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What Are Windows Icons?

Numerous 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 exist for Windows icons, Mac icons, and PNG icons.

Computer icons are an integral part of any modern GUI. Icons are small pictures of standardized resolutions that depict objects, actions, and symbols. In window-based systems, icons are used as a quicker, more intuitive way to communicate with the user. Icons representing standard elements of a user interface are better visible than text, can be recognized faster, and are certainly easier on the eyes.

Originally developed in 1970 by the Xerox Research Center and widely deployed by the Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows systems, icons make new users feel more comfortable with computer systems, learn faster 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-type user interfaces, icons have come a long way from the original concept.

There are several file 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 employ PNG icons for most applications. As such, icon editing software is generally available for the Windows and Apple platforms, while Unix users can create PNG icons with any graphic editor.

As a rule of thumb, icons are square pictures that come in a number of standard sizes and color resolutions. Most systems use icon sizes of 16x16 to 128x128 pixels, while some platforms readily accept icon images as large as 512x512 pixels. The large 512x512 pixel icons were first employed in Mac OS Leopard.

Pixel resolutions of all icons are operating system dependent. For example, Windows icons are defined as pictures in 16 and 256-color gammas as well as True Color pictures with alpha channel. Windows icons are supplied in standard sizes of 16x16, 32x32, and 48x48 pixels. Windows Vista implements new standards for Windows icons, including icons in resolutions of up to 256x256 pixels in True Color only. Optionally, images 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 previous versions of Windows and for lower resolution icons. Other systems such as Windows Mobile can employ standard icons of other sizes, such as 24x24 pixels.

Many independent designers are offering custom icons. Aha-Soft offers a wide selection of Windows icons, Mac icons, and PNG icons in all sizes and resolutions common to those platforms. The company sells royalty-free icons individually and in matching sets incorporating icons drawn a common style or theme.

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Perfect Science Icons Labaratory application and Web-site developers will truly appreciate this hard-to-find pack of scientific icons. Presenting various symbols and objects used in all the fields of science and engineering, Perfect Science Icons are a wonderfull value.

People Icons for Vista People Icons for Vista depict people of various jobs, groups and family status. They are created in Vista style and are available with or without shadows. Icons are provided in various formats and sizes.

24x24 Free Application Icons 24x24 Free Application Icons collection has everything that are required for your web project or application toolbar.

24x24 Free Button Icons 24x24 Free Button Icons library has all the images that are necessery for your web page or software toolbar.

E-mail Icon Set E-Mail Icon Set is a pack of wonderfully crafted royalty-free graphics for use in commercial and personal products, including software applications, websites, blogs and presentations.