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Software Review: IconUtils 1.4

Reviewed by: Frank Desiderio, Pinecrest Media
Source: Warwick Valley PC Users Group, June 2003

Recently we reviewed a product from Aha-Soft, called IconLover, which manages your Windows icons, and allows you to change some built-in system icons.

Aha-Soft specializes in icon software, with nearly 10 icon related products. In this review we'll discuss their IconUtils suite, a collection of five of their most popular products. IconUtils contains the tools you need to create and edit cursors and icons, and to manage cursor and icon libraries.

ArtCursors 3.0 & ArtIcons Pro 3.26

I found them easy to use and understand but both of these programs' levels of editing abilities go beyond my artistic skills and would be well-suited for a professional graphic designer.

Icons are small graphics on your Desktop that represent things like files, folders and the Recycle Bin. A cursor is the graphic used to represent the location of your mouse, keyboard or other input device. Most of us are familiar with the ‘arrow pointer' or ‘hand' cursors. Since cursors can be loosely similar in nature to icons, Aha-Soft has included programs in this suite to create and manage both of them.

With ArtCursors you can create and edit static and animated cursors up to 16 million colors, create and edit cursors for Windows XP in 32-bit color depth with 8-bit alpha channel. It can also import cursors from .cur, .ani, .ico, .wmf, .emf, .bmp, .wbmp, .jpg, .gif, .xbm, .xpm and .png files, and export cursor images to .cur, .ico, .bmp, .jpg, .gif, .png, .xbm, .xpm, .wbmp and .rc files, with sizes up to 255x255. The powerful editing tools allow you to modify images with drop shadow, opacity, grayscale, colorize, rotate, roll and mirror effects.

With ArtIcons you can also create and edit icons in either standard or custom sizes up to 16 million colors, and for Windows XP in 32-bit color depth with 8-bit alpha channel, which makes for more visually-pleasing images. It can also import/accept pasting of .ico, .bmp, .jpg, .ani, .cur, .wmf and .png, .gif, .psd, .xbm, .xpm and .wbmp images directly into icons, and export to ico, .bmp, .jpg, .cur, .png, .gif, .psd, .xbm, .xpm and .wbmp files.

One nice feature is that it allows you to customize Windows Desktop and folder icons. And its powerful editing tools allow you to modify images with smoothing and negative effects.

I found them easy to use and understand but both of these programs' levels of editing abilities go beyond my artistic skills and would be well-suited for a professional graphic designer. As with their other icon programs, a quick glance at the brief and clearly-written help file should be all you need to become comfortable with the programs. Within a few minutes I was able to create a simplistic ‘smiley face' cursor and icon and apply them both to my Windows system.

Figure 1 shows the main window (identical for both programs). From here you import, export, create and modify cursors and icons.

Icon To Any 2.0 & Any To Icon 2.0

The two programs are very similar in concept and have nearly identical interfaces. Icon To Any converts Windows icons and cursors into one or all of the following formats: .ico, .cur, .bmp, .jpeg, .gif, .png, .psd, .tif, .xbm, .xpm, .wbmp. Any To Icon performs the opposite tasks, converting files of the following formats into Windows icons: .bmp, .jpeg, .gif, .png, .psd, .wmf, .wbmp, .xpm, .xbm and .cur. The company claims it also can split icon libraries into individual icons and extract icons from folders and libraries and place them into the directory of your choice.

Both programs allow for dragging and dropping of individual files into the processing window, or adding entire folder contents for batch processing. Figure 2 shows the main interface window (similar for both programs). From here you can begin processing to icon or image format, setting final file characteristics (figure 3).

AhaView 2.04

This free product is an image viewer and converter. It can browse images in thumbnail mode or view images in full-screen mode. It opens files of type .bmp, .jpg, .gif, .png, .ico, .cur, .ani, .psd, .tga, .xbm, .xpm, .wmf, .wbmp, and saves to .bmp, .png, or .jpg. It has a very simple interface (figure 4), allowing you to see image sizes, filetypes, even dimensions.


Beginners can use these programs. Although some education about icons, graphic formats, and basic design skills will be beneficial, they are not a requirement.

IconUtils is a very powerful package of programs. The quality seems good. It hasn't crashed my XP system, and the design is simple, straightforward and intelligible.

The company states that as an alternative to using these programs on your own original artwork, you can find public-use images on the Internet and convert them to icons for use on your Windows desktop, and likewise convert your Windows icons to images for your personal web pages.

I applaud Aha-Soft for keeping their programs simple and generally single-purpose, as opposed to the ‘kitchen sink' approach of many other software manufacturers. This leads to less confusion on the users' part, and allows them to save money, paying only for the functionality they require. IconUtils costs $54.95. The price may seem steep for the average home user, but for the graphics professional, it is a good value compared to other image editing software. Overall, I give these programs a 9 out of 10.

Frank Desiderio is the owner of Pinecrest Media, an e-commerce consulting company. He has been analyzing software and systems for 10 years. Contact Frank at fdesiderio(@)pinecrestmedia.com.

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