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What Are Icons?

Many independent vendors are supplying 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 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 certainly easier on the eyes.

Originally introduced 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 computer systems, learn faster and work more efficiently. Icons can be used to replace or supplement text messages. Commonly 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. Microsoft Windows systems use Windows icons in the platform-dependent 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 PNG icons with any graphic editor.

Generally speaking, icons are square images that come in a variety of standard sizes and color resolutions. Most systems support icons of 16x16 to 128x128 pixels, while some systems readily accept icons as large as 512x512 pixels. The big 512x512 pixel icons were first employed in Mac OS Leopard.

Pixel resolutions 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 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 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 sizes, e.g. 24x24 pixels.

Numerous independent vendors are offering 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 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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Download Large Vector Icons
16x16 Free Toolbar Icons 16x16 Free Toolbar Icons set has everything that are necessery for your web page or software toolbar.

24x24 Free Button Icons 24x24 Free Button Icons library contains all the images that are necessery for your web site or software toolbar.

24x24 Free Toolbar Icons 24x24 Free Toolbar Icons library has all the images that are required for your web site or application toolbar.

Standard Software Icons Standard Software Icons is set of eye-caching software-related icons carefully designed by experienced artists. This set is an ideal selection for navigation panels and toolbars of all sorts.

24x24 Free Application Icons 24x24 Free Application Icons collection contains everything that are required for your web site or software toolbar.