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Icons for Windows Vienna. Appearance and structure.

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


Icons, that appear in a recently created Windows Vienna are very similar to Windows Vista icons. They are designed using the same construction and guidelines.

First, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon created in aero style (style of Windows Vienna interface). Major changes in icons' appearance can be seen in Windows Vista and Vienna interface at a glance. A typical feature of Windows Vista and Vienna interface is new icons, designed in a more strict but still and more fine way. Glass glares and reserved colours bring icons appealing for eyes, not annoying in constant work and repeated viewing.

Overview of icons creation. Description of style.
  • Objects used for metaphors are drawn in hi- tech style and appear more current.
  • Angle of turn and volume bring life into images.
  • Items' angles and borders are soft and rounded.
  • All items face a spotlight now (with additional diffused lightening all around)
  • Falling shadow adds contrast and volume.
  • Elements with borders are better distinguished.
  • Gradients intensify the volume and provide stylish appearance.
What is updated in Vienna graphics?
  • Appearance is more realistic but still not photorealistic. Because icons are symbolic images and not pictures of certain items, in GUI they look even better than photos.
  • Overlayed images show what applications the object is assigned to.
  • Buttons icons have fewer details and appear more plain for optimizing under smaller size.
  • Icons have maximal size 256 x 256 and it makes them useable for high dimension screens. To show icons on such screens in scaled size, keeping the quality, big images are required.
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 buttons, toolbar or compact pictograms only, biggest size is not needed.
Microsoft Corporation suggests to create interface icons for applications operating exclusively under Windows Vienna in the following 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 unneeded 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 alterations of size makes the picture of poor quality, so another 16 x 16 image is needed. Programs of resolution changes unfortunately are not flawless and its recommended to include 48x48 image into your icons to avoid distortion.

If you want the icon to be fully compatible with not only Windows 7 but other Windows releases also, you will have to make the icon including corresponding images (each - with three types of colour depth).

Fully compatible (with Windows XP and older versions) icon should have following resolutions: 256 x 256, 48 x 48, 32 x 32, 16 x 16

We do not suggest to include 24 x 24 size into your icons (except toolbar), because this size is not required. Furthermore, the icon including this size, is hard to be compliant with Windows 98 and Windows 2000.
If you want images for your toolbar, their resolution is the same 24 x 24 and 16 x 16 px.

Colour depth of Vienna graphics.

Windows Vienna reads 32-bits icons in which 24 bits are occupied by picture and 8 bits by opacity channel.
This allows icons to have semitransparent details and sleek edges, regardless the background they are on.

Standard Windows Vienna icons consist of three levels 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 icons need 32-bit colour depth.

If you need your icons to be fine all the time, in case of video driver insufficiency for instance, you will need 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 occur in Windows XP and lower) but 4-bit depth is not available in the pictogram, the colour pallet will be automatically reduced 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 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 previous versions, objects in Windows Vienna are turned at 45 angle clockwise.
Rotated graphics are recommended for a software icon or to display the 3D items.

Following items look nicer if pictured 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

Front or angled overlaying of additional image in the icon depends on what both the item and the icon represent. Its hard to give more concrete recommendation in this situation, you just have to be guided by the experience and analyze 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 icons.

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

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Outline of Vienna-icons.

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

Various kinds of outline

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

Vienna-icons have 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 key moment as it makes 256x256 image non-compatible with Windows XP and earlier releases (only compact size images will be shown).
PNG-compression is used in icons for images 256x256 px only. The compression does not change the quality and file is reduced in almost 4 times while transparency channel is supported and picture is perfectly scale.

Compliance of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

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

Why Vienna icons are recommended?

Professionally made Vienna type icons have the whole list of advantages:
  • visual recognition of application's interface is pleasant
  • program's features are better presented
  • usage is more convenient , easy navigation and identification of programs, objects and actions
  • your program's interface is advanced , engaging and unique

To get an advanced appearance of a program, Microsoft recommends you to edit the design of your commonly displayed icons, with aero style. It is also recommended to make a new design of all icons presented 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 applications running under Windows Vienna.

Making of individual Vienna-icons.

Imaging your program with the most intuitive GUI, in Vienna style, with individual icons that completely show application's functions and tools due to proper metaphors, they get you to work with the application just because it's a joy to see it. Icons created in a style that will certainly be another world standard.
You could ask: "Where do I order these flawless graphics, at a competitive 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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