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Graphics for Windows Vienna. Appearance and construction.

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


Graphics, which are used in a recently released Windows Vienna are very similar to Windows Vista graphics. They are designed using identical construction and guidelines.

So, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon created in aero style (style of Windows Vienna interface). Major alterations 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, created in a more strict rigorous and more fine way. Glass glares and defined colours bring icons appealing for eyes, not annoying in continuous work and multiple viewing.

Overview of icons creation. Description of style.
  • Items used for metaphors are drawn in hi- tech style and look more current.
  • Degree of rotation and volume make image alive.
  • Objects' angles and borders are soft and rounded.
  • All objects face a source of light now (with additional diffused lightening all around)
  • Drop shadow brings contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are easily distinguished.
  • Gradients intensify the volume and provide stylish appearance.
What is new in Vienna graphics?
  • Appearance is more realistic but still not completely realistic. Since icons are symbolic images and not illustrations of specific items, in interface they fit even more appropriate than photos.
  • Overlayed images indicate what applications the object is related to.
  • Buttons icons contain less details and look more flat for optimizing under smaller size.
  • Icons have maximal size 256 x 256 and it makes them suitable for high resolution screens. To display icons on such screens in proportional size, keeping 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 used for menu, toolbar or compact pictograms only, biggest size is not required.
Microsoft Corporation suggests to create GUI icons for programs 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 not needed 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, automatic alterations of resolution deliver the image of bad quality, so another 16 x 16 picture is needed. Algorithms of size changes unfortunately are not flawless and its better to include 48x48 image into your icons to avoid perversion.

If you want the pictogram to be fully compatible with not only Windows 7 but former Windows releases as well, you will have to create the icon containing respective images (each - with three levels of colour depth).

Completely compliant (with Windows XP and older 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 icons (except toolbar), as this resolution is not required. Furthermore, the icon including this size, is difficult to be compliant with Windows 98 and Windows 2000.
If you need icons for your toolbar, their resolution is the same 24 x 24 and 16 x 16 px.

Colour depth of Vienna icons.

Windows Vienna uses 32-bits icons where 24 bits are dedicatedto image and 8 bits by transparency channel.
This lets icons to present semitransparent details and smooth edges, no matter of the background they are on.

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

If you need your icons to look good all the time, in case 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 shown by your screen (this may happen in Windows XP and lower) but 4-bit option is not included in the pictogram, the colour pallet will be automatically reduced 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 icons 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 older releases, objects in Windows Vienna are turned at 45 angle clockwise.
Angle -wise graphics are recommended for a software icon or to present the volume objects.

Some objects look better if displayed flat (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 overlaying of a second item in the icon is determined on what both the image and the icon represent. Its hard to give more concrete suggestion in this case, you just have to be guided by the experience and analyze the way the image is comprehended, also when it is in a combination of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Falling shadow in Vienna icons.

Falling shadow in Vienna icons is applied to increase recognition and to potentiate the volume. In volume and plain icons the shadow looks different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Border of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-style icons usually have an outline. Its not so vividly visible as in XP-style and is not constantly used. Outline is nesessery to ensure recognition of an image, no matter the background it is placed at. Border may take only a part of an icon constantly following the design of an icon securing its reality.

Various kinds of outline

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

Vienna-icons have two main differences from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons contain a grand image 256x256
  • In typicall icons this grand picture has PNG compression
Use of PNG file is a key moment as it makes 256x256 image non-useable with Windows XP and previous versions (only compact size images will be shown).
PNG-algorithm is used in icons for images 256x256 px only. The compression does not affect the quality and file is smaller in almost 4 times when transparency channel is included and image is perfectly scale.

Compliance of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To make the icon completely compliant with Windows XP, 256x256 resolution in the icon should be saved uncompressed. You may always include or discharge the compression, this will not change the quality. Size of the icon with non-compressed images including all standard formats will approximately be 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are better?

Quality Vienna type icons have the whole list of benefits:
  • visual comprehension of application's interface is appealing
  • program's abilities are more clearly presented
  • usage is more intuitive , simple search and identification of software, items and tasks
  • your aoolication's interface is advanced , stylish and individual

To get a professional appearance of an application, Microsoft suggests you to edit the design of your mostly viewed icons, using aero style. It is also suggested to make a new design of all icons reflected in Start menu and Explorer (considering icons representing type of a file). It is suggested not to apply any icons in Windows 9x and earlier release style, in applications running under Windows Vienna.

Making of individual Vienna-icons.

Picture your program with the most intuitive GUI, in Vienna appearance, with individual icons that clearly show application's functions and tasks thanks to proper metaphors, they get you to work with the software just because it's a joy to look at it. Icons made in a style that will definitely be another world standard.
You may 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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