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Image sizes: 256x256, 48x48, 32x32, 24x24, 16x16
File formats: BMP, GIF, PNG, ICO

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What Are Windows Icons?

A number of independent vendors are offering custom icons in sizes and resolutions common to certain systems. The article explains what icons are, how they are used and implemented in various systems, and what standards are defined for Windows icons, Mac icons, and PNG icons.

Computer icons are incorporated into any modern GUI. Icons are small pictograms of standardized sizes that visually represent objects, actions, and other concepts. In graphical user interfaces, icons are used as a faster, more intuitive way to communicate with the user. Icons representing common elements of a user interface are better visible than text, can be recognized faster, and are easier for new computer users.

Originally introduced in 1970 by the Xerox Research Center and widely deployed 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 used to replace or supplement text commands. Commonly used in menus, toolbars, on buttons and in the latest ribbon-style user interfaces, icons have come a long way from the original concept.

There are several graphic formats for storing icons. Microsoft Windows systems use Windows icons in the platform-specific ICO format. Apple Macintosh systems use 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 their icons with just about any image editor.

As a rule of thumb, icons are square pictures that come in a variety of standard sizes and color resolutions. Most systems use icons of 16x16 to 128x128 pixels, while some platforms readily accept icons as large as 512x512 pixels. The large 512x512 pixel icons were first used in Mac OS Leopard.

Pixel dimensions of all icons are operating system dependent. For example, Windows icons are defined as pictures in 16 and 256-color gammas as well as True Color pictures with alpha channel. Windows icons are supplied in standard sizes of 16x16, 32x32, and 48x48 pixels. Windows Vista defines new standards for Windows icons, including icons in sizes 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 employ standard icons of other sizes, e.g. 24x24 pixels.

Numerous independent vendors are offering custom icons. Aha-Soft offers a variety of Windows icons, Mac icons, and PNG icons in all sizes and resolutions standard to those systems. The company provides royalty-free icons individually and in matching sets that include icons drawn a common style or theme.

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You can buy individual icons to suit your needs. Each icon is $1 when purchased individually.

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Program Toolbar Icons Add professionally designed toolbar icons to your recent projects. Program Toolbar Icons are readily available, royalty-free images of objects, actions and concepts that are typically used in software toolbars.

Classic Hardware Icon Set Hardware Icon Set is a collection of hardware related images, distributed in ICO, PNG, GIF and BMP formats and 16x16, 24x24 and 32x32 sizes. The pack presents both 32-bit and 256-color icons.

Military Icon Set Variety of military-style icons from our Military Icon Set will make all your applications appear more current and attractive. The graphics are provided in ICO, PNG, GIF and BMP file formats.

Standard City Icons Create city maps that look flawless both digital and printed. Standard City Icons come in a number of sizes and resolutions and in file formats of BMP, ICO, PNG and GIF.

Standard Software Icons Standard Software Icons is set of eye-caching software-related icons specially created by experienced artists. This pack is an ideal selection for navigation menus and toolbars of all sorts.