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Icons for Windows Vienna. Appearance and structure.

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


Icons, that are used in a recently created Windows Vienna are very similar to Windows Vista icons. They are created with identical construction and guidelines.

First, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon made in aero style (style of Windows Vienna interface). Major changes in icons' design can be noticed in Windows Vista and Vienna interface at a glance. A distinctive feature of Windows Vista and Vienna interface is new icons, designed in a more strict rigorous and more fine way. Glass highlights and reserved colours make icons pleasant for eyes, not irritating in constant work and repeated viewing.

Key points of icons creation. Description of style.
  • Objects used for metaphors are drawn in hi- tech style and appear more current.
  • Angle of rotation and volume bring life into images.
  • Items' angles and borders are neat and rounded.
  • All items face a spotlight now (with extra lightning spread all around)
  • Falling shadow adds contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are easily distinguished.
  • Gradients enchance the volume and gives stylish appearance.
What is updated in Vienna graphics?
  • Style is more realistic but still not completely realistic. Because icons are intuitive images and not images of certain items, in interface they look even more appropriate than photos.
  • Overlayed images illustrate what applications the object is assigned to.
  • Buttons icons have less details and look more plain for optimizing under smaller size.
  • Icons have biggest size 256 x 256 and it makes them suitable for high dimension screens. To show icons on such screens in proportional size, saving the quality, big images are required.
Size of Vienna - icons.

Typical 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 used for menu, toolbar or small symbols only, maximal size is not needed.
Microsoft Corporation recommend to make GUI icons for programs running only under 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 not needed for Windows Vienna or Windows Vista, because PNG files used in these icons is scaled with no distortion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With more compact sizes, program's change of resolution deliver the picture of bad quality, so a separate 16 x 16 image is required. Programs of size changes unfortunately are not flawless and its recommended to include 48x48 size into your icons to have less distortion.

If you need the pictogram to be completely compliant with not only Windows Vienna but other Windows releases as well, you will need to create the icon including corresponding images (each - with three levels of colour depth).

Fully compatible (with Windows XP and previous versions) icon should contain 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 graphics (except toolbar), as this size is not necessary. Moreover, the icon containing this size, is hard to be compatible 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 image and 8 bits by transparency channel.
This enables icons to present semitransparent elements and sleek edges, regardless the background they are at.

Standard Windows Vienna icons consist of three types of color depth for increased compatibility :
  • 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 require 32-bit colour depth.

If you need your icons to be good all the time, in situation of video driver insufficiency for example, you will require 8-bit and 4-bit images (with 256 or even 16 colours only).
An icon in various colour depth

If there are 16 colours displayed by your screen (this may happen in Windows XP and older) but 4-bit option is not included in the icon, the colour pallet will be automatically shifted down to 16 colours, below you can get the way it may look 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 message (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 combination.

Unlike former releases, objects in Windows Vienna are turned at 45 angle clockwise.
Rotated graphics are suggested for a software icon or to present the 3D items.

Some objects look better if pictured flat (like they are laying on a desk and you look over them)
  • Files icons
  • Flat objects
  • 16 x 16 size icons
Icons for rotated and non -rotated objects

Plain or angled overlaying of a second item in the icon depends on what both the image and the graphic mean. Its difficult to give more concrete suggestion in this case, you just have to be lead by the experience and study the way the icon is understood, also when it is in a combination of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Falling shadow in Vienna icons.

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

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Border of Vienna-icons.

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

Various kinds of outline

Overview of Vienna-icon architecture
Functional distinctions of Vienna-icons and XP-icons

Vienna-icons have two functional differences from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons have an extra large image 256x256
  • In typicall icons this grand image has PNG compression
Use of PNG compression is a key moment as it brings 256x256 image non-useable with Windows XP and previous versions (only compact size images will be shown).
PNG-compression is applied in icons for images 256x256 px only. The compression does not affect the quality and file size is reduced in about 4 times when transparency channel is supported and picture is perfectly scale.

Compatibility of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To get the icon fully compliant with Windows XP, 256x256 image in the icon should be saved uncompressed. You can always include or cancel the compression, this will not change the quality. Resolution of the icon with uncompressed images including all standard formats will be about 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are better?

Quality Vienna style icons have the following benefits:
  • visual comprehension of program's interface is appealing
  • program's features are better displayed
  • usage is more intuitive , simple search and identification of software, items and actions
  • your aoolication's GUI is advanced , stylish and unique

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

Making of single Vienna-icons.

Imaging your software with the most convenient GUI, in Vienna style, with unique icons that completely show program's functions and tasks thanks to appropriate metaphors, they make you to use the program just because it's a pleasure to look at it. Graphics made in a style that will definitely be another world classic.
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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