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What Are Windows Icons?

A number of independent vendors are offering custom icons in sizes and resolutions common to certain computer platforms. 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 graphical user interface. Icons are small pictograms of standardized sizes that depict objects, actions, and other concepts. In graphical user interfaces, icons are used as a quicker, more intuitive way to communicate with the user. Icons depicting common elements of a user interface are more visually appealing 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 platforms, icons make computer novices feel more comfortable with operating systems, learn faster and interact more efficiently. Icons can be employed to replace or supplement text messages. Commonly used in menus, toolbars, on buttons and in the latest ribbon-type user interfaces, icons have come a long way from the original concept.

There are several image formats for storing icons. The Windows systems store Windows icons in the platform-specific ICO format. Apple Macintosh computers 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 their icons with any graphic editor.

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

Pixel dimensions of all icons are platform dependent. For example, Windows icons are defined as pictures in 16 and 256-color gammas as well as True Color images with alpha channel. Windows icons are supplied in standard resolutions of 16x16, 32x32, and 48x48 pixels. Windows Vista defines new standards for Windows icons, including icons in resolutions 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 platforms 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 provides royalty-free icons individually and in matching sets incorporating icons drawn a common style or theme.

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Perfect Science Icons Labaratory software and Web-site developers will truly value this rare set of scientific icons. Presenting nuerous symbols and objects used in all the fields of science and engineering, Perfect Science Icons are a great value.

12x12 Free Toolbar Icons 12x12 Free Toolbar Icons library has everything you need for your web project or application toolbar.

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

24x24 Free Toolbar Icons 24x24 Free Toolbar Icons set contains all the images you need for your web project or software toolbar.

Navigation Icon Set Your products will look more current and stylish with Navigation Icon Set, which contains direction and object icons. Available sizes are 16x16, 24x24, 32x32, 48x48 and 256x256.