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What Are Mac Icons?

Numerous independent vendors are providing custom icons in sizes and resolutions standard to certain systems. The article explains what icons are, how they are designed and implemented in various systems, and what standards are defined for Windows icons, Mac icons, and PNG icons.

Computer icons are incorporated into any graphical user interface. Icons are small pictures of standardized sizes that visually represent objects, actions, and symbols. In graphical user interfaces, icons are used as a faster, more intuitive way to communicate with the user. Icons representing typical 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 Mac OS and Microsoft Windows systems, icons make computer novices feel more comfortable with operating systems, learn quicker and interact more efficiently. Icons can be employed to replace or supplement text commands. Widely used in menus, toolbars, on buttons and in new ribbon-type user interfaces, icons have come a long way from the original concept.

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

Generally speaking, icons are square pictures that come in a variety of standard sizes and color resolutions. Most systems use icon sizes 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 platform dependent. For example, Windows icons are defined as pictures in 16 and 256-color gammas as well as True Color images with alpha channel. Windows icons come in standard sizes of 16x16, 32x32, and 48x48 pixels. Windows Vista implements new standards for Windows icons, including icons in resolutions of up to 256x256 pixels in True Color only. Optionally, images 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 systems such as Windows Mobile can employ standard icons of other sizes, such as 24x24 pixels.

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

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

Standard City Icons Design city maps that look perfect on screen and on paper. Standard City Icons are provide in a number of sizes and resolutions and in file formats of ICO, GIF, BMP and PNG.

Military Icon Set Plenty of military-style icons from our Military Icon Set will make your application's interface look more current and engaging. The graphics are delivered in ICO, BMP, GIF and PNG file formats.

Standard Software Icons Standard Software Icons is set of colorful software icons meticulously created by experienced artists. This pack is a perfect choice for navigation menus and toolbars of any type.

Financial Icon Library for Vista Vista Financial Icon Library is a collection of money and purchase related icons in contemporary Vista style. The set is distributed as PNG, GIF, BMP and ICO file formats.