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What Are Mac Icons?

A number of independent vendors are providing 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 exist 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 graphical user interfaces, icons are used as a faster, more intuitive way to communicate with the user. Icons representing common elements of a user interface are better visible 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 Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows platforms, icons make new users feel more comfortable with operating systems, learn faster and work more efficiently. Icons can be employed to replace or supplement text messages. Widely 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 graphic formats for storing icons. The Windows systems store Windows icons in the platform-specific ICO format. Mac OS computers store 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 Mac OS platforms, while Unix users can design their icons with just about any graphic editor.

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

Pixel resolutions of all icons are platform dependent. For example, Windows icons are specified as images 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 defines new standards for Windows icons, including icons in sizes 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 platforms such as Windows Mobile can employ standard icons of other resolutions, e.g. 24x24 pixels.

Numerous independent designers 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 systems. The company provides royalty-free icons individually and in matching sets that include icons drawn a common style or theme.

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You can buy individual icons to suit your needs. Each icon is $1 when purchased individually.

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Network Icon Library for Vista Vista Network Icon Library is a set of network-related icons. All the graphics are delivered in two variants, with and without shadow, a variety of sizes and formats is provided.

Standard Software Icons Standard Software Icons is set of eye-caching software-related icons carefully designed by experienced artists. This pack is a perfect choice for navigation panels and toolbars of any type.

Large Weather Icons Large Weather Icons represent a number of weather conditions that are common for software, weather Web sites, and mobile gadgets. The images come in all sizes standard to Windows, Mac OS, and other systems. The largest versions are huge 512x512 pixel icons with vector sources in Adobe Illustrator (.ai) format easily affordable and ready to be printed or used in presentations in highest quality.

Small Network Icons Small Network Icons is a pack of network-related icons provided as GIF, PNG, BMP and ICO files. All icons have 16x16, 24x24, 32x32 and 48x48 sizes.

Database Icon Set Database Icon Set brings you a variety of bright and colorful icons for database application development. The images are available in all the typical icon sizes and file formats include ICO, GIF, BMP and PNG.