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Icons for Windows Vienna. Appearance and construction.

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


Graphics, which are used in a recently released Windows Vienna are very like Windows Vista graphics. They are designed using the same 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 interface even at first sight. A typical detail of Windows Vista and Vienna GUI is new icons, designed in a more strict but still and more beautiful way. Glass glares and defined colours make icons pleasant for eyes, not irritating in continuous work and multiple viewing.

Overview of icons creation. Details of style.
  • Items used as metaphors are drawn in hi- tech style and appear more current.
  • Angle of turn and volume make image alive.
  • Items' angles and edges are neat and rounded.
  • All items face a source of light now (with extra diffused lightening all around)
  • Drop shadow gives contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are easily distinguished.
  • Gradients intensify the volume and gives stylish look.
What is new in Vienna style icons?
  • Style is more realistic but still not photorealistic. Since icons are symbolic images and not pictures of certain items, in GUI they look even more appropriate than photos.
  • Overlayed images show what applications the file is related to.
  • Toolbar icons contain 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 display icons on such screens in scaled size, saving the quality, large images are required.
Size of Vienna - icons.

Typical 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 used for menu, toolbar or compact pictograms only, largest size is not required.
Microsoft Corporation recommend to create interface icons for software operating only in 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 unneeded for Windows Vienna or Windows Vista, because PNG files used in these icons is scaled with no perversion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With more compact sizes, program's change of size deliver the image of poor quality, so another 16 x 16 picture is required. Programs of resolution changes however are not perfect and its better to include 48x48 image into your icons to have less distortion.

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

Fully compatible (with Windows XP and older releases) icon must contain 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 graphics (except toolbar), because this size is not required. Moreover, the icon including this size, is difficult to be compliant 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 icons.

Windows Vienna uses 32-bits icons where 24 bits are dedicatedto image and 8 bits by opacity channel.
This lets icons to have semitransparent elements and smooth edges, regardless the background they are at.

Standard Windows Vienna icons consist of three types 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 icons need 32-bit colour depth.

If you want your icons to look good all the time, in situation of video driver insufficiency for instance, 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 shown by your monitor (this may occur in Windows XP and lower) but 4-bit option is not included in the icon, the colour scheme will be automatically shifted down to 16 colours, here 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 icons 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 grouping.

Unlike older releases, items in Windows Vienna are rotated at 45 angle clockwise.
Rotated graphics are suggested for a software icon or to present the 3D objects.

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

Plain or angled overlaying of additional item in the icon is determined on what both the item and the graphic represent. Its hard to give more detailed recommendation in this situation, you just need to be lead by the experience and analyze the way the image 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 improve recognition and to intensify the volume. In 3D and plain icons the shade is different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Outline of Vienna-icons.

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

Various kinds of outline

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

Vienna-icons contain two main distinctions from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons have a grand picture 256x256
  • In original icons this large picture has PNG compression
Use of PNG file is a key moment as it makes 256x256 image non-compatible with Windows XP and previous releases (only smaller size pictures will be displayed).
PNG-compression is used in icons for size 256x256 px only. The compression does not affect the quality and file is reduced in almost 4 times while transparency channel is included and picture is perfectly scale.

Compatibility of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To make the icon completely compatible with Windows XP, 256x256 resolution in the icon should be saved uncompressed. You can always add or discharge the compression, this will not change the quality. Resolution of the icon with non-compressed images including all standard formats will be about 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are better?

Professionally made Vienna style icons have the whole list of advantages:
  • visual comprehension of program's interface is pleasant
  • program's features are better displayed
  • usage is more intuitive , simple navigation and identification of programs, items and tasks
  • your aoolication's GUI is advanced , stylish and unique

To get a quality appearance of an application, Microsoft recommends you to edit the design of your commonly viewed icons, with aero style. It is also suggested to make a new design of all icons reflected in Start menu and Explorer (considering icons showing file types). It is recommended not to apply any icons in Windows 9x and earlier release style, in programs operating under Windows Vienna.

Making of single Vienna-icons.

Picture your application with the most intuitive GUI, in Vienna style, with unique icons that completely present program's features and tools thanks to proper metaphors, they make you to work with the program just because it's a pleasure to see it. Graphics made in a style that will certainly be another world standard.
You could ask: "Where can I purchase these flawless 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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