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Icons for Windows Vienna. Appearance and structure.

The most significant design features of icons appearing in operating system Windows Vienna, construction distinctions of Vienna, Vista and XP graphics, guidance to creation Vienna style icons.


Graphics, which are used in a newly released Windows Vienna are mostly similar to Windows Vista icons. They are created using the same construction and schemes.

So, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon drawn 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 distinctive feature of Windows Vista and Vienna interface is new icons, designed in a more strict rigorous and more fine way. Glass glares and defined colours bring icons pleasant for eyes, not irritating in constant work and multiple viewing.

Overview of icons creation. Details of style.
  • Items used as metaphors are crafted in hi- tech style and look more advanced.
  • Angle of rotation and volume bring life into images.
  • Objects' angles and edges are neat and smoothly round.
  • All objects face a spotlight now (with extra lightning spread all around)
  • Falling shadow brings contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are easily distinguished.
  • Gradients intensify the volume and gives stylish appearance.
What is new in Vienna style icons?
  • Appearance is more realistic but still not completely realistic. Since icons are intuitive images and not images of certain items, in GUI they look even more appropriate than photos.
  • Overlayed images show what program the file is related to.
  • Buttons icons have less details and appear more plain for neat look under smaller size.
  • Icons have biggest size 256 x 256 and it makes them suitable for high dimension screens. To display icons on such screens in proportional size, keeping the quality, big 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 compact symbols only, largest size is not required.
Microsoft Corporation recommend to make interface icons for applications running exclusively 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 necessary for Windows Vienna or Windows Vista, because PNG format used in these icons can be scaled with no perversion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With more compact sizes, automatic alterations of resolution deliver the image of poor quality, so a separate 16 x 16 image is needed. Programs of resolution changes unfortunately are not flawless and its recommended to include 48x48 size into your icons to avoid distortion.

If you need the pictogram to be fully compliant with not only Windows Vienna but former Windows releases as well, you will have to create the icon including respective images (each - with three types of colour depth).

Fully compliant (with Windows XP and older releases) icon must contain 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 necessary. Moreover, the icon containing this size, is hard to be compliant with Windows 98 and Windows 2000.
If you want images for your toolbar, their size is the same 24 x 24 and 16 x 16 px.

Colour options of Vienna graphics.

Windows Vienna support 32-bits icons where 24 bits are reserved for image and 8 bits by opacity channel.
This allows icons to present semitransparent elements and sleek edges, regardless the background they are at.

Standard Windows Vienna graphics contain 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 look fine 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 monitor (this may occur in Windows XP and older) 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 look 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 show material of an object or a signal (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 previous versions, objects in Windows Vienna are rotated at 45 angle clockwise.
Rotated graphics are suggested for a software icon or to show the 3D items.

Some objects look better when displayed flat (like they are laying 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 angled placement of a second item in the icon depends on what both the image and the graphic represent. Its difficult to give more concrete recommendation in this situation, you just have to be lead by the trial and study the way the image is comprehended, also when it is in a combination of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Drop shadow in Vienna graphics.

Drop shadow in Vienna icons is applied to increase recognition and to intensify the volume. In 3D and plain icons the shade is different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Border of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-type icons often have an outline. Its not so vividly expressed as in XP-type and is not always used. Outline is required to ensure 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 style.

Various kinds of outline

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

Vienna-icons contain two functional distinctions from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons contain a grand image 256x256
  • In typicall icons this large picture has PNG extension
Use of PNG file is a key point as it brings 256x256 image non-useable with Windows XP and earlier versions (only compact size images will be displayed).
PNG-compression is applied in icons for images 256x256 px only. The algorithm does not change the quality and file is smaller in about 4 times when transparency channel is enabled and picture is perfectly scale.

Compatibility of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To get the icon fully compliant with Windows XP, 256x256 image in the icon should be saved non-compressed. You can always include or discharge the compression, this will not change the quality. Size of the icon with uncompressed images including all standard formats will be about 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are recommended?

Quality Vienna style icons have the following advantages:
  • visual recognition of application's interface is appealing
  • program's features are more clearly displayed
  • usage is more intuitive , simple navigation and identification of programs, items and tasks
  • your program's GUI is advanced , engaging and unique

To get a professional appearance of a software, Microsoft suggests you to change the look of your commonly displayed icons, with aero style. It is also suggested to make a modern design of all icons reflected in Start menu and Explorer (considering icons representing file types). It is recommended not to use any icons in Windows 9x and older release style, in applications operating under Windows Vienna.

Creation of single Vienna-icons.

Picture your program with the most convenient GUI, in Vienna style, with unique icons that completely show application's features and tasks due to appropriate metaphors, they make you to work with the program just because it's a pleasure to see it. Graphics created in a style that will definitely be another world classic.
You may ask: "Where can I purchase these flawless icons, at a competitive price and not just like 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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