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Icons for Windows Vienna. Design and structure.

The most important design features of icons used in operating system Windows Vienna, structural distinctions of Vienna, Vista and XP graphics, guidance to crafting Vienna style icons.


Graphics, which are used in a newly released Windows Vienna are very similar to Windows Vista graphics. They are created using identical construction and guidelines.

First, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon created in aero style (style of Windows Vienna interface). Significant alterations in icons' design can be seen in Windows Vista and Vienna interface even at first sight. A typical detail of Windows Vista and Vienna interface is new icons, designed in a more rigorous but still and more beautiful way. Glass highlights and reserved colours make icons pleasant for eyes, not irritating in continuous work and multiple viewing.

Overview of icons design. Description of style.
  • Objects used as metaphors are made in hi- tech style and appear more advanced.
  • Degree of turn and volume make image alive.
  • Items' angles and edges are soft and smoothly round.
  • All items face a spotlight now (with extra diffused lightening all around)
  • Falling shadow adds contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are easily distinguished.
  • Gradients enchance the volume and provide stylish look.
What is new in Vienna style icons?
  • Style is more realistic but still not completely realistic. Because icons are symbolic images and not pictures of certain items, in GUI they look even better than photos.
  • Overlayed images illustrate what software the object is assigned to.
  • Buttons icons contain fewer details and appear more plain for neat look under smaller size.
  • Icons have maximal size 256 x 256 and it makes them suitable for high resolution screens. To display icons on those screens in scaled size, saving the quality, large images are needed.
Size of Vienna - icons.

Standard 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 used for menu, toolbar or compact symbols only, largest size is not required.
Microsoft Corporation suggests to make interface 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 intermediate sizes between 256 x 256 and 32 x 32 are not necessary for Windows Vienna or 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, automatic alterations of resolution makes the image of bad quality, so a separate 16 x 16 image is required. Algorithms of size changes however are not flawless and its better to put 48x48 size into your icons to avoid perversion.

If you want the icon to be completely compatible with not only Windows Vienna but older Windows versions as well, you will need to create the icon including corresponding images (all - with three types of colour depth).

Fully compliant (with Windows XP and previous releases) icon should have following resolutions: 256 x 256, 48 x 48, 32 x 32, 16 x 16

We do not recommend to include 24 x 24 size into your icons (except toolbar), because this resolution is not necessary. Moreover, the icon containing this size, is difficult 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 understands 32-bits icons where 24 bits are reserved for image and 8 bits by opacity channel.
This enables icons to have semitransparent details and smooth edges, regardless the background they are on.

Typical Windows Vienna graphics consist of three levels of color options 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 need 32-bit colour depth.

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

If there are 16 colours shown by your monitor (this may occur in Windows XP and lower) but 4-bit option is not available in the pictogram, the colour pallet will be automatically reduced down to 16 colours, here you can get the way it will 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 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

Turn angle and objects combination.

Unlike previous versions, objects in Windows Vienna are rotated at 45 angle clockwise.
Angle -wise graphics are suggested for a software icon or to present the 3D objects.

Following items look nicer when pictured flat (like they are down 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 rotated overlaying of additional item in the icon depends on what both the image and the graphic represent. Its hard to give more detailed recommendation in this situation, you just have to be lead by the trial and study the way the image 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 used to increase recognition and to potentiate the volume. In 3D and plain icons the shadow is different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Outline of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-type icons often have an outline. Its not so vividly expressed as in XP-style and is not always used. Outline is required to make possible understanding of an icon, regardless the background it is located at. Border may take only a part of an image always following the design of an icon securing its reality.

Various kinds of outline

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

Vienna-icons contain two functional differences from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons contain a grand picture 256x256
  • In typicall icons this grand image has PNG extension
Use of PNG compression is a key moment as it brings 256x256 image non-compatible with Windows XP and previous releases (only compact size images will be displayed).
PNG-compression is applied in icons for size 256x256 px only. The compression does not change the quality and file size is smaller in about 4 times while transparency channel is enabled and image is perfectly scale.

Compliance of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To get the icon fully compatible with Windows XP, 256x256 seize in the icon should be saved non-compressed. You can always include or discharge 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 better?

Quality Vienna style icons have the following advantages:
  • visual comprehension of application's interface is pleasant
  • program's abilities are better displayed
  • usage is more convenient , simple navigation and identification of programs, items and tasks
  • your program's interface is advanced , stylish and unique

To get a professional appearance of a software, Microsoft suggests you to change the design of your mostly viewed icons, using aero style. It is also recommended to make a new design of all icons reflected in Start menu and Explorer (including icons showing type of a file). It is recommended not to use any icons in Windows 9x and older version style, in programs running under Windows Vienna.

Creation of individual Vienna-icons.

Picture your program with the most intuitive interface, in Vienna style, with individual icons that completely show program's features and tasks due to appropriate metaphors, they make you to work with the program just because it's a pleasure to look at it. Graphics created in a style that will definitely be another world classic.
You may ask: "Where can I order these perfect graphics, 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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