Despite their name, icons tend to be unappreciated, at least in Windows. But it's ridiculously easy to replace most icons with new (and better) ones, or add icons for specific uses (like the program your cell phone uses to talk to your PC). We're big fans of icon sets for Windows -- even more so when the icons are free. We recently came across a set of 343 high-quality Metro Style icons for Windows from VisualPharm, a developer dedicated to beautifying the Windows user interface. It's a simple download; just a compressed set of icons and an EPS source file to allow scaling. The icons are free to use with your apps and even Web sites (with attribution).
We downloaded the icon set and extracted the icons to a folder we could remember so we could browse to it when we wanted to change an icon to one of VisualPharm's icons. The icons are sorted into folders by use, such as Kitchen, Charts, Music, and so on. The icons themselves are clearly labeled. All the icons are in black and white; at least, we didn't see any other colors. But they're nicely designed and crisply rendered. We started by replacing the aforementioned desktop shortcut to our cell phone's interface app with one of VisualPharm's offerings. It's very easy to do; right-click the desktop icon, select properties, click Change Icon, and browse to the target folder in the Change Icon tool. Our new icon worked just like the old one. VisualPharm's icons can also be used to customize your browser and other apps.
The Metro Style is one of the new looks coming in Windows 8. It's based on the International Typographic Standard, also known as the Swiss Style, a graphical style emphasizing readability and clean design developed in Switzerland in the 1950s and made famous (in graphics design circles) for its use in train stations and other public places. Microsoft hopes the Metro Style will be equally adaptable to the various platforms Windows 8 is designed for, including desktop and mobile PCs as well as smart phones and other handheld devices. VisualPharm's icons offer a look at things to come.