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Graphics for Windows Vienna. Appearance and structure.

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


Graphics, that are used in a recently released Windows Vienna are mostly like Windows Vista icons. They are created using the same structure and schemes.

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 distinctive detail of Windows Vista and Vienna interface is new icons, designed in a more strict but still and more fine way. Glass highlights and reserved colours bring icons pleasant for eyes, not irritating in continuous work and multiple viewing.

Overview of icons creation. Description of style.
  • Items used for metaphors are made in hi- tech style and look more current.
  • Angle of turn and volume bring life into images.
  • Objects' angles and borders are neat and smoothly round.
  • All items face a spotlight now (with extra diffused lightening all around)
  • Drop shadow gives contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are better distinguished.
  • Gradients intensify the volume and provide stylish look.
What is updated in Vienna style icons?
  • Style is more realistic but still not photorealistic. Because icons are symbolic images and not illustrations of specific items, in GUI they fit even better than photos.
  • Overlayed images indicate what program the file is assigned to.
  • Buttons icons have fewer details and appear more flat for neat look under smaller size.
  • Icons have maximal 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, large 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 menu, toolbar or compact pictograms only, largest size is not required.
Microsoft Corporation suggests to make GUI icons for applications running only in Windows Vienna in the following 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 or Windows Vista, because PNG files used in these icons can be scaled with no distortion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With smaller sizes, automatic change of size deliver the image of bad quality, so another 16 x 16 image is required. Algorithms of size changes however are not flawless and its recommended to put 48x48 image 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 have to create the icon including respective images (each - with three types of colour depth).

Completely compliant (with Windows XP and previous releases) icon must contain following resolutions: 256 x 256, 48 x 48, 32 x 32, 16 x 16

We do not suggest to put 24 x 24 size into your graphics (except toolbar), as this size is not necessary. Furthermore, the icon including this size, is difficult to be compatible with Windows 98 and Windows 2000.
If you want icons for your toolbar, their size 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 dedicatedto image and 8 bits by transparency channel.
This lets icons to have semitransparent details and smooth edges, regardless the background they are at.

Standard Windows Vienna graphics contain three levels of color depth for increased 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 failure 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 shown by your monitor (this may happen in Windows XP and older) but 4-bit depth is not provided in the icon, the colour pallet will be automatically reduced down to 16 colours, here you can see 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 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

Rotation angle and objects grouping.

Not like previous releases, objects in Windows Vienna are turned at 45 angle clockwise.
Rotated images are suggested for an application icon or to present the 3D objects.

Some items are nicer if displayed 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 a second image in the icon is determined on what both the item and the graphic represent. Its difficult to give more concrete suggestion in this case, you just have to be lead by the experience and analyze the way the icon is comprehended, also when it is in a group of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Drop shadow in Vienna graphics.

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

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Border of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-type icons usually have an outline. Its not so clearly expressed as in XP-type and is not constantly used. Outline is required to make possible recognition of an icon, no matter the background it is placed at. Outline may be used only a part of an image constantly matching the design of an icon securing its reality.

Various kinds of outline

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

Vienna-icons contain two functional distinctions from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons have a grand picture 256x256
  • In original icons this grand picture has PNG compression
Use of PNG compression is a critical point as it brings 256x256 image non-useable with Windows XP and previous releases (only smaller resolution pictures will be displayed).
PNG-compression is applied in icons for size 256x256 px only. The compression does not change the quality and file is smaller in almost 4 times while transparency channel is included and image is perfectly scale.

Compatibility of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To get the icon completely compatible with Windows XP, 256x256 seize in the icon must be saved uncompressed. You may always include or discharge the compression, this will not change the quality. Size of the icon with uncompressed images including all common formats will approximately be 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are better?

Professionally made Vienna style icons have the whole list of advantages:
  • visual recognition of program's interface is appealing
  • program's features are more clearly displayed
  • usage is more convenient , simple search and identification of software, objects and tasks
  • your aoolication's interface is advanced , stylish and unique

To get an advanced appearance of an application, Microsoft recommends you to change the look of your commonly viewed icons, using aero style. It is also suggested to make a new design of all icons reflected in Start menu and Explorer (including icons representing type of a file). It is recommended not to use any icons in Windows 9x and earlier version style, in programs operating under Windows Vienna.

Making of individual Vienna-icons.

Picture your software with the most intuitive GUI, in Vienna style, with individual icons that clearly present program's features and tools due to appropriate metaphors, they make you to work with the software just because it's a pleasure to see it. Graphics made in a style that will definitely be a new world standard.
You could ask: "Where do I order these flawless icons, 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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