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Icons for Windows Vienna. Appearance and structure.

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


Graphics, that are used in a recently created Windows Vienna are mostly similar to Windows Vista icons. They are designed with identical structure and schemes.

So, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon created in aero style (style of Windows Vienna interface). Significant alterations in icons' design can be seen in Windows Vista and Vienna GUI at a glance. A typical detail of Windows Vista and Vienna interface is new icons, created in a more strict but still and more beautiful way. Glass highlights and reserved colours bring icons pleasant for eyes, not irritating in constant work and multiple viewing.

Key points of icons creation. Details of style.
  • Objects used for metaphors are crafted in hi- tech style and appear more current.
  • Angle of turn and volume bring life into images.
  • Items' angles and edges are neat and smoothly round.
  • All items face a source of light now (with extra diffused lightening all around)
  • Drop shadow gives contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are better distinguished.
  • Gradients enchance the volume and provide stylish appearance.
What is new in Vienna graphics?
  • Appearance is more realistic but still not photorealistic. Because icons are intuitive images and not pictures of certain items, in GUI they look even better than photos.
  • Overlayed images illustrate what program the object is related to.
  • Buttons icons have fewer details and appear more flat 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, saving the quality, large 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 menu, toolbar or compact pictograms only, biggest size is not needed.
Microsoft Corporation suggests to make GUI icons for programs running exclusively under Windows Vienna in the following sizes:
  • 256 x 256 px
  • 32 x 32 px
  • 16 x 16 px
Microsoft affirm 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 can be scaled with no distortion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With more compact sizes, automatic change of resolution makes the image of poor quality, so a separate 16 x 16 picture is needed. Programs of size changes unfortunately 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 former Windows releases as well, you will have to make the icon containing corresponding images (each - with three levels of colour depth).

Fully compatible (with Windows XP and previous releases) icon should contain following sizes: 256 x 256, 48 x 48, 32 x 32, 16 x 16

We do not recommend to put 24 x 24 resolution into your icons (except toolbar), because this resolution is not required. Moreover, the icon containing this size, is hard to be compliant with Windows 98 and Windows 2000.
If you need images 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 opacity channel.
This lets icons to present semitransparent details and sleek edges, regardless the background they are on.

Standard Windows Vienna graphics contain three types of color depth for backward 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 images need 32-bit colour depth.

If you want your icons to look good all the time, in situation 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 shown by your screen (this may occur in Windows XP and lower) but 4-bit depth is not available in the icon, the colour pallet will be automatically shifted down to 16 colours, here you can see the way it may 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 combination.

Unlike older versions, items in Windows Vienna are rotated at 45 angle clockwise.
Rotated images are recommended for an application icon or to present the 3D items.

Some items are better if pictured flat (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

Front or rotated overlaying of additional image in the icon depends on what both the image and the graphic represent. Its hard to give more detailed recommendation in this situation, you just need to be guided by the trial and analyze the way the icon is comprehended, also if it is in a group of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Falling shadow in Vienna graphics.

Drop shadow in Vienna icons is applied to improve recognition and to potentiate the 3D effect. In volume and plain icons the shadow is different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Outline of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-type icons often have an outline. Its not so clearly expressed as in XP-style and is not always used. Outline is required to make possible recognition of an icon, regardless the background it is located at. Border may take only a part of an image constantly following the design of an image securing its style.

Various kinds of outline

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

Vienna-icons have two functional differences from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons contain an extra large image 256x256
  • In typicall icons this grand picture has PNG compression
Use of PNG compression is a key point as it makes 256x256 image non-compatible with Windows XP and earlier releases (only smaller resolution pictures will be displayed).
PNG-algorithm is applied in icons for size 256x256 px only. The algorithm does not change the quality and file size 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 compatible with Windows XP, 256x256 resolution in the icon should be saved non-compressed. 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 better?

Quality Vienna style icons have the whole list of benefits:
  • visual recognition of application's interface is appealing
  • program's features are more clearly displayed
  • usage is more intuitive , easy navigation and identification of software, objects and actions
  • your program's interface is advanced , engaging and individual

To get an advanced appearance of a program, Microsoft suggests you to modify the design of your commonly viewed icons, using aero style. It is also recommended to make a new design of all icons reflected in Start menu and Explorer (including icons showing file types). It is suggested not to use any icons in Windows 9x and earlier version style, in applications running under Windows Vienna.

Making of individual Vienna-icons.

Imaging your program with the most intuitive GUI, in Vienna style, with unique icons that clearly show application's features and tasks thanks to proper metaphors, they make you to use the software just because it's a joy to look at it. Icons created in a style that will certainly be another world standard.
You could ask: "Where do I order these flawless graphics, at a reasonable 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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