Computer icon

The English expression icon (from Greek: εικων = image, in German translations of computer programs usually referred to as " symbol " or " symbol " ) is the name in the computer field a pictogram that is often represented as a component of a graphical user interface of a software a file or directory, or featuring on a button a command to the software.

Characteristics and ergonomics

Icons are usually square and have standard sizes with edge lengths of 16, 24, 32, 48, 64, 128 or 256 pixels. Due to the limited memory of computers, were used earlier, only a limited number of colors, such as in previous versions of Microsoft Windows 16 or 256 colors. Today, most work environments be no more border before (some 16.7 million colors default). It can be used many different image formats, the most common are ICO and PNG. Meanwhile, freely scalable vector graphics are used, such as SVG.

Software without icons is hardly imaginable today. Nevertheless: The user must learn the meaning of each icon only. Therefore, should be as easy to recognize its importance for the user. The creator of an icon is therefore well advised to test their designs with people in the target group. To this end, the association frequency between an icon and a household name, or uniqueness of the associations is usually considered to be an icon. Recent studies suggest, however, that the speed at which an icon is selected, and emotional aspects ( " The icon is appealing " ) should be included in the evaluation. One advantage of icons lies in their high recognition value.


Icons are an important component in file managers for graphical user interfaces ( GUIs). Depending on the setting is performed by a simple mouse click or by double-clicking the icon, the associated action ( eg, launch a program, opening a picture file with an image editing program or playing a sound file). The icons usually have a reference to the file type or the associated program, ie text files have the symbol of a text block or help files that a question mark.

Following the example of the Apple Macintosh, double-click on an icon is equated with the "Open" command of most operating systems and user interfaces. A (double ) clicking on an application icon launches the associated program. Under or next to the icon is usually the program or file name. If you point without clicking the mouse on an icon, nor a more detailed information block is often visible.

Examples of use

In file manager such as Windows Explorer, Konqueror and Nautilus, the entire disk contents in the form of icons are displayed. Here, an icon represents a file or a folder.

Icons in toolbars have mostly the function of a button. They serve the symbolization of program function or Related command such as print, save, bold, etc. These are usually triggered by a simple mouse click.

Depending on the desktop environment used, it is possible to place important icons on the desktop or toolbar of programs so that certain programs started quickly or files can be opened quickly.

Icon software

Icons can be created and edited with special icon editors. These offer a variety of templates and editing tools and can handle different file formats.

Modern image processing programs can usually store house of icons in the standard formats of ICO, ICNS and PNG, so that one is no longer dependent on specialized software.