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Icons for Windows Vienna. Design and construction.

The most important design features of icons appearing in operating system Windows Vienna, structural distinctions of Vienna, Vista and XP icons, guidance to making Vienna type icons.


Graphics, which appear in a recently created Windows Vienna are very similar to Windows Vista graphics. They are created using the same structure and guidelines.

First, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon drawn in aero style (style of Windows Vienna GUI). Significant changes in icons' design can be noticed in Windows Vista and Vienna GUI at a glance. A typical feature of Windows Vista and Vienna GUI is new icons, created in a more strict but still and more beautiful way. Glass highlights and defined colours bring icons pleasant for eyes, not irritating in constant work and repeated viewing.

Key points of icons creation. Details of style.
  • Objects used as metaphors are crafted in hi- tech style and appear more current.
  • Degree of turn and volume make image alive.
  • Items' angles and edges are neat and smoothly round.
  • All objects face a spotlight now (with extra diffused lightening all around)
  • Falling shadow gives contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are easily distinguished.
  • Gradients enchance the volume and provide stylish appearance.
What is updated in Vienna graphics?
  • Appearance is more realistic but still not completely realistic. Since icons are symbolic images and not images of certain items, in interface they fit even better than photos.
  • Overlayed images indicate what applications the object is assigned to.
  • Buttons icons have less details and look more flat for neat look under smaller size.
  • Icons have maximal size 256 x 256 and it makes them useable for high dimension screens. To show icons on those screens in proportional size, saving the quality, big images are needed.
Size of Vienna - icons.

Standard icons in Windows Vienna contain five sizes - 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 small symbols only, biggest size is not required.
Microsoft Corporation suggests to create GUI icons for applications running only in Windows Vienna in the listed 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 or Windows Vista, because PNG format used in these icons is scaled with no distortion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With smaller sizes, automatic change of size deliver the image of poor quality, so another 16 x 16 picture is needed. Programs of resolution changes however are not flawless and its recommended to include 48x48 image into your icons to avoid perversion.

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

Fully compliant (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 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 images for your toolbar, their size is the same 24 x 24 and 16 x 16 px.

Colour depth of Vienna graphics.

Windows Vienna uses 32-bits icons in which 24 bits are dedicatedto image and 8 bits by transparency channel.
This allows icons to present semitransparent elements and smooth edges, no matter of the background they are on.

Standard Windows Vienna graphics contain three levels of color options 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 icons require 32-bit colour depth.

If you want your icons to be good all the time, in situation of video driver insufficiency for instance, you will need 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 lower) but 4-bit depth is not included in the pictogram, the colour scheme will be automatically reduced down to 16 colours, below you can see the way it will 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 graphics display material of a subject 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 releases, items in Windows Vienna are turned at 45 angle clockwise.
Angle -wise images are suggested for an application icon or to present the 3D items.

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

Flat or angled placement of a second item in the icon depends on what both the image and the icon mean. Its hard to give more detailed suggestion in this case, you just need to be guided by the trial and study the way the image is understood, also if it is in a group of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Drop shadow in Vienna icons.

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

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Outline of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-type icons usually have an outline. Its not so vividly visible as in XP-style and is not always used. Border is nesessery to ensure recognition of an icon, regardless the background it is located at. Outline may be used only a part of an icon constantly following the design of an icon securing its style.

Various kinds of outline

Review of Vienna-icon structure
Main differences of Vienna-icons and XP-icons

Vienna-icons contain two functional differences from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons have an extra large image 256x256
  • In original icons this large image has PNG compression
Use of PNG compression is a key moment as it brings 256x256 image non-useable with Windows XP and earlier versions (only smaller resolution pictures will be shown).
PNG-algorithm is applied in icons for images 256x256 px only. The compression does not change the quality and file is smaller in almost 4 times while transparency channel is enabled and picture is perfectly scale.

Compatibility of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To make the icon fully compliant with Windows XP, 256x256 seize 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 program's interface is appealing
  • program's abilities are better displayed
  • usage is more intuitive , simple navigation and identification of software, objects and actions
  • your program's GUI is advanced , stylish and unique

To get a quality appearance of a program, Microsoft suggests you to change the design of your commonly displayed icons, with aero style. It is also suggested to make a new design of all icons reflected in Start menu and Explorer (considering icons showing type of a file). It is suggested not to apply any icons in Windows 9x and earlier 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 individual icons that completely show application's functions and tasks thanks to appropriate metaphors, they get you to use the software just because it's a joy to see it. Graphics made in a style that will certainly be a new world classic.
You may ask: "Where do I purchase these perfect graphics, 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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