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What Are Mac Icons?

Many independent vendors are providing custom icons in sizes and resolutions standard to certain computer platforms. The article explains what icons are, how they are designed 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 pictures of standardized 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 easier for new computer users.

Originally developed in 1970 by the Xerox Research Center and widely deployed by the Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows systems, icons make computer novices feel more comfortable with computer systems, learn faster and work 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 graphic formats for storing icons. Microsoft Windows systems store Windows icons in the platform-specific ICO format. Mac OS computers store Mac icons in their specific formats, while Unix-based systems use PNG icons for most applications. As such, icon editing software is generally available for the Windows and Mac OS platforms, while Unix users can design their icons with just about any graphic editor.

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

Pixel dimensions of all icons are operating system dependent. For example, Windows icons are specified as pictures 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 resolutions 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 previous versions of Windows and for lower resolution icons. Other platforms such as Windows Mobile can employ standard icons of other resolutions, e.g. 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 standard to those systems. The company sells royalty-free icons individually and in matching sets incorporating icons drawn a common style or theme.

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You can buy individual icons to suit your needs. Each icon is $1 when purchased individually.

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Large Weather Icons Large Weather Icons represent a number of weather conditions that are common for software, weather portals, and mobile gadgets. The images come in typical sizes standard to Windows, Mac OS, and mobile devices. The largest 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.

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

Program Toolbar Icons Add professionally designed toolbar icons to your software projects. Program Toolbar Icons are instantly available, royalty-free images of objects, actions and symbols that are typically used in application toolbars.

People Icons for Vista People Icons for Vista depict people of different jobs, groups and family status. They are created in Vista style and are available with or without shadows. Icons are provided in various formats and sizes.

Space Icons Design scientific or space-related product with readily available images. Space Icons pack includes over 60 icons dedicated to astronomy, including all planets of the solar system, Sun, Spacesuit and Astronaut.