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Icons for Windows Vienna. Appearance and construction.

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


Graphics, which are used in a newly released Windows Vienna are mostly like Windows Vista icons. They are created with the same construction and guidelines.

First, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon made in aero style (style of Windows Vienna interface). Significant changes in icons' appearance can be noticed in Windows Vista and Vienna GUI at a glance. A distinctive feature of Windows Vista and Vienna GUI is new icons, created in a more rigorous but still and more beautiful way. Glass glares and defined colours make icons appealing for eyes, not irritating in continuous work and repeated viewing.

Overview of icons creation. Description of style.
  • Items used for metaphors are drawn in hi- tech style and look more current.
  • Angle of turn and volume bring life into images.
  • Objects' angles and edges are soft and rounded.
  • All objects face a spotlight now (with extra lightning spread all around)
  • Drop shadow adds contrast and volume.
  • Elements with borders are better distinguished.
  • Gradients enchance the volume and provide stylish appearance.
What is updated in Vienna style icons?
  • Appearance is more realistic but still not photorealistic. Because icons are symbolic images and not pictures of specific items, in interface they fit even more appropriate than photos.
  • Overlayed images indicate what applications the object is assigned 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 suitable for high resolution screens. To display icons on such screens in proportional size, saving the quality, large images are required.
Size of Vienna - icons.

Standard 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 small symbols only, largest size is not needed.
Microsoft Corporation recommend to make interface icons for programs running only under Windows Vienna in the following sizes:
  • 256 x 256 px
  • 32 x 32 px
  • 16 x 16 px
Microsoft states that interim 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 perversion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With more compact sizes, program's alterations of resolution makes the picture of bad quality, so another 16 x 16 image is required. Algorithms of resolution changes however are not perfect and its better to include 48x48 image into your icons to have less perversion.

If you need the pictogram to be completely compatible with not only Windows Vienna but older Windows versions also, you will need to make the icon containing corresponding images (all - with three levels of colour depth).

Completely compatible (with Windows XP and previous releases) icon must have following sizes: 256 x 256, 48 x 48, 32 x 32, 16 x 16

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

Typical Windows Vienna icons contain three types of color options 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 want your icons to be good all the time, in case of video driver failure for example, you will require 8-bit and 4-bit images (with 256 or even 16 colours only).
An icon in various colour depth

If there are 16 colours displayed by your monitor (this may happen in Windows XP and lower) but 4-bit depth is not provided in the pictogram, the colour pallet will be automatically shifted down to 16 colours, below you can get 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 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

Turn angle and objects grouping.

Not like former releases, objects in Windows Vienna are rotated at 45 angle clockwise.
Angle -wise graphics are suggested for a software icon or to show the volume objects.

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

Flat or rotated overlaying of additional item in the icon is determined on what both the image and the graphic represent. Its hard to give more concrete recommendation in this situation, you just need to be lead by the trial and study the way the image is understood, also if it is in a combination of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Falling shadow in Vienna graphics.

Falling shadow in Vienna icons is used to improve recognition and to potentiate the volume. In 3D and flat icons the shadow looks different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Outline of Vienna-icons.

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

Various kinds of outline

Overview of Vienna-icon structure
Main distinctions of Vienna-icons and XP-icons

Vienna-icons have two main differences from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons have a grand picture 256x256
  • In typicall icons this large image has PNG extension
Use of PNG compression is a critical moment as it brings 256x256 image non-useable with Windows XP and previous versions (only smaller resolution images will be displayed).
PNG-algorithm is used in icons for size 256x256 px only. The compression does not change the quality and file is reduced in about 4 times while transparency channel is included and image is perfectly scale.

Compliance of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To get the icon fully compliant with Windows XP, 256x256 resolution in the icon must be saved non-compressed. You can always add or discharge the compression, this will not change the quality. Resolution of the icon with uncompressed images containing all standard formats will approximately be 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are recommended?

Quality Vienna style icons have the whole list of benefits:
  • visual comprehension of program's interface is pleasant
  • program's features are better presented
  • usage is more intuitive , easy search and identification of software, items and tasks
  • your program's interface is advanced , stylish and unique

To get a professional appearance of an application, Microsoft recommends you to modify the look of your mostly 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 type of a file). It is recommended not to apply any icons in Windows 9x and older version style, in applications operating under Windows Vienna.

Creation of single Vienna-icons.

Picture your program with the most intuitive GUI, in Vienna style, with individual icons that clearly show application's features and tasks thanks to appropriate metaphors, they get you to work with the application just because it's a pleasure to see it. Graphics created in a style that will certainly be a new world standard.
You may ask: "Where can I order these flawless 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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