Office Add-in: Pexels

The other day I introduced you to a new Office add-in for PowerPoint and Word I’ve been playing with called Pickit (it’s an okay stock photo add-in). That said, I think I might prefer this one instead: Pexels.

Pexels has a much simpler license. Everything on their site is under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license, meaning that all images you find here are 100% free to be used for any legal purpose, school, personal, and even commercial or business uses. You can modify, copy, and distribute the photos as you please. And best of all, you don’t have to ask permission or link to the source. No attribution is required. Simple for you. The only restriction under this license is that identifiable people cannot appear in a way that may be deemed offensive, so no photoshopping them on…well…you know.

Even the interface and search is better than any photo add-in I’ve used so far. Pexels even has a feature where you can filter photos by your PowerPoint color theme! Sounds really great, right?

Well, try it out for yourself!

Installing Pexels

  1. If using the latest version of PowerPoint 2016 (subscription version), go to the new Add-ins tab.
    addin tabYou might see Pexels in the Recommended area. If not, click on the Store button to open the Office Add-ins Store window.
  2. If you still don’t see Pexels in the Recommended area, type in Pexels in the search box. That should yield one search result: Pexels – Free Stock Photos.
  3. Click Add to add the Pexels add-in to PowerPoint. The add-in shouldn’t take too long to install if you have a high-speed internet connection and a robust computer.
    A message pointing to where the add-in button is installed on your Ribbon should appear once the add-in is done installing. On my version of PowerPoint, Pexels was installed on the Insert tab, but on your copy of PowerPoint, it might be placed in a different location (Microsoft has been experimenting with add-in button locations–and every time I open PowerPoint it seems my add-in have moved! AHHHHH!!!!!!!).
  4. To open the Pexels add-in Task Pane, click the button on the Insert Ribbon (or where ever it is), and begin searching for photos by keyword. I typed in “business” in the example below.

    What is really great though about their search, is the ability to refine your search according to your theme colors. You can even swap out your theme, relaunch the Pexels Task Pane and have a completely new set of color to search by:

    Combining the search term plus color search PLUS some of PowerPoint own features (like PowerPoint Designer), and creating decent looking slides is a lot faster than it once was.

My Only Complaint

As a creator, I have a bit of a problem with a company that asks artists to upload and slap an open license on their work like this. The deal on their website is fine. Every picture on their website has a PayPal Donate button next to it, so users can donate money to artists if they so choose. Artists are also “getting their names out there” and marketing themselves, which is a big draw for new and budding artists just starting out. And the Creative Commons Zero license still stands. But it’s the best of both worlds on the website. Artists get their name out there, along with the slight chance of being paid something (maybe), and users who can’t afford to pay can get a free picture and not worry about licensing and distributing rights.

Pexels Website

But all of these features–the draw for these artists–is stripped from the PowerPoint add-in. From inside PowerPoint, there is absolutely no way to know who contributed this photo. Granted, with the license, most PowerPoint users wouldn’t care. But for the artist who is hoping to get his/her name “out there” and “get discovered by millions of people” as Pexels advertises on their Submit Photos page, this is a bit more than a tad misleading–it’s a bait and switch.

So yeah, if you WANT to donate money or find out more about the artist behind the camera, you have to exit PowerPoint, go to and search on their website, using the same search term and color code you used inside PowerPoint to hunt down your photos. That’s not convenient and people are not likely to do it. And the thing is, there is plenty of real estate space within that add-in to add a link to the photo page or some kind of information, whether or not the user has to credit the source. I’m just afraid that with time, less photographers will be willing to publish pictures to these kinds of sites because of add-ins like this one. It’s bound to get a lot of use, but not likely to be a good tool for discovery that the artist was hoping for.

And incidentally, the source of the photo above was Startup Stock Photos. You can learn more about how they supply free photos for startups, bloggers, publishers, websites, designers, developers, and creators, just out of the kindness of their hearts, here, or follow them on Twitter.