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The isometric view and choice of colours make BeOS icons very nice looking and hardly possible to be mistaken with any other GUI. Check out other BeOS icons in the big icon chart.

The calculator icon changed slightly between Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar and Mac OS X 10.3 Panther, to reflect the latter’s switch to even more metal. Is this the only change? Check for yourself in the big icon chart.

This is the calculator icon from Windows 1.0 and 2.0. As the other icons in this GUI, it is black and white, small, and – quite frankly – rather awful. Fortunately, Microsoft hired Susan Kare of Macintosh’s fame to prettify the 1990’s release of Windows 3.0.

The icons for clock usually show some fixed hours, such as 3 PM in Windows 3.x and five past five in OS/2 Warp. This icon, from Windows 1.0, is an exception and always shows the current system time.

The icon for Mac OS X’s Finder (application and file manager) changed slightly between 10.2 Jaguar and 10.3 Panther editions of the system. Is this the only icon that was updated? Check it out in the big icon chart.

Geos for C64 icons
If you thought first Macintosh icons were small and simple, think again. Icons for Commodore C64 edition of GEOS were also monochromatic, but 24×21 pixels each, almost exactly half the size of Mac’s pictograms.

Is it even a little bit surprising that most icons for help system feature a question mark in one or other form? Check out all the icons for help and see what GUIs escaped the obvious association – for good or bad.

The icon of iCal (calendar application in Mac OS X 10.3 Panther) is a nice and still rare example of those dynamic icons that change their appearance based on context. In this case, the program icon doubles as a current day and month indicator.

This icon might be the best example of how Windows style progressed over time. It started as presented in the top left corner in 1990’s Windows 3.0 and was refreshed with every major release of the operating system.

Mac OS X icons
From 32×32 to 128×128 pixels, from symbols to photorealistic images, from jagged edges to full 8-bit transparency. Mac OS X redefined the icons, although many people wonder if the old definition was really that bad. What do you think? Compare the Mac OS X icons with the other GUIs on one of the icon charts.

Metal Trash
The Mac OS’s metal trash has come a long way since 1984. It has been modified, shaded, stuffed, made three dimensional, and finally – after a short stint in Rhapsody – replaced by office wire trash in Mac OS X in 2001. Interestingly, trash’s second function to deleting files was... ejecting disks from floppy drive.

Program Manager
If you dig deep enough, you’ll find this icon even in Windows XP, but it is far more likely you remember it back from Windows 3.x times. Program Manager (along with its sidekick, File Manager) replaced earlier MS-DOS Executive, only to be superseded by Explorer in Windows 95.

QNX Momentics icons
QNX Momentics 6 has something for everyone – small, cute, old-style icons, and their bigger, more artistic equivalents. What’s best, you have a really hard time deciding which set is more attractive.

The icon for System Preferences changed slightly between Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar and Mac OS X 10.3 Panther. It is not the only change – be sure to find out the others in big icon charts.

Contrary to most other GUIs, OS/2 opted for shredder instead of trash can – this might have been related to the court decision that prohibited Microsoft from using trash can in early editions of Windows. Unfortunately, as with the real-life shredder, this one had no undo feature.

Windows XP icons
What is that, you might ask? Some people will applaud Windows XP’s new big and photorealistic icons, but others have serious trouble recognizing and distinguishing them. Check out more icons from Windows XP and see how they stand against earlier editions of this GUI. (The icon shown is a hard disk icon.)

Copyright © 2002-2006 Marcin Wichary, unless stated otherwise.