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Icons for Windows Vienna. Appearance and construction.

The most significant design detail of icons used in operating system Windows Vienna, construction distinctions of Vienna, Vista and XP icons, recommendations to making Vienna type icons.


Graphics, which appear in a newly released Windows Vienna are very similar to Windows Vista icons. They are designed using identical structure and guidelines.

So, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon created in aero style (style of Windows Vienna interface). Major changes in icons' design can be seen in Windows Vista and Vienna GUI even at first sight. A distinctive detail of Windows Vista and Vienna interface is new icons, designed in a more rigorous rigorous and more beautiful way. Glass highlights and defined colours make icons appealing for eyes, not irritating in continuous work and repeated viewing.

Key points of icons creation. Description of style.
  • Items used as metaphors are crafted in hi- tech style and look more advanced.
  • Degree of rotation and volume bring life into images.
  • Objects' angles and edges are neat and smoothly round.
  • All objects face a source of light now (with extra lightning spread all around)
  • Drop shadow adds contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are easily distinguished.
  • Gradients intensify the volume and gives stylish look.
What is updated in Vienna graphics?
  • Style is more realistic but still not completely realistic. Since icons are symbolic images and not images of certain items, in GUI they fit even better than photos.
  • Overlayed images show what program the object is assigned to.
  • Toolbar icons contain fewer details and appear more flat for neat look under smaller size.
  • Icons have biggest size 256 x 256 and it makes them suitable for high dimension screens. To display icons on those screens in proportional size, saving the quality, big 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 buttons, toolbar or compact pictograms only, biggest size is not required.
Microsoft Corporation recommend to make GUI icons for applications operating exclusively in 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 necessary for Windows Vienna and Windows Vista, because PNG files used in these icons can be scaled with no perversion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With more compact sizes, program's alterations of size makes the picture of bad quality, so another 16 x 16 image is required. Programs of size changes unfortunately are not flawless and its better to include 48x48 size into your icons to avoid perversion.

If you want the icon to be completely compatible with not only Windows Vienna but other Windows releases as well, you will need to make the icon containing respective images (all - with three types of colour depth).

Fully compliant (with Windows XP and older releases) icon must have following sizes: 256 x 256, 48 x 48, 32 x 32, 16 x 16

We do not recommend to put 24 x 24 resolution into your icons (except toolbar), because this size is not required. Moreover, the icon including this size, is hard to be compliant 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 options of Vienna graphics.

Windows Vienna support 32-bits icons in which 24 bits are reserved for image and 8 bits by opacity channel.
This allows icons to have semitransparent elements and smooth edges, no matter of the background they are on.

Standard Windows Vienna icons consist of three levels of color depth for increased 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 need your icons to look good all the time, in case of video driver failure for instance, you will require 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 lower) but 4-bit depth is not included in the pictogram, the colour scheme will be automatically reduced down to 16 colours, below you can see the way it may appear like:
A 32-bit icon displayed in 16 colours
This is a 32-bit icon displayed in 16 colours.

Vienna icons colour pallet.

Colours in Vienna icons display 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

Turn angle and objects grouping.

Not like previous releases, objects in Windows Vienna are turned at 45 angle clockwise.
Angle -wise images are suggested for a software icon or to display the 3D objects.

Some items look nicer if displayed flat (like they are down 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 is determined on what both the image and the graphic represent. Its hard to give more detailed suggestion in this situation, you just have to be guided by the experience and study the way the image is understood, also when it is in a group of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Drop shadow in Vienna graphics.

Drop shadow in Vienna icons is applied to improve recognition and to intensify the 3D effect. In 3D and plain icons the shade is different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Outline of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-style icons often have an outline. Its not so clearly visible as in XP-type and is not always used. Border is nesessery to ensure understanding of an image, no matter the background it is located at. Border may be used 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
Functional distinctions of Vienna-icons and XP-icons

Vienna-icons have two main differences from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons contain an extra large image 256x256
  • In original icons this grand image has PNG extension
Use of PNG compression is a critical moment as it makes 256x256 image non-compatible with Windows XP and earlier releases (only smaller resolution pictures will be shown).
PNG-compression is applied in icons for images 256x256 px only. The algorithm does not affect the quality and file size is smaller in about 4 times when transparency channel is included and picture is perfectly scale.

Compatibility of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To get the icon completely compatible with Windows XP, 256x256 resolution in the icon must be saved uncompressed. You can always include or cancel the compression, this will not affect the quality. Resolution of the icon with non-compressed images containing all standard formats will be about 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are recommended?

Professionally made Vienna type icons have the following benefits:
  • visual recognition of application's interface is appealing
  • program's features are more clearly presented
  • usage is more convenient , easy search and identification of software, objects and tasks
  • your aoolication's interface is advanced , stylish and unique

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

Creation of single Vienna-icons.

Picture your program with the most intuitive GUI, in Vienna style, with individual icons that completely show application's functions and tools thanks to proper metaphors, they get you to work with the application just because it's a joy to look at it. Icons made in a style that will certainly be another world standard.
You could ask: "Where do I purchase these perfect icons, at a reasonable price and not just like 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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