While most of us are happy with the faces we get, some do get obsessed and prefer a face out of the box or a sculpted face (whichever way you want to call it). We are not dealing with Cosmetic surgery in this review and the focus of our attention sis the face of the apps, the Icon.
The first thing that catches your attention while looking for an app is the Icon, that determines the bulk of the decision in terms of purchasing the app or not. Fro my own personal notes, I can vouch that since the time of windows 3.x Icons became an obsession. I recollect the various .ico files and libs that were distributed as windows dll's containing icons of famous cartoon characters, celebrities, logos, etc. These where then used for Animated cursors (with windows 95 .ani formats)
Visual Basic, Delphi brought development to the masses and every app that was created had an icon, mostly taken from stock icons but many started creating their own icons to differentiate between their app and several others that used the same stock icon.
Fast forward a couple of years, Apple change to an Intel motherboard, People start buying more Macs, the iOS devices become the defacto standard loved and coveted by all. The market place, something that was never even in the wildest of Apple's dreams thought of as being the money raker, suddenly took off exponentially. The iOS device that was built for enterprise suddenly had become the best games device.
While with XP and Vista, Microsoft also increased the bar to include larger 256x256 icons with alpha channels, Apple already had developers creating lovely beautiful large resolutions icons.
Softwares like MS Paint were good enough in the past, where one could zoom in 800%, turn on the grid and quickly draw an icon or use Resource Editor that came with Visual Studio. Apple has in a lot many ways influences, pressurized and changed the industry and some of the rules. Now an icon has to be created like with the Windows version in several sizes. The question remains, yes as a developer I need to create an icon, but how can I create one? I am a developer, not an artist, do I have to spend time and money trying to get an icon? the short answer is yes, you need a beautiful icon to help the movement of your apps.
The long answer is there's Axialis Icon Workshop for that. This software was created to help create icons for the Microsoft windows platforms. It then featured creating icons for Windows, then Macs and Linux. Now it features the functionality to create apps for Mobile devices including iOS and Androids.
The better part of this software is the ease of use and the number of steps that it takes to create an icon. The app comes with loads of templates (Packs they call them) these have the components that are required for creating an icon. These include shadows, glosses, shapes, arrows, some commonly used symbols, outlines. The only thing that you need to do is place them together and you have a professional looking icon. If you would want to use your own images, no worries, simply add the images from the clipboard, add the other elements, and voila.. Want a themed icon, add the red shapes, add green elements, you have Christmas ready icons. Use the toolbar icon pack and you have toolbar icons for any system you want. Bring in your own images, the possibilities are endless.
The list of features available with Axialis Icon Workshop does not stop there, it is not just all a gimmicky editor that allows for compositing template images and creating an icon, It is much more than that. It features a complete bitmap editor with tools like brushes, shapes, filled and outlined, colour palettes, etc. Something that one would expect out of an image editing software.
Apart from this, if you are used to Photoshop or Illustrator for your artwork, then Icon Workshop has templates for these applications and via plug-ins transfer an image between Photoshop and Icon Workshop.
Lastly, it even has plug-ins and workflow integration with Visual Studio to integrate and generate icons for your applications in Visual Studio.
While Icon Workshop stands out as an amazing Icon resource, it is a sad that it is available only for Windows, given the market for Icons, a Mac version on the App Store would be the most anticipated application. Secondly, for an application that helps create amazingly beautiful icons, the icon for the applications itself is a bit too ordinary. Thirdly, while you can create icons for the iOS and Androids, I feel that the new 1024x1024 icons for the new iPad need to be included as an option in a new update (though even now you can specify the size as custom size). Just like the icon can be scaled into various resolutions for windows, there should be a facility for creating the various iOS Icons as required from the large 512x512 or 1024x1024 icon.
The one feature that is sorely missed in Icon workshop is that of layers, so if each of the components added can be placed on individual layers, then modifying the effects can be easier by simply switching layers on or off or simply re-ordering the layers.
There is a 30 day trial version for Icon Workshop, this allows you to try the software before you purchase, and the license is a for life license. It will not expire when the version reaches a major build, for example, if you purchased VMWare Fusion, you purchased either version 3 or version 4 and if you had three and need to now upgrade to ver 4, you need to buy a completely new license, where as with Icon Workshop the license is valid for the lifetime of the application, irrespective of the versions.
The Home editions (which cannot be used for commercial work, I think that also includes using it for apps, etc) is $48.95 and the Pro version that allows unlimited and unrestricted use for $69.95 seems like a good option. However for $87.50, you can get the Developer Suite which is a combination of Icon Workshop Pro, Cursor Workshop Pro and the Toolbar Pack (a collection of toolbar images for use)
Currently there isn't another app that comes close in Icon creating tools. This is one of the few tools available that cater to the Desktops and mobile icons. As a mobile developer, this would be highly recommended for creating quick and beautiful icons.
Software : Axialis Icon Studio
Version : 6.70
Publisher : Axialis
Website : http://www.axialis.com/iconworkshop/
Platform : Windows
Demo : 30 days
Price : $48.95 - $94.45
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