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Icons for Windows Vienna. Appearance and construction.

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


Icons, that are used in a recently released Windows Vienna are mostly similar to Windows Vista graphics. They are created using identical structure and guidelines.

First, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon created in aero style (style of Windows Vienna GUI). Significant changes in icons' appearance can be noticed in Windows Vista and Vienna interface at a glance. A typical detail of Windows Vista and Vienna GUI is new icons, designed in a more rigorous but still and more fine way. Glass glares and reserved colours bring icons pleasant for eyes, not annoying in constant work and multiple viewing.

Overview of icons creation. Description of style.
  • Items used for metaphors are made in hi- tech style and appear more advanced.
  • Degree of rotation and volume bring life into images.
  • Items' angles and borders are neat and smoothly round.
  • All items face a source of light now (with extra lightning spread all around)
  • Falling shadow brings contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are easily distinguished.
  • Gradients enchance the volume and provide stylish look.
What is updated in Vienna graphics?
  • Appearance is more realistic but still not photorealistic. Since icons are symbolic images and not pictures of specific items, in interface they look even more appropriate than photos.
  • Overlayed images show what program the file is related to.
  • Toolbar icons contain fewer details and look more plain for optimizing under smaller size.
  • Icons have maximal size 256 x 256 and it makes them suitable for high dimension screens. To display icons on such screens in scaled size, saving the quality, large images are needed.
Size of Vienna - icons.

Standard 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 small pictograms only, maximal size is not required.
Microsoft Corporation recommend 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 needed for Windows Vienna and Windows Vista, because PNG files used in these icons is scaled with no perversion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With smaller sizes, automatic change of size makes the image of bad quality, so another 16 x 16 picture is required. Programs of resolution changes unfortunately are not perfect and its recommended to put 48x48 image into your icons to avoid distortion.

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

Completely compliant (with Windows XP and older releases) icon should have following resolutions: 256 x 256, 48 x 48, 32 x 32, 16 x 16

We do not recommend to include 24 x 24 resolution into your icons (except toolbar), as this size is not required. Moreover, the icon containing 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 graphics.

Windows Vienna reads 32-bits icons where 24 bits are dedicatedto image and 8 bits by opacity channel.
This lets icons to present semitransparent details and sleek edges, regardless the background they are at.

Standard 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 images need 32-bit colour depth.

If you need your icons to be fine all the time, in situation of video driver insufficiency 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 shown by your screen (this may happen in Windows XP and lower) but 4-bit depth is not available in the pictogram, 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 displayed in 16 colours.

Vienna icons colour pallet.

Colours in Vienna graphics show 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 combination.

Not like former releases, objects in Windows Vienna are turned at 45 angle clockwise.
Angle -wise images are suggested for an application icon or to show the volume items.

Following objects look nicer when displayed non- rotated (like they are laying 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 placement of additional image in the icon depends on what both the item and the graphic represent. Its hard to give more concrete suggestion in this situation, you just need to be lead by the experience and analyze the way the icon is comprehended, also if it is in a combination 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 shadow is different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Border of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-style icons usually have a border. Its not so clearly visible as in XP-style and is not constantly used. Border is nesessery to make possible understanding of an image, regardless the background it is located 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 architecture
Main distinctions of Vienna-icons and XP-icons

Vienna-icons contain two functional differences from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons have an extra large image 256x256
  • In original icons this grand image has PNG extension
Use of PNG file is a key moment as it brings 256x256 image non-compatible with Windows XP and earlier versions (only smaller resolution pictures will be shown).
PNG-compression is applied in icons for size 256x256 px only. The compression does not affect the quality and file 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 compatible with Windows XP, 256x256 image in the icon must be saved uncompressed. You can always add or cancel the compression, this will not change the quality. Resolution of the icon with non-compressed images including all common formats will be about 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are recommended?

Quality Vienna style icons have the following advantages:
  • visual recognition of program's interface is appealing
  • program's features are better presented
  • usage is more convenient , easy navigation and identification of software, items and actions
  • your aoolication's GUI is advanced , stylish and unique

To get a quality appearance of a software, Microsoft recommends you to modify the design of your mostly displayed icons, using aero style. It is also recommended to make a modern design of all icons presented in Start menu and Explorer (including icons showing file types). It is suggested not to apply any icons in Windows 9x and earlier version style, in programs operating under Windows Vienna.

Creation of single Vienna-icons.

Imaging your software with the most convenient interface, in Vienna appearance, with individual icons that completely present application's features and tools thanks to proper metaphors, they make you to use the program just because it's a pleasure to see it. Graphics created in a style that will certainly be another world classic.
You could ask: "Where can I purchase these perfect icons, at a competitive price and not just similar ones but real 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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