The user can choose a German or English interface and quickly switch between the two languages. A single search box on the opening page expands with a click into three sets of qualified search boxes. Subsequent clicks will display additional sets of search boxes enabling the refinement of the query. Each search box is accompanied by a choice of operators (and/or/not) and a drop-down list of nine values, including Name, All dates, Date of Birth, Date of Death, Place, Country, Occupation, Author, and Full-text. While typing in a search term, a drop-down word wheel offers approximately 20 nearby terms. This is especially helpful for international place names that may have several variant spellings.
Results are brief displays of the artists' name, occupation, and a date. It is possible to display up to 100 results at a time. A click on the artist name will bring up a more detailed display of approximately ten fields, plus articles, exhibitions, and references if present in the data.
A brief search help document in German and English explains the fields. Phrases can be searched by surrounding the text with quotation marks, and asterisks can be used as wildcards to truncate a search. In addition, three documents translate general abbreviations (primarily for German words), abbreviations for place names, and those for publishing places.
The metadata may be searched in English or German with equal results. Artists’ names have been standardized. Geographic terms include the names of places that were influential in the development of an artist’s work, e.g. places where an artist went for training or lived for an extended period of time. There have been efforts to include place name translations in the metadata. For example, Moscow brings up just four entries for Moscow (Idaho). Moskau brings up 5,230 hits. Mosca, Moscú, Moscou, Moskwa all bring up the same number of hits (4,842).
The data from the Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon can be purchased separately for integration in internal databases as authority files of artists’ names.
The Künstlerlexikon der Antike (KLA)-Lexicon of Classical Artists, a separate De Gruyter publication, is included in the AKL Online. The KLA provides data for all artists of ancient times that are known by name.
The AKL Online links to the database Gemälde in Museen-Deutschland, Österreich, Schweiz/Paintings in Museums-Germany, Austria, Switzerland. Katalog der ausgestellten und depotgelagerten Werke/Catalogue of Exhibited Works and Depository Holdings (for purchasers of this database).
It is difficult to search on date spans or geographic areas, such as BCE or Oceania, in the metadata. The dates in the biographical metadata represent birth and death dates only. The geographic metadata does not articulate regions. Users might have better results searching these terms in free-text.
The word wheel has obvious benefits but is a bit intrusive, sometimes filling in suggested terms before one has finished typing out the query. The user needs to be mindful to close the list before clicking the search button.
Since the articles are primarily in German, it is necessary to translate search terms from English to German in order to effectively search the articles. A search on Place=“Egypt” and Full-text=“exhibitions" has no results. The search is more successful by replacing "exhibitions” with the German equivalent “Ausstellungen” or its abbreviation “Ausst.” The articles use many abbreviations and the user is advised to consult the provided lists of abbreviations in PDF.