are no online forums for discussion.

Image licensing (3 out of 5)

What’s Hot:

The image licensing restrictions appear not to have any odd limitations other than the normal “do not package the images for redistribution’“and “do not use in offensive situations.”

What’s Not:

As with all clip art packages, the license is written in legalese suitable only for a lawyer to decode. The license is available when you install, in the printed manual, and online.

I do not like the implied EULA acceptance in “Attention: Opening this package indicates you have read and agree to the terms and conditions of the EULA ….” It’s over bearing and possibly unenforceable.

Suggested Features

Uh, search functionality!


The package delivers well on the selection of art, but without a comprehensive search feature I cannot recommend it., Big Box of Art