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Graphics for Windows Vienna. Appearance and construction.

The most important design detail of icons appearing in operating system Windows Vienna, construction distinctions of Vienna, Vista and XP icons, recommendations to making Vienna style icons.


Graphics, that appear in a newly released Windows Vienna are mostly similar to Windows Vista icons. They are designed with the same structure and guidelines.

So, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon drawn in aero style (style of Windows Vienna interface). Major changes in icons' design can be noticed in Windows Vista and Vienna GUI at a glance. A typical detail of Windows Vista and Vienna interface is new icons, created in a more rigorous rigorous and more beautiful way. Glass glares and defined colours make icons pleasant for eyes, not irritating in continuous work and repeated viewing.

Overview of icons creation. Description of style.
  • Items used for metaphors are crafted in hi- tech style and appear more advanced.
  • Degree of turn and volume make image alive.
  • Items' angles and borders are neat and smoothly round.
  • All items face a spotlight now (with additional lightning spread all around)
  • Drop shadow gives contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are better distinguished.
  • Gradients enchance the volume and provide stylish appearance.
What is new in Vienna graphics?
  • Style is more realistic but still not photorealistic. Because icons are symbolic images and not illustrations of certain items, in interface they fit even better than photos.
  • Overlayed images show what program the object is assigned to.
  • Buttons icons contain less details and appear more flat for neat look under smaller size.
  • Icons have maximal size 256 x 256 and it makes them useable for high resolution screens. To show icons on those screens in proportional size, keeping the quality, large images are required.
Size of Vienna - icons.

Typical icons in Windows Vienna consist of five resolutions - 256 x 256, 48 x 48, 32 x 32, 24 x 24, and 16 x 16 px. If icons are applied for menu, toolbar or compact symbols only, maximal size is not required.
Microsoft Corporation suggests to make GUI icons for applications operating exclusively under Windows Vienna in the listed sizes:
  • 256 x 256 px
  • 32 x 32 px
  • 16 x 16 px
Microsoft affirm that interim sizes between 256 x 256 and 32 x 32 are not needed for Windows Vienna and Windows Vista, because PNG files used in these icons is scaled with no perversion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With smaller sizes, program's change of resolution makes the picture of poor quality, so another 16 x 16 picture is needed. Programs of size changes however are not flawless and its recommended to include 48x48 size into your icons to have less perversion.

If you want the icon to be fully compliant with not only Windows 7 but former Windows releases as well, you will need to create the icon including respective images (each - with three types of colour depth).

Completely compliant (with Windows XP and previous versions) icon should contain following resolutions: 256 x 256, 48 x 48, 32 x 32, 16 x 16

We do not suggest to put 24 x 24 size into your graphics (except toolbar), because this size is not required. Moreover, the icon containing this size, is hard to be compliant with Windows 98 and Windows 2000.
If you want images for your toolbar, their resolution is the same 24 x 24 and 16 x 16 px.

Colour options of Vienna icons.

Windows Vienna support 32-bits icons in which 24 bits are occupied by picture and 8 bits by transparency channel.
This allows icons to present semitransparent details and smooth edges, no matter of the background they are at.

Standard Windows Vienna icons contain three levels of color options for backward compliance :
  • 32- bit colour (24- bit colour ) plus 8-bit transparency channel
  • 8- bit colour (256 colours ) plus 1-bit transparency channel
  • 4- bit colour (16 colors) plus 1-bit transparency channel
Your images need 32-bit colour depth.

If you need your icons to look good all the time, in case of video driver failure for instance, you will need 8-bit and 4-bit depths (with 256 or even 16 colours only).
An icon in various colour depth

If there are 16 colours shown by your monitor (this may happen in Windows XP and older) but 4-bit depth is not provided in the pictogram, the colour pallet will be automatically reduced down to 16 colours, here you can get the way it will appear like:
A 32-bit icon displayed in 16 colours
This is a 32-bit icon shown in 16 colours.

Vienna icons colour pallet.

Colours in Vienna graphics show material of a subject or a signal (if used in symbols)

  • White - paper (documents )
  • Light grey - silvery plastic (computers and peripherals)
  • Dark blue - switched-on screen (displays and other screens)
  • Light ochre - carton (folders)
  • Blue - glass (basket, lens)
  • Emerald- green - transparent plastic (special folders)
Colours showing the material

  • Red - warning
  • Yellow - attention
  • Green - permission
  • Dark blue - information
Signal colours

Rotation angle and objects combination.

Unlike previous versions, objects in Windows Vienna are turned at 45 angle clockwise.
Angle -wise images are suggested for an application icon or to show the 3D objects.

Following objects look nicer when displayed flat (like they are laying on a table and you look over them)
  • Files icons
  • Flat objects
  • 16 x 16 size icons
Icons for rotated and non -rotated objects

Front or rotated placement of a second item in the icon depends on what both the image and the icon mean. Its difficult to give more concrete suggestion in this situation, you just have to be guided by the experience and analyze the way the image is comprehended, also when it is in a group of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Drop shadow in Vienna icons.

Falling shadow in Vienna icons is used to improve recognition and to potentiate the 3D effect. In 3D and flat icons the shadow looks different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Border of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-style icons often have a border. Its not so vividly visible as in XP-style and is not always used. Border is required to ensure understanding of an image, regardless the background it is located at. Border may be used only a part of an icon always matching the design of an icon securing its style.

Various kinds of outline

Review of Vienna-icon structure
Main differences of Vienna-icons and XP-icons

Vienna-icons contain two functional distinctions from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons contain a grand image 256x256
  • In original icons this grand picture has PNG compression
Use of PNG compression is a critical moment as it makes 256x256 image non-useable with Windows XP and earlier releases (only smaller resolution pictures will be displayed).
PNG-algorithm is applied in icons for size 256x256 px only. The algorithm does not change the quality and file size is reduced in about 4 times when transparency channel is included and image is perfectly scale.

Compatibility of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To make the icon fully compliant with Windows XP, 256x256 resolution in the icon should be saved non-compressed. You may always add or discharge the compression, this will not change the quality. Size of the icon with uncompressed images containing all standard formats will approximately be 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are recommended?

Quality Vienna type icons have the whole list of advantages:
  • visual recognition of program's interface is appealing
  • program's features are more clearly displayed
  • usage is more convenient , easy navigation and identification of software, items and tasks
  • your program's GUI is advanced , engaging and individual

To get an advanced appearance of an application, Microsoft suggests you to change the design of your mostly viewed icons, using aero style. It is also recommended to make a modern design of all icons reflected in Start menu and Explorer (considering icons representing type of a file). It is recommended not to use any icons in Windows 9x and earlier release style, in programs operating under Windows Vienna.

Creation of single Vienna-icons.

Picture your application with the most intuitive interface, in Vienna appearance, with unique icons that clearly present application's features and tools thanks to proper metaphors, they make you to work with the application just because it's a pleasure to look at it. Graphics created in a style that will certainly be a new world classic.
You may ask: "Where can I purchase these perfect graphics, at a reasonable price and not just similar ones but absolute Vienna icons?"

You can do it at: aha-soft.com, perfecticon.com, 777icons.com.

Microsoft, Windows, Windows XP and/or other Microsoft products mentioned above, are either trade marks or registered trade marks of Microsoft.

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