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Icons for Windows Vienna. Appearance and construction.

The most significant design detail of icons appearing in operating system Windows Vienna, structural distinctions of Vienna, Vista and XP icons, recommendations to making Vienna style icons.


Graphics, that appear in a newly released Windows Vienna are very similar to Windows Vista icons. They are designed with identical construction and guidelines.

So, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon made in aero style (style of Windows Vienna GUI). Significant changes in icons' design can be seen in Windows Vista and Vienna GUI at a glance. A distinctive feature of Windows Vista and Vienna interface is new icons, designed in a more rigorous but still and more beautiful way. Glass highlights and defined colours bring icons appealing for eyes, not annoying in constant work and repeated viewing.

Overview of icons design. Description of style.
  • Items used for metaphors are made in hi- tech style and look more current.
  • Angle of turn and volume make image alive.
  • Items' angles and edges are soft and rounded.
  • All objects face a spotlight now (with extra lightning spread all around)
  • Drop shadow gives contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are better distinguished.
  • Gradients enchance the volume and provide stylish look.
What is new in Vienna graphics?
  • Style is more realistic but still not completely realistic. Because icons are symbolic images and not images of certain items, in interface they look even more appropriate than photos.
  • Overlayed images indicate what program the object is related to.
  • Buttons icons have less details and look more plain for neat look under smaller size.
  • Icons have maximal size 256 x 256 and it makes them useable for high resolution screens. To display icons on such screens in proportional size, keeping the quality, large images are required.
Size of Vienna - icons.

Standard icons in Windows Vienna consist of five sizes - 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 applications running only under Windows Vienna in the listed sizes:
  • 256 x 256 px
  • 32 x 32 px
  • 16 x 16 px
Microsoft states that intermediate 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 is scaled with no distortion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With more compact sizes, program's alterations of size deliver the image of poor quality, so another 16 x 16 picture is needed. Algorithms of resolution changes however are not flawless and its recommended to put 48x48 size into your icons to avoid distortion.

If you need the pictogram to be fully compliant with not only Windows Vienna but former Windows releases as well, you will need to make the icon containing respective images (each - with three types of colour depth).

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

We do not suggest to include 24 x 24 resolution into your icons (except toolbar), because this resolution is not necessary. Furthermore, the icon containing this size, is hard to be compliant with Windows 98 and Windows 2000.
If you want icons for your toolbar, their resolution is the same 24 x 24 and 16 x 16 px.

Colour depth of Vienna icons.

Windows Vienna understands 32-bits icons where 24 bits are reserved for image and 8 bits by transparency channel.
This enables icons to have semitransparent details and smooth edges, regardless the background they are on.

Typical Windows Vienna icons consist of three levels of color options for backward 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 failure 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 displayed by your screen (this may happen in Windows XP and older) but 4-bit option is not included in the pictogram, the colour scheme will be automatically reduced down to 16 colours, below you can see the way it will 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 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 grouping.

Unlike former versions, objects in Windows Vienna are rotated at 45 angle clockwise.
Rotated graphics are suggested for a software icon or to show the volume objects.

Some objects look nicer if pictured non- rotated (like they are down 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 a second item in the icon is determined on what both the image and the icon represent. Its difficult to give more detailed recommendation in this case, you just need to be lead by the trial and analyze the way the image is understood, also if it is in a group of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Falling shadow in Vienna graphics.

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

Various kinds of outline

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

Vienna-icons contain two main differences from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons contain an extra large image 256x256
  • In original icons this grand picture has PNG compression
Use of PNG compression is a critical point as it makes 256x256 image non-useable with Windows XP and previous versions (only smaller resolution pictures will be displayed).
PNG-algorithm 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 enabled and image is perfectly scale.

Compliance of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

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

Why Vienna icons are better?

Professionally made Vienna style icons have the following benefits:
  • visual comprehension of application's interface is appealing
  • program's features are better presented
  • usage is more intuitive , simple search and identification of programs, items and tasks
  • your program's interface is advanced , engaging and individual

To get a quality appearance of a program, Microsoft suggests you to modify the design of your commonly displayed icons, with aero style. It is also recommended to make a new design of all icons presented in Start menu and Explorer (including icons showing type of a file). It is suggested not to use any icons in Windows 9x and older release style, in applications operating under Windows Vienna.

Making of individual Vienna-icons.

Picture your software with the most convenient interface, in Vienna appearance, with individual icons that clearly show application's features and tasks due to proper metaphors, they get you to work with the application just because it's a joy to see it. Icons created in a style that will certainly be another world classic.
You could ask: "Where can I purchase these perfect graphics, 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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