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Icon sizes: 256x256, 64x64, 48x48, 32x32, 24x24, 16x16, 512x512
File formats: ICO, GIF, PNG, BMP

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What Are Windows Icons?

Many independent vendors are offering custom icons in sizes and resolutions common 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 standard sizes that depict objects, actions, and other concepts. In window-based systems, icons are used as a faster, 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 easier for new computer users.

Originally introduced in 1970 by the Xerox Research Center and widely popularized by the Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows systems, icons make new users feel more comfortable with operating systems, learn faster and interact more efficiently. Icons can be employed to replace or supplement text commands. Commonly used in menus, toolbars, on buttons and in the latest ribbon-style user interfaces, icons have come a long way from the original concept.

There are multiple image formats for storing icons. The Windows systems use Windows icons in the platform-dependent ICO format. Mac OS systems 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 systems, while Unix users can design their icons with any graphic editor.

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

Pixel dimensions of all icons are platform 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, icons 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 platforms such as Windows Mobile can employ standard icons of other sizes, such as 24x24 pixels.

Numerous independent designers are providing 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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Program Toolbar Icons Add beautifully crafted toolbar icons to your recent projects. Program Toolbar Icons are instantly available, royalty-free images of items, actions and concepts that are commonly used in software toolbars.

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

Large Money Icons Large Money Icons is a collection of carefully drawn icons for use in commercial and personal projects, such as software applications, websites, blogs and presentations. All the images present a bright color palette, smooth and well-rounded edges.

Large Weather Icons Large Weather Icons depict different weather conditions that are common for software, weather portals, and mobile gadgets. The images arprovided in typical resolutions standard to Windows, Mac OS, and mobile platforms. The largest versions are huge 512x512 pixel images with vector sources in Adobe Illustrator (.ai) format easily available and ready to be printed or used in presentations in highest resolution.

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