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Icons for Windows Vienna. Appearance and construction.

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


Icons, which are used in a recently released Windows Vienna are mostly similar to Windows Vista graphics. They are designed using identical construction and guidelines.

So, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon drawn in aero style (style of Windows Vienna GUI). Major alterations in icons' design can be noticed in Windows Vista and Vienna interface at a glance. A typical feature of Windows Vista and Vienna GUI is new icons, designed in a more rigorous but still and more beautiful way. Glass glares and defined colours bring icons appealing for eyes, not irritating in continuous work and multiple viewing.

Key points of icons creation. Details of style.
  • Items used for metaphors are made in hi- tech style and look more advanced.
  • Degree of turn and volume bring life into images.
  • Items' angles and borders are neat and smoothly round.
  • All objects face a source of light now (with additional diffused lightening all around)
  • Drop shadow adds contrast and volume.
  • Elements with borders are easily distinguished.
  • Gradients enchance the volume and gives stylish appearance.
What is new in Vienna graphics?
  • Style is more realistic but still not photorealistic. Since icons are symbolic images and not images of certain items, in interface they fit even more appropriate than photos.
  • Overlayed images illustrate what program the object is related to.
  • Buttons icons have fewer details and look more plain for neat look under smaller size.
  • Icons have maximal size 256 x 256 and it makes them suitable for high dimension screens. To show icons on such screens in scaled size, saving the quality, large images are needed.
Size of Vienna - icons.

Typical icons in Windows Vienna consist of five sizes - 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 symbols only, largest size is not required.
Microsoft Corporation recommend to make GUI icons for applications running only under Windows Vienna in the following 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 and Windows Vista, because PNG files used in these icons is scaled with no perversion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With smaller sizes, automatic change of resolution deliver the picture of poor quality, so a separate 16 x 16 picture is required. Programs of resolution changes unfortunately are not perfect and its recommended to include 48x48 size into your icons to avoid perversion.

If you need the icon to be completely compatible with not only Windows 7 but other Windows releases also, you will have to create the icon including corresponding images (all - with three levels of colour depth).

Completely compatible (with Windows XP and previous versions) icon must 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), as this resolution is not required. 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 depth of Vienna graphics.

Windows Vienna reads 32-bits icons where 24 bits are occupied by image and 8 bits by transparency channel.
This lets icons to present semitransparent details and smooth edges, regardless the background they are at.

Typical Windows Vienna icons contain three levels of color depth for increased 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 need 32-bit colour depth.

If you want your icons to be good all the time, in case of video driver insufficiency for instance, 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 happen in Windows XP and older) but 4-bit option is not included in the icon, the colour pallet will be automatically reduced down to 16 colours, here you can get the way it will look 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 icons display material of an object 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 grouping.

Unlike previous versions, items in Windows Vienna are turned at 45 angle clockwise.
Angle -wise images are suggested for a software icon or to show the volume items.

Some objects look better when pictured non- rotated (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

Front or rotated placement of a second image in the icon depends on what both the item and the graphic represent. Its difficult to give more detailed recommendation in this case, you just have to be lead by the trial and analyze the way the icon 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 improve recognition and to potentiate the 3D effect. In 3D and flat icons the shade looks different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Outline of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-type icons usually have a border. Its not so vividly visible as in XP-style and is not constantly used. Border is nesessery to make possible understanding of an image, no matter the background it is located at. Border may be used only a part of an icon constantly matching the design of a picture securing its style.

Various kinds of outline

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

Vienna-icons have two functional differences from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons have an extra large picture 256x256
  • In typicall 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 releases (only smaller size images will be shown).
PNG-compression is used in icons for images 256x256 px only. The algorithm does not affect the quality and file size is reduced in about 4 times when transparency channel is included and picture is perfectly scale.

Compliance of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To get the icon fully compatible with Windows XP, 256x256 resolution in the icon should be saved non-compressed. You can always add or discharge the compression, this will not affect the quality. Resolution of the icon with uncompressed images containing all standard formats will be about 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are recommended?

Quality Vienna style icons have the whole list of advantages:
  • visual recognition of program's interface is pleasant
  • program's features are better displayed
  • usage is more intuitive , simple search and identification of programs, items and tasks
  • your aoolication's interface is advanced , stylish and unique

To get a quality appearance of a software, Microsoft suggests you to change the look of your commonly viewed icons, using aero style. It is also recommended to make a new design of all icons reflected in Start menu and Explorer (considering icons representing file types). It is recommended not to apply any icons in Windows 9x and earlier release style, in programs running under Windows Vienna.

Creation of single Vienna-icons.

Picture your application with the most convenient interface, in Vienna appearance, with unique icons that completely present application's features and tools thanks to appropriate metaphors, they get you to use the software just because it's a pleasure to look at it. Graphics made in a style that will certainly be another world classic.
You may ask: "Where do I order these perfect graphics, 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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