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File formats: ICO, GIF, PNG, BMP

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What Are PNG Icons?

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

Computer icons are incorporated into any graphical user interface. Icons are small pictograms of standard 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 more visually appealing 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 Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows platforms, icons make computer novices feel more comfortable with operating systems, learn faster and work more efficiently. Icons can be employed to replace or supplement text messages. 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 image formats for storing icons. Microsoft Windows systems use Windows icons in the platform-dependent ICO format. Apple Macintosh systems 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 design PNG icons with just about any image editor.

Generally speaking, icons are square pictograms that come in a number of standard sizes and color resolutions. Most platforms support icon sizes of 16x16 to 128x128 pixels, while some platforms readily accept icon images as large as 512x512 pixels. The ultra-high definition 512x512 pixel icons were first used in Mac OS Leopard.

Pixel dimensions of all icons are operating system dependent. For example, Windows icons are specified as images in 16 and 256-color gammas as well as True Color pictures with alpha channel. Windows icons come in standard resolutions 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 platforms such as Windows Mobile can use standard icons of other resolutions, 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 standard to those systems. The company provides royalty-free icons individually and in matching sets incorporating icons drawn a common style or theme.



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Program Toolbar Icons Add professionally crafted toolbar icons to your recent projects. Program Toolbar Icons are instantly available, royalty-free images of objects, tasks and concepts that are commonly used in application toolbars.

Large Education Icons A pack of Large Education Icons is all you need to make your educational application shine. The icons are readily available in sizes ranging from 16x16 to 256x256.

Database Icon Set Database Icon Set delivers you a variety of bright and colorful icons for database application development. The images are provided in all the typical icon sizes and file formats include ICO, BMP, PNG and GIF.

Large Weather Icons Large Weather Icons depict different weather conditions that are common for software, weather portals, and mobile gadgets. The images are supplied in all resolutions standard to Windows, Mac OS, and mobile devices. The biggest 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 resolution.

Free Business Desktop Icons Free Business Desktop Icons is a pack of 10 ready icons to be used in commercial and personal products, including software, webpages, blogs, and presentations. The images are free for personal, frequent and commercial use.