Icons are pictorial representations of directories, files, applications, objects or actions. Your program should have icons for anything the user can access including the main program itself, documentation files, and any tools that may accompany the program.

The .info File

The icon imagery is found in a file bearing the suffix ".info". For example, the icon for a data file called "myletter" would be found, along with some other information, in the file "myletter.info".

Icon Design

A good icon quickly communicates the function it represents. The Calculator icon and the SetMap icon are good examples.

The Calculator and Clock icons
Fig. 7.2: The Calculator and Clock icons.

Icons should be small. The maximum recommended size for an icon is 80 pixels wide by 40 pixels high. Large icons take up valuable screen and disk space, make for an unprofessional Workbench look and, in general, can be just plain annoying.

The 3-D Look
Icons should be designed with the light source coming from the upper left-hand corner. They should be viewable in one bitplane as well as two.

Before using words in an icon, think about how wide a distribution you envision for your product.

Text in Icons
Before you use words in an icon, think about how extensive a distribution you would like to see your product achieve. It's better to have an icon communicate through symbolism than language.

Icon Types

There are five types of icons on the Workbench: disk icons, drawer icons, trashcan icons, tool icons and project icons. Of these, only tool icons and project icons bear discussion here.

Tool Icons
A tool icon represents an executable file such as an application. A double-click on a tool icon will run the application. The look of tool icons varies from application to application.

Project Icons
A project icon represents a data file. Typically, a double-click on this icon will cause the application that created the data to run and automatically load this data.

The look of a project icon is usually determined by the application that created it and by the type of data it represents. However there is also a default project icon included in the system.

The default project icon
Fig. 7.3: The default project icon.

Create Icons?
When your application creates a data file, it should, by default, create a .info file to go with it. Many users are accustomed to accessing their projects via an icon.

Create the icon after the user successfully saves the project. This will prevent the possibility of project-less icons in the system.

Your application, however, should allow the user the option of saving files without creating icons. The recommended way of doing this is to have an item in the Settings menu called Create Icons?. This item should be enabled by default. See Chapter 6 for more information.

New project icons should never be saved in a specific position. Rather they should be positioned algorithmically by Workbench (see the Workbench flag NO_ICON_POSITION). In the same vein, if the imagery of an existing icon is changed (eg. the application creates a reduced version of the project for use as the icon imagery) the icon should be saved without a specific position.