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Icons for Windows Vienna. Appearance and construction.

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


Icons, that are used in a newly created Windows Vienna are mostly similar to Windows Vista graphics. They are designed with the same construction and schemes.

First, 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 interface at a glance. A distinctive detail of Windows Vista and Vienna interface is new icons, designed in a more strict but still and more fine way. Glass highlights and reserved colours make icons appealing for eyes, not irritating in constant work and multiple viewing.

Key points of icons creation. Details of style.
  • Objects used as metaphors are made in hi- tech style and look more advanced.
  • Degree of rotation and volume make image alive.
  • Objects' angles and edges are neat and smoothly round.
  • All objects face a source of light now (with extra lightning spread all around)
  • Drop shadow gives contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are easily distinguished.
  • Gradients intensify the volume and gives stylish appearance.
What is new in Vienna style icons?
  • Appearance is more realistic but still not completely realistic. Because icons are symbolic images and not images of certain items, in GUI they look even better than photos.
  • Overlayed images illustrate what applications the file is assigned to.
  • Buttons icons have fewer details and look more flat for optimizing under smaller size.
  • Icons have biggest size 256 x 256 and it makes them suitable for high resolution screens. To display icons on such screens in proportional size, keeping the quality, big 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 applied for menu, toolbar or small symbols only, biggest size is not required.
Microsoft Corporation recommend to create 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 files 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 makes the picture of bad quality, so a separate 16 x 16 image is needed. Programs of resolution changes however are not flawless and its better to include 48x48 size into your icons to avoid distortion.

If you want the icon to be completely compatible with not only Windows 7 but former Windows versions also, you will need to create the icon containing respective images (all - with three types of colour depth).

Completely compliant (with Windows XP and former 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 icons (except toolbar), as this resolution is not required. Furthermore, the icon including this size, is hard to be compliant with Windows 98 and Windows 2000.
If you want icons for your toolbar, their size is the same 24 x 24 and 16 x 16 px.

Colour options of Vienna icons.

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

Typical Windows Vienna graphics 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 images 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 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 displayed by your monitor (this may happen in Windows XP and lower) but 4-bit option is not provided in the pictogram, the colour scheme will be automatically shifted down to 16 colours, below you can see the way it may 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 graphics show 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

Turn angle and objects combination.

Not like former releases, items in Windows Vienna are turned at 45 angle clockwise.
Rotated graphics are recommended for an application icon or to present the 3D items.

Some objects look nicer if displayed non- rotated (like they are laying 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 angled overlaying of a second image in the icon is determined on what both the image and the icon represent. Its difficult to give more detailed recommendation in this case, you just have to be lead by the experience and study the way the icon is understood, also when it is in a group of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Drop shadow in Vienna graphics.

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

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Outline of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-type icons usually have a border. Its not so clearly expressed 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 take only a part of an image 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 main differences from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons contain an extra large picture 256x256
  • In original icons this large picture has PNG extension
Use of PNG compression is a key moment as it makes 256x256 image non-useable with Windows XP and earlier releases (only compact size images will be displayed).
PNG-compression is applied in icons for size 256x256 px only. The algorithm does not affect the quality and file is reduced in about 4 times when transparency channel is supported and picture is perfectly scale.

Compatibility of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To make the icon completely compatible with Windows XP, 256x256 image in the icon must be saved uncompressed. You can always add or discharge the compression, this will not affect the quality. Resolution of the icon with non-compressed images including all standard formats will approximately be 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are recommended?

Professionally made 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 convenient , simple search and identification of software, items and actions
  • your program's GUI is advanced , stylish and individual

To get a professional appearance of a program, Microsoft recommends you to change the look of your commonly viewed icons, using 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 older version style, in applications running under Windows Vienna.

Creation of individual Vienna-icons.

Picture your software with the most intuitive interface, in Vienna appearance, with individual icons that completely show program's functions and tasks thanks to appropriate metaphors, they get you to use the application just because it's a pleasure to see it. Graphics created in a style that will certainly be a new world classic.
You could ask: "Where can I order these flawless graphics, at a competitive price and not just similar 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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