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Image sizes: 256x256, 128x128, 100x100, 96x96, 72x72, 64x64, 60x60, 48x48, 40x40, 36x36, 32x32, 30x30, 26x26, 24x24, 20x20, 16x16, 512x512
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 standard to certain systems. The article explains what icons are, how they are designed and implemented in various systems, and what standards exist for Windows icons, Mac icons, and PNG icons.

Computer icons are an integral part of any graphical user interface. Icons are small pictograms of standardized resolutions that visually represent objects, actions, and symbols. In window-based systems, icons are used as a faster, more intuitive way to communicate with the user. Icons depicting 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 deployed by the Mac OS and Microsoft Windows systems, icons make new users feel more comfortable with operating 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 file formats for storing icons. Microsoft Windows systems store Windows icons in the platform-dependent ICO format. Mac OS systems 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 design their icons with just about any image editor.

As a rule of thumb, icons are square images that come in a variety of standard sizes and color resolutions. Most platforms support icon sizes of 16x16 to 128x128 pixels, while some systems readily accept icons as large as 512x512 pixels. The high-resolution 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 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 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 high-resolution Windows Vista icons are stored in compressed PNG format instead of Windows ICO used in previous versions of Windows and for lower resolution icons. Other systems such as Windows Mobile can use standard icons of other sizes, 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 standard 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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Large Weather Icons Large Weather Icons depict a number of weather conditions that are common for software, weather portals, and mobile gadgets. The icons come in typical sizes 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 available and ready to be printed or used in presentations in highest quality.

Military Icon Set Plenty of military-style icons from our Military Icon Set will make all your applications look more modern and engaging. The images are provided in PNG, ICO, BMP and GIF file formats.

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

24x24 Free Toolbar Icons 24x24 Free Toolbar Icons set contains all the images that are necessery for your web page or software toolbar.

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