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Icons for Windows Vienna. Appearance and construction.

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


Icons, which are used in a newly released Windows Vienna are mostly like Windows Vista graphics. They are created with identical construction and guidelines.

First, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon drawn in aero style (style of Windows Vienna GUI). Significant alterations in icons' design can be noticed in Windows Vista and Vienna GUI at a glance. A distinctive detail of Windows Vista and Vienna interface is new icons, created in a more strict rigorous and more beautiful way. Glass highlights and reserved colours make icons appealing for eyes, not annoying in continuous work and repeated viewing.

Overview of icons creation. Description of style.
  • Objects used as metaphors are drawn in hi- tech style and look more advanced.
  • Degree of rotation and volume bring life into images.
  • Items' angles and borders are soft and smoothly round.
  • All items face a spotlight now (with extra diffused lightening all around)
  • Drop shadow adds contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are better distinguished.
  • Gradients enchance the volume and gives stylish appearance.
What is new in Vienna graphics?
  • Style is more realistic but still not completely realistic. Because icons are intuitive images and not illustrations of specific items, in GUI they fit even better than photos.
  • Overlayed images indicate what applications the file is assigned to.
  • Toolbar icons have less details and appear more flat for neat look under smaller size.
  • Icons have biggest size 256 x 256 and it makes them useable for high resolution 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 applied for buttons, toolbar or small symbols only, largest size is not needed.
Microsoft Corporation recommend to make interface icons for software running exclusively in Windows Vienna in the following 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 needed 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 size makes the picture of poor quality, so another 16 x 16 image is required. Programs of size changes unfortunately are not perfect and its recommended to include 48x48 image into your icons to have less distortion.

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

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

We do not suggest to include 24 x 24 size into your icons (except toolbar), because this resolution is not required. Moreover, the icon including this size, is difficult to be compliant with Windows 98 and Windows 2000.
If you need images for your toolbar, their size is the same 24 x 24 and 16 x 16 px.

Colour options of Vienna icons.

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

Typical Windows Vienna icons contain three levels of color depth 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 icons require 32-bit colour depth.

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

If there are 16 colours displayed by your monitor (this may happen in Windows XP and lower) but 4-bit depth is not included in the icon, the colour pallet will be automatically shifted down to 16 colours, here you can get the way it will appear 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 graphics show 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

Rotation angle and objects combination.

Unlike older versions, objects in Windows Vienna are turned at 45 angle clockwise.
Rotated graphics are recommended for a software icon or to display the volume objects.

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

Flat or rotated overlaying of additional image in the icon is determined on what both the image and the graphic mean. Its difficult to give more concrete recommendation in this case, you just need to be lead by the trial and analyze the way the icon is understood, also if it is in a group of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Drop shadow in Vienna graphics.

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

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Border of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-style icons often have an outline. Its not so clearly expressed as in XP-style and is not constantly used. Outline is nesessery to make possible recognition of an image, no matter the background it is located at. Outline may take only a part of an image always following the design of an image securing its reality.

Various kinds of outline

Review of Vienna-icon structure
Functional differences of Vienna-icons and XP-icons

Vienna-icons have two main distinctions from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons contain a grand image 256x256
  • In typicall icons this grand picture has PNG extension
Use of PNG file is a key moment as it brings 256x256 image non-useable with Windows XP and earlier versions (only smaller resolution images will be displayed).
PNG-compression is used in icons for size 256x256 px only. The compression does not affect the quality and file size is smaller in about 4 times when transparency channel is supported and picture is perfectly scale.

Compatibility of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To make the icon fully compliant with Windows XP, 256x256 resolution in the icon must be saved uncompressed. You can always add or cancel 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 recommended?

Quality Vienna style icons have the following advantages:
  • visual recognition of application's interface is pleasant
  • program's features are better displayed
  • usage is more intuitive , simple search and identification of programs, objects and actions
  • your aoolication's GUI is advanced , stylish and individual

To get a professional appearance of an application, Microsoft suggests you to change the look of your mostly viewed 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 file types). It is suggested not to use any icons in Windows 9x and earlier version style, in programs operating under Windows Vienna.

Making of individual Vienna-icons.

Imaging your program with the most intuitive GUI, in Vienna appearance, with individual icons that clearly present application's functions and tasks due to proper metaphors, they make you to use the software just because it's a joy to look at it. Icons created in a style that will certainly be another world standard.
You may ask: "Where do I order these perfect graphics, at a competitive price and not just like 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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