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What Are Windows Icons?

Many independent vendors are offering custom icons in sizes and resolutions standard to certain systems. The article explains what icons are, how they are designed and implemented in various platforms, and what standards are defined for Windows icons, Mac icons, and PNG icons.

Computer icons are an integral part of any modern GUI. Icons are small pictograms of standardized sizes that visually represent objects, actions, and other concepts. In window-based systems, icons are used as a faster, more intuitive way to communicate with the user. Icons depicting typical elements of a user interface are more visually appealing than text, can be recognized faster, and are easier for new computer users.

Originally developed in 1970 by the Xerox Research Center and widely popularized by the Mac OS and Microsoft Windows systems, icons make new users feel more comfortable with computer systems, learn quicker and interact more efficiently. Icons can be employed to replace or supplement text messages. Widely used in menus, toolbars, on buttons and in new ribbon-style user interfaces, icons have come a long way from the original concept.

There are multiple graphic formats for storing icons. Microsoft Windows systems store Windows icons in the platform-dependent ICO format. Apple Macintosh systems use Mac icons in their specific formats, while Unix-based systems use PNG icons for most applications. As such, icon software is generally available for the Windows and Mac OS platforms, while Unix users can design PNG icons with just about any image editor.

Generally speaking, icons are square pictograms that come in a variety of standard sizes and color resolutions. Most platforms support icons of 16x16 to 128x128 pixels, while some systems readily accept icon images as large as 512x512 pixels. The ultra-high definition 512x512 pixel icons were first employed in Mac OS Leopard.

Pixel dimensions of all icons are platform dependent. For example, Windows icons are specified as pictures in 16 and 256-color gammas as well as True Color pictures with alpha channel. Windows icons come in standard sizes of 16x16, 32x32, and 48x48 pixels. Windows Vista defines new standards for Windows icons, including icons in sizes of up to 256x256 pixels in True Color only. Optionally, icons of 128x128 and 512x512 pixels are supported. Interestingly, the higher resolution versions of Windows Vista icons are stored in compressed PNG format instead of Windows ICO used in older versions of Windows and for lower resolution icons. Other systems such as Windows Mobile can use standard icons of other sizes, such as 24x24 pixels.

Many independent vendors are providing custom icons. Aha-Soft offers a variety of Windows icons, Mac icons, and PNG icons in all sizes and resolutions common to those platforms. The company provides royalty-free icons individually and in matching sets that include icons drawn a common style or theme.

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Download Standard Geo Icons
12x12 Free Toolbar Icons 12x12 Free Toolbar Icons library has everything that are necessery for your web site or software toolbar.

16x16 Free Toolbar Icons 16x16 Free Toolbar Icons collection contains everything that are required for your web project or software toolbar.

Music Icon Library Music Icon Library will illustrate all the musical instruments and actions. Available sizes are 16x16, 24x24, 32x32, and 48x48, the file formats are GIF, PNG, BMP and ICO.

Standard City Icons Design city maps that look perfect on screen and on paper. Standard City Icons come in a number of sizes and resolutions and in file formats of GIF, PNG, ICO and BMP.

Business Software Icons Business Software Icons presents a wonderful collection of XP-style graphics for bookkeeping and similar software. The pack is of fine quality and encompasses the whole world of finance.