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Icons for Windows Vienna. Appearance and construction.

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


Graphics, which are used in a recently created Windows Vienna are mostly similar to Windows Vista icons. They are designed using the same structure and guidelines.

So, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon created in aero style (style of Windows Vienna GUI). Major changes in icons' design can be seen 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 rigorous and more fine way. Glass glares and reserved colours bring icons appealing for eyes, not irritating in constant work and multiple viewing.

Overview of icons creation. Description of style.
  • Items 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 neat and rounded.
  • All items face a source of light now (with extra lightning spread all around)
  • Drop shadow gives contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are easily distinguished.
  • Gradients enchance the volume and provide stylish appearance.
What is updated in Vienna style icons?
  • Appearance is more realistic but still not completely realistic. Since icons are symbolic images and not illustrations of specific items, in interface they fit even better than photos.
  • Overlayed images illustrate what applications the file is assigned to.
  • Buttons icons contain fewer details and look more plain for optimizing under smaller size.
  • Icons have maximal size 256 x 256 and it makes them suitable for high resolution screens. To show icons on such screens in proportional size, saving 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 small pictograms only, largest size is not needed.
Microsoft Corporation suggests to make interface icons for software running only 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 and Windows Vista, because PNG format used in these icons is scaled with no distortion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With more compact sizes, automatic alterations of resolution deliver the picture of bad quality, so another 16 x 16 picture is required. Programs of size changes however are not flawless and its better to include 48x48 image into your icons to avoid distortion.

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

Completely compatible (with Windows XP and previous versions) icon should contain following sizes: 256 x 256, 48 x 48, 32 x 32, 16 x 16

We do not recommend to include 24 x 24 size into your graphics (except toolbar), because this size is not required. Moreover, 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 uses 32-bits icons in which 24 bits are reserved for image and 8 bits by transparency channel.
This allows icons to present semitransparent details and smooth edges, regardless the background they are on.

Typical Windows Vienna icons consist of three types 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 require 32-bit colour depth.

If you need your icons to look good all the time, in case of video driver insufficiency for example, 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 screen (this may occur in Windows XP and older) but 4-bit depth is not included in the pictogram, the colour pallet will be automatically shifted down to 16 colours, below you can see the way it will 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 show 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

Turn angle and objects grouping.

Unlike former versions, items in Windows Vienna are turned at 45 angle clockwise.
Rotated images are recommended for a software icon or to present the 3D items.

Following objects are nicer when pictured non- rotated (like they are down on a table and you look on them)
  • Files icons
  • Flat objects
  • 16 x 16 size icons
Icons for rotated and non -rotated objects

Plain or rotated overlaying of a second item in the icon depends on what both the item and the graphic represent. Its hard to give more detailed suggestion in this case, you just need to be lead by the experience and study the way the icon is understood, also if it is in a group 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 intensify the volume. In 3D and flat 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-type and is not constantly used. Border is required to ensure understanding of an icon, no matter the background it is located at. Outline may be used only a part of an image always matching the design of an icon securing its style.

Various kinds of outline

Overview of Vienna-icon structure
Functional distinctions of Vienna-icons and XP-icons

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

Compatibility of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To get the icon completely compliant with Windows XP, 256x256 seize in the icon should be saved uncompressed. You can always add or cancel the compression, this will not change the quality. Resolution of the icon with non-compressed images including all standard formats will be about 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are better?

Professionally made Vienna type icons have the whole list of advantages:
  • visual comprehension of program's interface is appealing
  • program's abilities are better displayed
  • usage is more intuitive , simple navigation and identification of software, items and tasks
  • your aoolication's interface is advanced , stylish and individual

To get a quality appearance of a software, Microsoft recommends you to edit the design of your mostly 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 file types). It is suggested not to apply any icons in Windows 9x and earlier version style, in applications operating under Windows Vienna.

Making of individual Vienna-icons.

Imaging your software with the most intuitive GUI, in Vienna style, with unique icons that completely show application's features and tasks thanks to proper metaphors, they get you to use the program just because it's a joy to look at it. Icons created in a style that will certainly be another world standard.
You may ask: "Where do I purchase 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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