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Graphics for Windows Vienna. Appearance and structure.

The most significant design detail of icons used in operating system Windows Vienna, structural differences of Vienna, Vista and XP icons, recommendations to creation Vienna style icons.


Graphics, which are used in a recently released Windows Vienna are very 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 GUI). Major alterations in icons' appearance can be noticed 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 annoying 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.
  • Angle of rotation and volume make image alive.
  • Objects' angles and edges are neat and rounded.
  • All items face a source of light now (with extra lightning spread all around)
  • Drop shadow gives contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are easily distinguished.
  • Gradients enchance the volume and gives stylish look.
What is new in Vienna graphics?
  • Appearance is more realistic but still not photorealistic. Because icons are intuitive images and not images of certain items, in GUI they fit even better than photos.
  • Overlayed images illustrate what software the file is related to.
  • Buttons icons contain less details and look more flat for neat look under smaller size.
  • Icons have maximal size 256 x 256 and it makes them suitable for high dimension screens. To display icons on those screens in scaled size, keeping 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 used for menu, toolbar or compact pictograms only, maximal size is not needed.
Microsoft Corporation suggests to make interface icons for applications 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 unneeded 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 smaller sizes, automatic change of resolution deliver the image of bad quality, so another 16 x 16 picture is needed. Algorithms of size changes however are not perfect and its better to include 48x48 size into your icons to have less perversion.

If you need the pictogram to be fully compliant with not only Windows 7 but older Windows releases also, you will need to make the icon containing corresponding images (each - with three types of colour depth).

Completely compatible (with Windows XP and older versions) icon must contain 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 including this size, is hard to be compatible with Windows 98 and Windows 2000.
If you need 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 reserved for image and 8 bits by opacity channel.
This allows icons to have semitransparent details and sleek edges, no matter of the background they are on.

Typical Windows Vienna icons consist of three levels 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 images require 32-bit colour depth.

If you want your icons to be good all the time, in case of video driver insufficiency for example, 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 displayed by your monitor (this may occur in Windows XP and older) but 4-bit depth is not included in the icon, the colour scheme will be automatically shifted down to 16 colours, below you can get the way it will 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 show material of a subject 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

Rotation angle and objects combination.

Unlike previous versions, objects in Windows Vienna are rotated at 45 angle clockwise.
Rotated images are recommended for a software icon or to present the volume objects.

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

Plain or angled placement of additional item in the icon depends on what both the item and the icon represent. Its hard to give more concrete recommendation in this situation, you just need to be lead by the trial and analyze the way the icon is comprehended, also if it is in a group of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Drop shadow in Vienna icons.

Drop shadow in Vienna icons is used to increase recognition and to potentiate the volume. In 3D and plain icons the shade looks different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Border of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-style icons usually have an outline. Its not so vividly expressed as in XP-style and is not always used. Outline is required to ensure recognition of an image, no matter the background it is placed at. Outline may be used only a part of an image constantly following the design of an image securing its style.

Various kinds of outline

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

Vienna-icons contain two functional differences from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons contain a grand picture 256x256
  • In original icons this grand picture has PNG extension
Use of PNG file is a key point as it makes 256x256 image non-useable with Windows XP and earlier versions (only smaller size pictures will be displayed).
PNG-algorithm is applied in icons for size 256x256 px only. The algorithm does not change the quality and file is smaller in almost 4 times when transparency channel is enabled and image is perfectly scale.

Compliance of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To get the icon completely compatible with Windows XP, 256x256 resolution in the icon should be saved non-compressed. You may always add or cancel the compression, this will not change the quality. Size of the icon with uncompressed images containing all common formats will approximately be 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are better?

Quality Vienna style icons have the whole list of benefits:
  • visual recognition of application's interface is appealing
  • program's abilities are more clearly presented
  • usage is more convenient , easy navigation and identification of programs, objects and tasks
  • your program's GUI is advanced , stylish and unique

To get a quality appearance of an application, Microsoft suggests you to modify the design of your commonly displayed icons, using aero style. It is also recommended to make a new design of all icons reflected in Start menu and Explorer (considering icons representing file types). It is suggested not to apply any icons in Windows 9x and older version style, in applications running under Windows Vienna.

Creation of individual Vienna-icons.

Imaging your program with the most convenient GUI, in Vienna appearance, with individual icons that clearly show application's functions and tools thanks to proper metaphors, they get you to use the program just because it's a pleasure to look at it. Graphics made in a style that will certainly be another world standard.
You may ask: "Where do I order 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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