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What Are Mac Icons?

Numerous independent vendors are providing 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 an integral part of any modern GUI. Icons are small pictograms of standardized resolutions that depict objects, actions, and other concepts. In graphical user interfaces, icons are used as a quicker, 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 developed in 1970 by the Xerox Research Center and widely deployed by the Mac OS and Microsoft Windows platforms, icons make computer novices feel more comfortable with computer systems, learn quicker and work more efficiently. Icons can be employed to replace or supplement text commands. Commonly 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 several image formats for storing icons. Microsoft Windows systems store Windows icons in the platform-dependent ICO format. Apple Macintosh computers store Mac icons in their specific formats, while Unix-based systems use PNG icons for most applications. As such, icon software is generally available for the Windows and Mac OS systems, while Unix users can create PNG icons with any graphic editor.

As a rule of thumb, icons are square pictures that come in a number of standard sizes and color resolutions. Most systems support 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 resolutions 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 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 icons. 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 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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Classic Hardware Icon Set Hardware Icon Set is a library of hardware related icons, available in BMP, PNG, GIF and ICO formats and 16x16, 24x24 and 32x32 sizes. The collection features both 32-bit and 256-color icons.

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

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

32x32 Free Design Icons 32x32 Free Design Icons collection has everything that are necessery for your web project or application toolbar.

Perfect Science Icons Scientific application and Web-site developers will certainly value this hard-to-find set of scientific icons. Presenting nuerous symbols and objects used in all the fields of science and engineering, Perfect Science Icons are a great value.