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Icons for Windows Vienna. Appearance and construction.

The most important design detail of icons used in operating system Windows Vienna, structural differences of Vienna, Vista and XP graphics, recommendations to creation Vienna type icons.


Introduction

Graphics, that appear in a newly released Windows Vienna are mostly like Windows Vista icons. They are designed using identical construction and guidelines.

So, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon created in aero style (style of Windows Vienna GUI). Major alterations in icons' appearance can be noticed in Windows Vista and Vienna interface at a glance. A distinctive detail of Windows Vista and Vienna GUI is new icons, designed in a more strict but still and more beautiful way. Glass highlights and reserved colours make icons appealing for eyes, not annoying in continuous work and multiple viewing.

Key points of icons design. Description of style.
  • Objects used as metaphors are made in hi- tech style and appear more advanced.
  • Angle of turn and volume bring life into images.
  • Objects' angles and edges are soft and rounded.
  • All objects face a source of light now (with extra diffused lightening all around)
  • Falling shadow gives contrast and volume.
  • Elements with borders are better distinguished.
  • Gradients enchance the volume and provide stylish appearance.
What is new in Vienna style icons?
  • Style is more realistic but still not photorealistic. Since icons are intuitive images and not images of specific items, in interface they look even better than photos.
  • Overlayed images show what program the object is assigned to.
  • Toolbar icons have fewer details and look more flat for optimizing under smaller size.
  • Icons have biggest size 256 x 256 and it makes them useable for high resolution screens. To display icons on such screens in scaled size, saving the quality, large images are needed.
Size of Vienna - icons.

Standard 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, largest size is not needed.
Microsoft Corporation suggests to make GUI icons for programs operating only in 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 necessary for Windows Vienna and Windows Vista, because PNG files 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 deliver the picture of poor quality, so a separate 16 x 16 image is needed. Programs of resolution changes unfortunately are not flawless and its better to include 48x48 size into your icons to avoid distortion.

If you need the pictogram to be fully compatible with not only Windows 7 but older Windows versions as well, you will need to make the icon containing corresponding images (each - with three levels of colour depth).

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

We do not recommend to put 24 x 24 size into your graphics (except toolbar), because this size is not required. Moreover, the icon containing this size, is hard to be compliant with Windows 98 and Windows 2000.
If you need icons for your toolbar, their size is the same 24 x 24 and 16 x 16 px.

Colour depth of Vienna icons.

Windows Vienna understands 32-bits icons in which 24 bits are dedicatedto image and 8 bits by transparency channel.
This allows icons to present semitransparent details and sleek edges, no matter of the background they are at.

Standard Windows Vienna icons consist of three levels of color options 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 require 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 depths (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 older) but 4-bit option is not provided 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 displayed in 16 colours.

Vienna icons colour pallet.

Colours in Vienna graphics display material of a subject or a message (if used in symbols)

Material
  • 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

Signal
  • Red - warning
  • Yellow - attention
  • Green - permission
  • Dark blue - information
Signal colours


Rotation angle and objects grouping.

Unlike previous versions, objects in Windows Vienna are turned at 45 angle clockwise.
Rotated graphics are suggested for an application icon or to show the volume objects.

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

Plain or angled overlaying of a second item in the icon is determined on what both the item and the icon mean. Its difficult to give more detailed recommendation in this situation, you just have to be lead by the experience and analyze the way the icon is comprehended, also if it is in a combination of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Drop shadow in Vienna icons.

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

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Border of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-type icons usually have an outline. Its not so clearly visible as in XP-style and is not always used. Outline is nesessery to make possible understanding of an icon, regardless the background it is placed at. Outline may be used only a part of an icon always following the design of an image securing its reality.

Various kinds of outline

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


Vienna-icons have two main differences from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons have an extra large image 256x256
  • In typicall icons this grand picture has PNG compression
Use of PNG compression is a critical point as it makes 256x256 image non-useable with Windows XP and earlier releases (only smaller size images will be shown).
PNG-algorithm is used in icons for images 256x256 px only. The compression does not affect the quality and file is reduced in about 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 completely compliant with Windows XP, 256x256 resolution in the icon must be saved uncompressed. You can always add or discharge the compression, this will not affect the quality. Size of the icon with non-compressed images containing all standard formats will be about 400 Kb.

Summary
Why Vienna icons are better?


Quality Vienna style icons have the following benefits:
  • visual comprehension of application's interface is pleasant
  • program's abilities are more clearly displayed
  • usage is more intuitive , simple navigation and identification of software, objects and actions
  • your program's GUI is advanced , engaging and individual
Recommendations.

To get a professional appearance of a software, Microsoft suggests 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 presented in Start menu and Explorer (including icons showing type of a file). It is suggested not to apply any icons in Windows 9x and older version style, in programs running under Windows Vienna.

Creation of single Vienna-icons.

Imaging your program with the most convenient interface, in Vienna appearance, with individual icons that completely show program's functions and tasks due to appropriate metaphors, they make you to use the application just because it's a pleasure 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 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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