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Icons for Windows Vienna. Design and structure.

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


Icons, that are used in a recently created Windows Vienna are mostly like Windows Vista graphics. They are created with identical construction and guidelines.

So, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon created in aero style (style of Windows Vienna GUI). Significant changes in icons' design can be noticed in Windows Vista and Vienna interface even at first sight. A typical feature of Windows Vista and Vienna GUI is new icons, designed in a more rigorous rigorous and more beautiful way. Glass highlights and defined colours bring icons pleasant for eyes, not irritating in continuous work and multiple viewing.

Overview of icons creation. Description of style.
  • Objects 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 edges are neat and rounded.
  • All items face a source of light now (with extra diffused lightening all around)
  • Drop shadow brings contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are better distinguished.
  • Gradients enchance the volume and gives stylish look.
What is new in Vienna style icons?
  • Appearance is more realistic but still not photorealistic. Because icons are symbolic images and not illustrations of specific items, in GUI they look even more appropriate than photos.
  • Overlayed images illustrate what applications the file is assigned to.
  • Buttons icons contain fewer 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, big 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 buttons, toolbar or compact pictograms only, largest size is not needed.
Microsoft Corporation suggests to create GUI icons for software running only under Windows Vienna in the listed 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 unneeded 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 smaller sizes, automatic alterations of resolution makes the picture of poor quality, so another 16 x 16 picture is needed. Programs of size changes unfortunately are not flawless and its better to include 48x48 size into your icons to have less perversion.

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

Completely compatible (with Windows XP and former releases) icon must 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 graphics (except toolbar), as this size is not necessary. Furthermore, the icon including 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 options of Vienna icons.

Windows Vienna uses 32-bits icons in which 24 bits are occupied by picture and 8 bits by transparency 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 look fine all the time, in situation of video driver insufficiency for example, 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 monitor (this may occur in Windows XP and lower) but 4-bit option is not included in the icon, the colour pallet will be automatically shifted down to 16 colours, here you can get 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 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 combination.

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

Following items look better if displayed flat (like they are down on a desk and you look on them)
  • Files icons
  • Flat objects
  • 16 x 16 size icons
Icons for rotated and non -rotated objects

Front or rotated overlaying of a second image in the icon is determined on what both the image and the graphic mean. Its hard to give more concrete recommendation in this case, you just have to be guided by the trial and analyze 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 icons.

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

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 original icons this grand image has PNG compression
Use of PNG compression is a critical moment as it brings 256x256 image non-compatible with Windows XP and previous versions (only compact resolution images will be displayed).
PNG-compression is applied in icons for images 256x256 px only. The compression does not affect the quality and file is reduced in almost 4 times when transparency channel is supported and image is perfectly scale.

Compliance of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To get the icon completely compliant with Windows XP, 256x256 seize in the icon must be saved non-compressed. You can always include or discharge the compression, this will not affect 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 style icons have the whole list of benefits:
  • visual recognition of program's interface is pleasant
  • program's abilities are better presented
  • usage is more intuitive , simple search and identification of programs, items and actions
  • your program's GUI is advanced , engaging and unique

To get a professional appearance of a program, Microsoft suggests you to edit the design of your commonly viewed icons, using aero style. It is also suggested to make a new design of all icons reflected in Start menu and Explorer (considering icons representing type of a file). It is suggested not to apply any icons in Windows 9x and earlier version style, in programs running under Windows Vienna.

Making of single Vienna-icons.

Picture your software with the most intuitive interface, in Vienna style, with unique icons that clearly present application's features and tasks thanks to appropriate metaphors, they make you to work with the software just because it's a joy to see it. Graphics created in a style that will definitely be another world standard.
You could ask: "Where do I order these perfect icons, at a reasonable price and not just like 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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