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What Are Windows Icons?

A number of independent vendors are supplying 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 incorporated into any graphical user interface. Icons are small pictograms of standard resolutions that visually represent objects, actions, and other concepts. In graphical user interfaces, icons are used as a quicker, more intuitive way to communicate with the user. Icons representing typical 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 computer novices feel more comfortable with operating systems, learn quicker and interact 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 multiple image formats for storing icons. Microsoft Windows systems store Windows icons in the platform-specific ICO format. Apple Macintosh systems store Mac icons in their specific formats, while Unix-based systems employ PNG icons for most applications. As such, icon software is generally available for the Windows and Apple platforms, while Unix users can create their icons with any image editor.

As a rule of thumb, icons are square pictograms that come in a variety of standard sizes and color resolutions. Most systems support icon sizes of 16x16 to 128x128 pixels, while some platforms readily accept icons as large as 512x512 pixels. The ultra-high definition 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 images in 16 and 256-color gammas as well as True Color images 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 high-resolution 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.

Many 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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Large Weather Icons Large Weather Icons represent a number of weather conditions typical in software, weather Web sites, and mobile gadgets. The icons arprovided in typical resolutions standard to Windows, Mac OS, and mobile devices. The biggest versions are huge 512x512 pixel images with vector sources in Adobe Illustrator (.ai) format easily affordable and ready to be printed or used in presentations in highest quality.

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

Standard Software Icons Standard Software Icons is set of colorful software icons meticulously designed by professional artists. This set is the best choice for navigation panels and toolbars of all sorts.

16x16 Free Application Icons 16x16 Free Application Icons set contains everything that are necessery for your web page or software toolbar.

32x32 Free Design Icons 32x32 Free Design Icons pack contains all the images you need for your web page or software toolbar.