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What Are Windows Icons?

Numerous independent vendors are offering 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 systems, and what standards are defined for Windows icons, Mac icons, and PNG icons.

Computer icons are an integral part of any modern GUI. Icons are small pictograms of standard resolutions that visually represent objects, actions, and symbols. In graphical user interfaces, icons are used as a quicker, more intuitive way to communicate with the user. Icons depicting standard elements of a user interface are more visually appealing 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 new users feel more comfortable with operating systems, learn quicker and interact more efficiently. Icons can be employed to replace or supplement text commands. Commonly used in menus, toolbars, on buttons and in new ribbon-type user interfaces, icons have come a long way from the original concept.

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

Generally speaking, icons are square pictures that come in a number of standard sizes and color resolutions. Most systems use icons of 16x16 to 128x128 pixels, while some platforms readily accept icon images as large as 512x512 pixels. The big 512x512 pixel icons were first employed 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 pictures with alpha channel. Windows icons come in standard resolutions of 16x16, 32x32, and 48x48 pixels. Windows Vista implements 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 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 images. Other systems such as Windows Mobile can employ standard icons of other resolutions, e.g. 24x24 pixels.

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

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Download Large Vector Icons
Large Weather Icons Large Weather Icons represent a number of weather conditions that are common for software, weather portals, and mobile gadgets. The images arprovided in typical sizes standard to Windows, Mac OS, and mobile platforms. The biggest versions are huge 512x512 pixel icons 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 pack of hardware images in a traditional Windows style, provided in ICO, PNG, GIF and BMP formats and 16x16, 24x24 and 32x32 sizes.

24x24 Free Pixel Icons 24x24 Free Pixel Icons collection contains everything you need for your web project or software toolbar.

Standard Business Icons Standard Business Icons is a library of great-looking royalty-free icons to be used in applications and on websites. Icons come in such fields as Finances, Business, Reports, Transport and Money.

16x16 Office Toolbar Icons 16 x 16 Office Toolbar Icons set contains everything that are required for your office software.