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What Are PNG Icons?

Many independent vendors are offering custom icons in sizes and resolutions standard to certain computer platforms. The article explains what icons are, how they are used and implemented in various platforms, and what standards exist for Windows icons, Mac icons, and PNG icons.

Computer icons are incorporated into any graphical user interface. Icons are small pictograms of standard sizes that depict objects, actions, and other concepts. In graphical user interfaces, icons are used as a faster, more intuitive way to communicate with the user. Icons depicting standard elements of a user interface are better visible than text, can be recognized faster, and are certainly easier on the eyes.

Originally introduced in 1970 by the Xerox Research Center and widely popularized by the Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows platforms, icons make new users feel more comfortable with computer systems, learn faster and work more efficiently. Icons can be employed to replace or supplement text messages. Commonly used in menus, toolbars, on buttons and in new ribbon-style user interfaces, icons have come a long way from the original concept.

There are multiple image formats for storing icons. Microsoft Windows systems store Windows icons in the platform-dependent ICO format. Apple Macintosh systems store Mac icons in their specific formats, while Unix-based systems employ PNG icons for most applications. As such, icon editing software is generally available for the Windows and Apple platforms, while Unix users can create PNG icons with any graphic editor.

Generally speaking, icons are square images that come in a variety of standard sizes and color resolutions. Most systems support icons of 16x16 to 128x128 pixels, while some platforms readily accept icon images as large as 512x512 pixels. The big 512x512 pixel icons were first employed in Mac OS Leopard.

Pixel resolutions of all icons are operating system dependent. For example, Windows icons are specified as images in 16 and 256-color gammas as well as True Color pictures with alpha channel. Windows icons come in standard sizes of 16x16, 32x32, and 48x48 pixels. Windows Vista defines new standards for Windows icons, including icons in resolutions of up to 256x256 pixels in True Color only. Optionally, icons of 128x128 and 512x512 pixels are supported. Interestingly, the higher resolution versions of Windows Vista icons are stored in compressed PNG format instead of Windows ICO used in previous versions of Windows and for lower resolution images. Other platforms such as Windows Mobile can use standard icons of other resolutions, such as 24x24 pixels.

Many independent designers are providing custom icons. Aha-Soft offers a wide selection of Windows icons, Mac icons, and PNG icons in all sizes and resolutions common to those platforms. The company provides royalty-free icons individually and in matching sets that include icons drawn a common style or theme.

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Large Weather Icons Large Weather Icons depict different weather conditions that are common for software, weather Web sites, and mobile gadgets. The images arprovided in typical resolutions standard to Windows, Mac OS, and other systems. The largest versions are huge 512x512 pixel images with vector sources in Adobe Illustrator (.ai) format easily affordable and ready to be printed or used in presentations in highest resolution.

Music Icon Library Music Icon Library will help you illustrate all the musical related objects. Provided sizes are 16x16, 24x24, 32x32, and 48x48, the file formats are ICO, GIF, PNG and BMP.

16x16 Free Toolbar Icons 16x16 Free Toolbar Icons library has all the images you need for your web page or application toolbar.

Business Icon Set Business Icon Set. A collection of all-purpose icons with various symbols for the business environment for use with your software or on your website.

Financial Icon Library for Vista Vista Financial Icon Library is a collection of finance and purchase related icons in Windows Vista style. The collection is provided as GIF, ICO, BMP and PNG file formats.