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What Are Mac Icons?

Numerous independent vendors are providing custom icons in sizes and resolutions standard to certain computer platforms. 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 incorporated into any modern GUI. Icons are small pictograms of standard resolutions that depict objects, actions, and symbols. 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 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 computer novices feel more comfortable with computer systems, learn quicker and interact more efficiently. Icons can be employed to replace or supplement text commands. 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 image formats for storing icons. The Windows systems use Windows icons in the platform-specific ICO format. Mac OS computers use 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 Mac OS platforms, while Unix users can create their icons with just about any image editor.

Generally speaking, icons are square images that come in a variety of standard sizes and color resolutions. Most platforms use icons of 16x16 to 128x128 pixels, while some platforms readily accept icon images as large as 512x512 pixels. The high-resolution 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 pictures in 16 and 256-color gammas as well as True Color images with alpha channel. Windows icons come in standard resolutions 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 older versions of Windows and for lower resolution images. Other platforms such as Windows Mobile can employ standard icons of other sizes, e.g. 24x24 pixels.

Many independent designers are offering custom icons. Aha-Soft offers a wide selection of Windows icons, Mac icons, and PNG icons in all sizes and resolutions standard to those platforms. The company sells royalty-free icons individually and in matching sets that include icons drawn a common style or theme.

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

Free Business Desktop Icons Free Business Desktop Icons is a collection of 10 stock icons to be used in commercial and personal products, including software, websites, blogs, and desktops. The graphics are free for personal, frequent and commercial use.

Perfect Warehouse Icons When you are making a sophisticated warehouse software or a website and cannot figure out how to solve the UI problem with a fixed deadline, see our Perfect Warehouse Icons pack!

32x32 Free Design Icons 32x32 Free Design Icons set has everything you need for your web page or application toolbar.

Large Money Icons Large Money Icons is a set of professionally drawn icons for use in commercial and personal products, such as software applications, websites, blogs and presentations. All the images have a bright color palette, and smooth edges.