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Software Review: Articons Pro 3.24

Reviewed by: By Steven M. Breitbart, NOCCC Member
Source: Orange bytes, February 2003

ArtIcons Pro is a powerful utility for creating and editing icons and managing icon libraries. What is ArtIcons Pro needed for? You can create icons using the Paint applet included with Windows, but its scope is limited. You can create detailed icons using ArtIcons Pro and not have to buy a highpriced photo editing or drawing program. If you frequently access a file and want it on your desktop, you can use ArtIcons Pro to create a custom icon for it. Similarly, you can create icons for software or custom applications you have written.


Downloading the software didn't take too long even with a 56K modem; the ZIP file for ArtIcons Pro is only 1 MB. Installation was accomplished easily though I installed it to a partition I use only for applications; that is not the normal Program Files folder. An interesting feature is that the software can be set for one of seven languages.

Editing features

The major feature of ArtIcons Pro is that you can create edit icons in standard or custom sizes and in color depths up to 16 million colors. You can import, edit and paste images into icons using several standard graphics file formats including ICO, BMP and JPEG. Similarly, you can export images to several formats as well. Many type of effects common to photo editing, drawing or presentation software, such as gradient and chess fill, drop shadow, grayscale, roll and mirror can be applied to icons. Some effects are extremely configurable and impressive. There are 16 levels undo, but deletion, copying and creation of icons or images can't be reversed.

While the capability of ArtIcons Pro is high, once you importing images, it is not easy to use. Despite a lot of effort, could not find the opacity sliders for the foreground and background colors. I could not determine how the software uses “transparency” settings to aid in importing and placing images into icons. The Import Image window shows about x 300 pixels of an image; there is no way to view the entire image before selecting some or all of it for your icon. An explanation of the differences between “Import Image” “Add Image(s)” would also have been useful.

The help files are satisfactory, but the software really needs a tutorial, a step-by-step procedure, on how to use the more advanced features. Some help files show an icon to click on but do not name it. For example, an eyedropper is shown, but its name, Color Picker, is not included. The icon is not easily recognizable when printed at 300 dpi on a monochrome laser printer. I would also have appreciated a short tutorial on the nature of icons in Windows 9x and ME. Several icons I used as test objects had several formats. Those used for the taskbar and start menus are small; 16x16 pixel icons using sixteen colors, whereas on the desktop they may be 32x32 pixels using 256 colors. More information is provided on the new requirements and capabilities of icons for Windows XP.

Library Management Features

A major aspect of ArtIcons Pro is management of icon libraries. This can be a useful way to group icons together for a specific project. You can gather all the icons from files and folders on your system into one or more libraries. Initially, I tried to import all the icons on my C: drive into a library. ArtIcons Pro found over 2,000 icons and needed to create a second library. The maximum number of icons in a library defaults to 1,600, but can be increased to 16,000. Of course, the more items in a file, the more difficult it is to manage. Eventually, I picked a few random icons of different styles and level of details to experiment upon.

While you can sort the icons within a library several ways and remove duplicates, ArtIcons Pro did not detect all duplicate icons in my initial test. It also was not clear what some sort options, such as “Name as Number” actually do. You can actually have many icons within a library with the same name or number.


If you do choose to try ArtIcons Pro, here are two hints. 1) Go to the Windows' Display Properties, on the Effects tab and check the box that says “Show icons using all possible colors.” That way, you will be able to see the results of your work. 2) Remember to save both the icon you have modified and the icon library before exiting the library or the software.

Aha-Soft's Web Site

The impressive Aha-Soft web site has lots of good information about ArtIcons Pro. They have many free icon libraries available for downloading; Arrows, Flowers, Nature, Earth, Flags, Hardware, Hard disks, Help, Keys, and Multimedia are just a few of the icon collections available. They have a list of Windows 98 files that contain icons. For example, PROGMAN.EXE has 46 icons, that can be imported, into an icon library. Hopefully, Aha-Soft will soon put Windows 2000, NT and XP icon files on their web site.


ArtIcons Pro is excellent for managing icon libraries and producing icons that are basically drawings, which covers a lot of ground. It is not as capable at creating icons based on photographs or similar images, but it is certainly a good value if you regularly need to create icons of any type.


ArtIcons Pro requires a Pentium-133 MHz CPU, 16MB of RAM, 2MB of hard disk space, true (32-bit) color and can operate under Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000 and XP. It is available as trial software via download at www.aha-soft.com and can be purchased there for $29.95.

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