Create Icon-Size Images. Export .ICO Format.

[ note: the following article is incomplete ]Intended Audience:

  • O/S: Microsoft Windows™
  • Experience: No special experience required.
  • Software: Examples use freeware. Other software is indicated.

Note: Experience, though indicated above to describe a recommended audience, must not be misunderstood to imply an exclusive purpose for the resource. The classification is provided to express the author’s expectation regarding what the article has to offer, in very general terms, to give readers an idea about the depth of the study.

Why our Love Grows for Some Things Soft

Not every Desktop Application is the same. To say so is, no doubt, a statement of the obvious. Allow me to clarify. Of course not all Software is the same! Reflect, however, upon the notion that I’ve purposefully written such an ambiguous statement to excite the reader’s thoughts for whatever is on her mind as a pleasing, preferred attribute of some software she likes, or a thought of frustration for some software which perhaps has become the bane of his existence, as he trys, with great struggle, to get out of it what he so desires. Indeed, not every software is the same, and the NoviceNotes audience being a specific sort as well, I trust that each of you have quite a unique handful of Desktop Applications for which you’re proud to show your affinity, and likewise in the other hand, your disdain.

Go Ahead… Make it your Own!

I expect that the reader has probably installed, in his or her time as a web developer, some software which allows the user to customize its Interface in some way (as would be to rearrange the components of a toolbar, a feature probably familiar to you if you’ve used MS Office®). A software program may even target the creative-minded user by highlighting a proclivity for UI(4) customization– even encouraging users to do so, as a core element on which relies the very separation of that product as arguably superior to its counterparts.

The idea of user interface customization will differ, depending upon both the program itself, as well as the user. Have you ever downloaded a custom “skin”, or theme for your O/S, your web browser, or your media player? If so, then you’ve engaged in the sort of customization which is the primary focus of this article. Although “How to create a Skin (or make a custom theme) for _Name_of_Software_here_ ” is beyond the scope of what I wish to discuss, I must not exclude, however, at least one element of that concept. Somewhere in between engaging in a full-blown software skinning project, and being satisfied with the default appearance of our software, lies the practice of creating a custom functionality for the software, and adding it to the User Interface using either a predetermined list of functions and icons, custom code and custom icons, or some combination thereof. The remainder of this article will offer recommendations meant to guide the user in his or her choice of customized UI

Applications which allow, offer, or encourage the user-customized interface, typically require that any image selected by the user must conform to a particular image format designated by that host application (usually identifyable by a preset file mask, if the software offers a facility for us to browse our resources for images, vs manually editing a .conf or .ini file for example). What do we do when we have a really nice icon which we’d like to use as a button for toggling the new function we’ve added, only to find that it will not integrate properly into the host software in its current state as an .ICO format? It is often at this point of image format preparation that our preferred image may in fact become a real obstacle in the completion of the custom button.

Don’t Stop Now!

Whether the intended custom button image is the product of several hours of creative design work, if it was downloaded from an artist’s distributed icon-pack (as in the famous, free-to-download, famfamfam Silk icons(1)), or even extracted from an .exe or .dll file to access existing app icons– we should be able to convert it into the proper format for compliance. We mustn’t let image file format problems be an obstacle, neither in our creative expression in web design, nor in customizing our desktop software with a new shortcut button, however– it is important that we know what to expect from the software we might use for image format conversion. Although many imaging software apps claim to produce the same results (according to options configuration, program settings, .ini files, documentation, etc.), I have recognized distinct differences in what is actually produced during, for example, a batch convert or an export-image to _new-format_ process.

Image Conversion Clinic:

I shall attempt to illustrate the various possibilities, and provide what I have found to be the best possible solution for a proper conversion. In each example, it should be understood that the emphasis is on 1.) the quality of the icon created, and 2.) leaving the alpha transparency intact in those images which are meant to blend with the background, wherever they are placed, because of transparent areas of the image itself.

Tell me about this Image:

“…is there no standard anymore?…” – Pantera

Apparently, there is no real Standard with which a [Windows] software application must comply, in terms of the icons used in its GUI(3). I see evidence of the lack thereof when extracting icons from different software resources– a task which usually requires a special icon extraction tool, such as IconsExtract, by Nirsoft. For example, although icon extraction software will produce results– sometimes hundreds of icons from a single executable binary resource (e.g. C:\programs\corporatemicro\software.exe) — I have found a handful of programs which will not cough-up any icons (but maybe a single image).

Before any effort is spent on format conversion, it is wise to determine first what sort of image file format is required by the host application, however such nformation is not always readily available: In order to determine what type of image format is compatible with our purpose, some amount of experimentation will likely be required. When in doubt, just try it out! If there is no visible image where you expected, you may have the wrong format, but don’t jump to any conclusions. Before resorting to an alternative image, or image format, first try restarting the software, double-checking file-paths, file names, etc..bmp – BitmapLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consec

tetuer adipiscing.png – Portable Network GraphicsLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing.ico – Windows Icon FileLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing.xpm / .xbm – X Pixel Map / BitmapNeque porro quisquam est qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit….svg – Scalable Vector GraphicLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing.??? – Others ?Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing

Tell me about your Image Viewer

Image Viewer? Do you mean MS Paint, or what?

Barring the most valued, detailed photo-retouching jobs which warrant the use of sophisticated, often high-priced digital imaging software, I’ve found a handful of freeware applications which are perfectly capable of producing satisfying results.

What is Freeware (or, similarly, postcardware), and how does it differ from the opposite (which, it is reasonable to assume, is not free)?

Part of working successfully with freeware, I believe, is to accept that– no matter how much we or the developers wish to believe otherwise, it is rather inconceivable for one person, or a small group of developers, to produce the same set of tools as is reasonable to expect from the development teams of the leading Software companies. Aside from enjoying an ample salary for their work, to have the luxury of assigning menial tasks to subordinates, as well as an upper-management team to guide their progress, the potential for greater productivity is probability that’s difficult to argue. However, there is a wealth of quality software available at no charge to you, and I recommend you download, and learn to use the following freeware applications the next time you face one of the tasks described below(2) .FastStone Image ViewerIf you need an all-around image-viewer, with light editing capabilities, I highly recommend FSViewer.exe for Windows. My favourite part of FSViewer.exe is the Screen Capture Annotation possibilities it opens up for you. FastStone makes it very easy to place styled, custom text right on top of an existing image. I use this feature, more than daily, probably on the hour! If you look closely, you may find a beta-version available for download as well.XnViewLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscingIrfanViewLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscingImagineLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing

  1. At the time of writing, Silk icons are distributed in the .PNG format
  2. If you like what you get, and you are fortunate enough to do so, please consider donating to any freeware project which provides a legitimate facility for sending donations.
  3. Graphical User Interface
  4. User Iinterface

Whatchu do

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