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What Are Windows Icons?

A number of independent vendors are supplying custom icons in sizes and resolutions standard to certain systems. The article explains what icons are, how they are designed and implemented in various systems, and what standards exist for Windows icons, Mac icons, and PNG icons.

Computer icons are an integral part of any graphical user interface. Icons are small pictograms of standard resolutions that visually represent objects, actions, and other concepts. In window-based systems, icons are used as a quicker, more intuitive way to communicate with the user. Icons depicting 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 Mac OS and Microsoft Windows systems, icons make computer novices feel more comfortable with computer systems, learn faster and interact more efficiently. Icons can be used to replace or supplement text commands. 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 multiple file formats for storing icons. The Windows systems use Windows icons in the platform-dependent ICO format. Apple Macintosh computers store 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 any image editor.

Generally speaking, 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 icons as large as 512x512 pixels. The big 512x512 pixel icons were first employed in Mac OS Leopard.

Pixel dimensions of all icons are operating system 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 come in standard sizes of 16x16, 32x32, and 48x48 pixels. Windows Vista implements 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 resolutions, such as 24x24 pixels.

Numerous independent vendors are offering 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 sells royalty-free icons individually and in matching sets that include icons drawn a common style or theme.

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Classic Hardware Icon Set Hardware Icon Set is a library of hardware-related images in a traditional Windows style, provided in BMP, GIF, PNG and ICO formats and 16x16, 24x24 and 32x32 sizes.

Perfect Warehouse Icons If you are working on a sophisticated warehouse software or a website and cannot decide how to solve the UI problem under a fixed deadline, see our Perfect Warehouse Icons pack!

Large Money Icons Large Money Icons is a set of carefully drawn icons for use in commercial and personal products, including software applications, websites, blogs and presentations. The icons present a bright color palette, smooth and well-rounded edges.

Medical Icons for Vista Medical Icons for Vista has been created to avoid any misunderstanding appearing while viewing a medical webpage or using a medical software. The images are available in numerous sizes and formats.

16x16 Free Toolbar Icons 16x16 Free Toolbar Icons pack has everything you need for your web project or software toolbar.