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What Are Mac Icons?

Many independent vendors are supplying custom icons in sizes and resolutions standard to certain systems. The article explains what icons are, how they are used 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 typical 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 popularized by the Mac OS and Microsoft Windows systems, icons make new users feel more comfortable with operating systems, learn faster and interact more efficiently. Icons can be used to replace or supplement text commands. Commonly 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 file formats for storing icons. The Windows systems use Windows icons in the platform-specific 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 Apple systems, while Unix users can create PNG icons with any image editor.

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

Pixel resolutions of all icons are operating system dependent. For example, Windows icons are defined as images 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 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 high-resolution Windows Vista icons are stored in compressed PNG format instead of Windows ICO used in previous versions of Windows and for lower resolution images. Other systems such as Windows Mobile can use standard icons of other resolutions, e.g. 24x24 pixels.

Numerous independent vendors 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 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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Blue Icon Library Instantly refine your project with readily available, professionally designed icons. Blue Icon Library contains dozens of icons that are crafted to look strict and stylish.

Program Toolbar Icons Add professionally designed toolbar icons to your software projects. Program Toolbar Icons are readily available, royalty-free images of items, actions and concepts that are commonly used in application toolbars.

Science Icon Set Science Icon Set offers you all the images, that are needed to design a laboratory application or scientific Web project. This set contains mathematics, chemical and biology icons.

12x12 Free Toolbar Icons 12x12 Free Toolbar Icons library contains all the images that are required for your web page or software toolbar.

Large Money Icons Large Money Icons is a set of hand-made icons for use in any spftware or Web products, such as software applications, websites, blogs and presentations. All the images have a bright color palette, smooth and well-rounded edges.