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Icons for Windows Vienna. Appearance and construction.

The most important design detail of icons used in operating system Windows Vienna, construction differences of Vienna, Vista and XP icons, guidance to making Vienna type icons.


Graphics, that are used in a newly released Windows Vienna are mostly like Windows Vista graphics. They are designed using the same structure and guidelines.

So, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon made in aero style (style of Windows Vienna interface). Major changes in icons' appearance can be noticed in Windows Vista and Vienna interface even at first sight. A distinctive feature of Windows Vista and Vienna GUI is new icons, created in a more strict but still and more fine way. Glass highlights and reserved colours make icons pleasant for eyes, not annoying in continuous work and multiple viewing.

Key points of icons creation. Description of style.
  • Objects used for metaphors are made in hi- tech style and look more current.
  • Angle of rotation and volume bring life into images.
  • Objects' angles and borders are neat and smoothly round.
  • All objects face a source of light now (with additional diffused lightening all around)
  • Drop shadow adds contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are better distinguished.
  • Gradients enchance the volume and gives stylish appearance.
What is new in Vienna style icons?
  • Appearance is more realistic but still not photorealistic. Because icons are symbolic images and not images of certain items, in interface they look even more appropriate than photos.
  • Overlayed images illustrate what applications the file is related to.
  • Buttons icons have less details and look more flat for optimizing under smaller size.
  • Icons have maximal size 256 x 256 and it makes them useable for high resolution screens. To display icons on those screens in proportional size, saving the quality, big images are required.
Size of Vienna - icons.

Typical icons in Windows Vienna consist of 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 needed.
Microsoft Corporation suggests to make interface icons for applications running exclusively in Windows Vienna in the listed sizes:
  • 256 x 256 px
  • 32 x 32 px
  • 16 x 16 px
Microsoft affirm that intermediate 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 smaller sizes, automatic alterations of resolution deliver the picture of bad quality, so another 16 x 16 image is needed. Programs of resolution changes however are not perfect and its recommended to include 48x48 image into your icons to have less perversion.

If you need the pictogram to be fully compliant with not only Windows Vienna but older Windows versions also, you will have to create the icon containing corresponding images (all - with three types of colour depth).

Fully compliant (with Windows XP and former versions) icon must contain following resolutions: 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), because this resolution is not required. Furthermore, the icon containing 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 depth of Vienna icons.

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

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

If you need your icons to be fine all the time, in situation of video driver insufficiency for instance, you will require 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 older) but 4-bit depth is not included in the icon, the colour pallet will be automatically shifted down to 16 colours, below you can get the way it will appear 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.

Unlike former releases, objects in Windows Vienna are rotated at 45 angle clockwise.
Rotated images are suggested for an application icon or to show the 3D items.

Following items are better if displayed 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

Plain or rotated overlaying of a second item in the icon depends on what both the item and the icon represent. Its difficult to give more detailed recommendation in this case, you just need to be lead by the experience and study the way the image is comprehended, also if it is in a combination of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Falling shadow in Vienna graphics.

Drop shadow in Vienna icons is used to increase recognition and to potentiate the 3D effect. In 3D and flat icons the shade 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-type and is not constantly used. Outline is required to ensure recognition of an icon, no matter the background it is located at. Outline may take only a part of an image constantly matching the design of an icon securing its style.

Various kinds of outline

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

Vienna-icons contain two functional differences from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons have a grand image 256x256
  • In original 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 earlier versions (only smaller size pictures will be shown).
PNG-algorithm is used in icons for images 256x256 px only. The algorithm does not change the quality and file is smaller in almost 4 times when transparency channel is enabled and picture is perfectly scale.

Compliance of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To get the icon fully compliant with Windows XP, 256x256 image in the icon must be saved uncompressed. You can always include or cancel the compression, this will not change the quality. Resolution of the icon with non-compressed images containing all common formats will be about 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are better?

Professionally made Vienna type icons have the following advantages:
  • visual recognition of application's interface is pleasant
  • program's abilities are more clearly presented
  • usage is more convenient , easy navigation and identification of software, objects and tasks
  • your aoolication's GUI is advanced , stylish and individual

To get a professional appearance of an application, Microsoft suggests you to edit the look of your mostly viewed icons, using aero style. It is also suggested to make a modern 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 older version style, in programs running under Windows Vienna.

Making of single Vienna-icons.

Picture your software with the most convenient GUI, in Vienna appearance, with individual icons that completely show application's features and tools due to appropriate metaphors, they make you to work with the software just because it's a pleasure to look at it. Icons made in a style that will definitely be a new world classic.
You could ask: "Where can I order these perfect icons, 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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