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Icons for Windows Vienna. Appearance and construction.

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


Icons, that appear in a newly created Windows Vienna are mostly like Windows Vista icons. They are designed with identical structure and schemes.

First, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon made in aero style (style of Windows Vienna interface). Major alterations in icons' appearance can be noticed in Windows Vista and Vienna GUI at a glance. A typical detail of Windows Vista and Vienna GUI is new icons, designed in a more rigorous rigorous and more fine way. Glass highlights and defined colours bring icons pleasant for eyes, not annoying in constant work and repeated viewing.

Key points of icons creation. Details of style.
  • Objects used as metaphors are drawn in hi- tech style and look more advanced.
  • Angle of rotation and volume bring life into images.
  • Items' angles and edges are soft and smoothly round.
  • All objects face a spotlight now (with extra diffused lightening all around)
  • Drop shadow adds contrast and volume.
  • Elements with borders are better distinguished.
  • Gradients enchance the volume and gives stylish appearance.
What is updated in Vienna graphics?
  • Appearance is more realistic but still not completely realistic. Because icons are symbolic images and not pictures of certain items, in interface they fit even better than photos.
  • Overlayed images show what applications the file is related to.
  • Toolbar icons have less details and appear more plain for optimizing under smaller size.
  • Icons have biggest size 256 x 256 and it makes them useable for high dimension screens. To display icons on those screens in proportional size, keeping the quality, big images are needed.
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 compact symbols only, biggest size is not required.
Microsoft Corporation recommend to create GUI icons for software operating exclusively 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 needed for Windows Vienna and Windows Vista, because PNG format used in these icons is scaled with no distortion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With smaller sizes, automatic alterations of resolution makes the image of poor quality, so another 16 x 16 picture is required. Programs of resolution changes unfortunately are not flawless and its better to put 48x48 size into your icons to have less distortion.

If you need the icon to be fully compliant with not only Windows Vienna but other Windows versions as well, you will need to make the icon including respective images (all - with three levels of colour depth).

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

We do not recommend to put 24 x 24 size into your graphics (except toolbar), as this resolution is not required. Moreover, the icon including this size, is difficult to be compatible 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 uses 32-bits icons in which 24 bits are dedicatedto image and 8 bits by opacity channel.
This allows icons to present semitransparent details and smooth edges, no matter of the background they are at.

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

If you need your icons to look good all the time, in situation of video driver insufficiency for example, you will require 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 screen (this may occur in Windows XP and older) but 4-bit option is not available in the pictogram, the colour pallet will be automatically shifted down to 16 colours, below you can see the way it may 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 graphics display 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 grouping.

Unlike previous releases, items in Windows Vienna are rotated at 45 angle clockwise.
Angle -wise graphics are suggested for a software icon or to show the volume items.

Some items are better when displayed flat (like they are down on a table and you look over them)
  • Files icons
  • Flat objects
  • 16 x 16 size icons
Icons for rotated and non -rotated objects

Front or rotated placement of a second item in the icon is determined on what both the item and the graphic mean. Its difficult to give more concrete suggestion in this situation, you just have to be lead by the experience and analyze the way the icon is understood, also if it is in a combination 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 intensify 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 a border. Its not so vividly visible as in XP-style and is not constantly used. Border is required to make possible recognition of an image, no matter the background it is placed at. Outline may be used only a part of an image constantly matching the design of a picture securing its style.

Various kinds of outline

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

Vienna-icons contain two functional distinctions from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons have a grand image 256x256
  • In typicall icons this grand image has PNG compression
Use of PNG compression is a key point as it brings 256x256 image non-compatible with Windows XP and earlier versions (only compact size pictures will be displayed).
PNG-algorithm is used 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 supported and picture is perfectly scale.

Compliance of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To make the icon fully compatible with Windows XP, 256x256 seize in the icon should be saved uncompressed. You may always include 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 recommended?

Professionally made Vienna type icons have the whole list of advantages:
  • visual recognition of program's interface is pleasant
  • program's abilities are better presented
  • usage is more convenient , easy search and identification of programs, objects and tasks
  • your program's interface is advanced , engaging and unique

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

Creation of single Vienna-icons.

Picture your software with the most convenient GUI, in Vienna appearance, with unique icons that clearly show application's features and tasks due to appropriate metaphors, they make you to use the software just because it's a joy to see it. Graphics created in a style that will definitely be another world standard.
You could ask: "Where do I purchase these perfect icons, 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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