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What Are Mac Icons?

Many independent vendors are providing 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 systems, and what standards are defined for Windows icons, Mac icons, and PNG icons.

Computer icons are an integral part of any modern GUI. Icons are small pictures of standardized sizes that visually represent objects, actions, and symbols. In window-based systems, icons are used as a quicker, more intuitive way to communicate with the user. Icons representing typical elements of a user interface are more visually appealing 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 used to replace or supplement text commands. Widely used in menus, toolbars, on buttons and in the latest 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-dependent ICO format. Mac OS computers 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 systems, while Unix users can design PNG icons with just about any graphic editor.

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

Pixel dimensions 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 pictures with alpha channel. Windows icons are supplied in standard resolutions 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 older versions of Windows and for lower resolution icons. Other systems such as Windows Mobile can use standard icons of other resolutions, such as 24x24 pixels.

Numerous independent designers are providing custom icons. Aha-Soft offers a variety 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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Database Icon Set Database Icon Set brings you a variety of stylish and colorful icons for database software development. The images are available in all the typical icon sizes and file formats include BMP, GIF, PNG and ICO.

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, GIF, ICO and PNG.

Perfect Science Icons Labaratory software and Web-site developers will truly appreciate this rare pack of scientific images. Providing nuerous symbols and objects common for all the areas of science and engineering, Perfect Science Icons are a wonderfull value.

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

People Icons for Vista People Icons for Vista depict people of various occupations, social and family roles. They are crafted in Vista style and are available with or without shadows. Icons are provided in various formats and sizes.