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Graphics for Windows Vienna. Appearance and construction.

The most significant design features of icons used in operating system Windows Vienna, structural differences of Vienna, Vista and XP icons, guidance to making Vienna type icons.


Graphics, which appear in a newly released Windows Vienna are mostly like Windows Vista icons. They are designed with the same structure and schemes.

First, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon drawn in aero style (style of Windows Vienna interface). Major alterations in icons' appearance can be noticed in Windows Vista and Vienna interface even at first sight. A typical feature of Windows Vista and Vienna GUI is new icons, created in a more rigorous rigorous and more beautiful way. Glass highlights and reserved colours bring icons pleasant for eyes, not irritating in continuous work and multiple viewing.

Overview of icons creation. Details of style.
  • Items used as metaphors are drawn in hi- tech style and look more current.
  • Angle of turn and volume make image alive.
  • Objects' angles and borders are soft and smoothly round.
  • All objects face a source of light now (with extra lightning spread all around)
  • Falling shadow adds contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are better distinguished.
  • Gradients enchance the volume and gives stylish look.
What is updated in Vienna style icons?
  • Appearance is more realistic but still not completely realistic. Since icons are intuitive images and not images of specific items, in GUI they fit even better than photos.
  • Overlayed images indicate what applications the object is related to.
  • Toolbar icons contain less details and look more plain for optimizing 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, saving the quality, big images are needed.
Size of Vienna - icons.

Standard icons in Windows Vienna contain 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, biggest size is not needed.
Microsoft Corporation recommend to create interface icons for software operating exclusively in Windows Vienna in the following sizes:
  • 256 x 256 px
  • 32 x 32 px
  • 16 x 16 px
Microsoft states that interim sizes between 256 x 256 and 32 x 32 are unneeded for Windows Vienna and Windows Vista, because PNG format used in these icons is scaled with no distortion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With more compact sizes, automatic change of resolution makes the image of poor quality, so a separate 16 x 16 image is required. Algorithms of resolution changes however are not flawless and its recommended to include 48x48 size into your icons to avoid distortion.

If you need the pictogram to be fully compatible with not only Windows 7 but other Windows versions also, you will have to create the icon including respective images (each - with three levels of colour depth).

Fully compliant (with Windows XP and previous versions) icon must 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 icons (except toolbar), because this size is not necessary. Furthermore, the icon containing this size, is hard to be compatible with Windows 98 and Windows 2000.
If you need icons for your toolbar, their size is the same 24 x 24 and 16 x 16 px.

Colour depth of Vienna graphics.

Windows Vienna support 32-bits icons in which 24 bits are occupied by image and 8 bits by transparency channel.
This enables icons to have semitransparent elements and sleek edges, no matter of the background they are at.

Standard Windows Vienna icons consist of three types of color depth 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 icons require 32-bit colour depth.

If you want your icons to be fine all the time, in case of video driver insufficiency for example, 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 screen (this may occur in Windows XP and older) but 4-bit depth is not provided in the pictogram, the colour scheme will be automatically reduced down to 16 colours, below you can see the way it may look 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 icons show material of an object 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 grouping.

Unlike previous versions, objects in Windows Vienna are turned at 45 angle clockwise.
Rotated images are recommended for an application icon or to display the 3D objects.

Following items look better when displayed non- rotated (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 angled overlaying of a second item in the icon depends on what both the item and the icon mean. Its hard to give more concrete recommendation in this situation, you just need to be lead by the trial and analyze the way the image is comprehended, also when it is in a group of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Falling shadow in Vienna icons.

Drop shadow in Vienna icons is applied to improve recognition and to potentiate the volume. In 3D and flat icons the shade looks different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Border of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-type icons often have a border. Its not so clearly expressed as in XP-style and is not constantly used. Outline is nesessery to make possible recognition of an icon, no matter the background it is placed at. Border may take only a part of an image always matching the design of an icon securing its style.

Various kinds of outline

Overview of Vienna-icon structure
Main distinctions of Vienna-icons and XP-icons

Vienna-icons contain two main distinctions from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons have an extra large image 256x256
  • In original icons this large image has PNG compression
Use of PNG compression is a critical point as it brings 256x256 image non-useable with Windows XP and previous releases (only compact resolution pictures will be displayed).
PNG-compression is used in icons for size 256x256 px only. The compression does not affect the quality and file size is reduced in almost 4 times while transparency channel is supported and picture is perfectly scale.

Compatibility of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To make the icon completely compatible with Windows XP, 256x256 seize in the icon should be saved uncompressed. You can always add or cancel the compression, this will not affect the quality. Size of the icon with non-compressed images containing all standard formats will be about 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are recommended?

Quality Vienna type icons have the following advantages:
  • visual comprehension of application's interface is pleasant
  • program's features are more clearly displayed
  • usage is more convenient , easy search and identification of software, items and tasks
  • your aoolication's GUI is advanced , engaging and unique

To get an advanced appearance of a software, Microsoft recommends you to modify the look of your mostly viewed icons, using aero style. It is also suggested to make a modern design of all icons presented in Start menu and Explorer (including icons showing file types). It is recommended not to apply any icons in Windows 9x and earlier release style, in programs operating under Windows Vienna.

Making of single Vienna-icons.

Imaging your software with the most intuitive GUI, in Vienna style, with unique icons that completely present application's functions and tools thanks to appropriate metaphors, they make you to work with the program just because it's a joy to see it. Graphics created in a style that will definitely be a new world classic.
You may ask: "Where can I purchase these flawless icons, at a reasonable price and not just similar ones but real 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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