An icon is a small image, usually a symbol, used to graphically represent a software program, file, or function on a computer screen.
Icons make it easier to recognize and locate items on your computer or features within a program. Many operating systems, particularly for mobile devices, use icons on the desktop to allow users to easy access installed programs. Once launched, most programs now feature a graphical toolbar, using icons instead of words to provide functionality. For instance, your browser probably has an arrow pointing to the left-side of your screen, which is the “back” button. There is probably also a small house which, when clicked, will take you to your browser’s homepage.
While many programs still feature a text-based menu system, these have largely been replaced by the more streamlined and visually appealing icon toolbar.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know what an icon represents?
Most programs utilize icons that somehow visually describe the task they accomplish. For instance, in office applications the scissors icon is commonly used for the cut feature. If you are not certain what an icon represents, hovering your mouse over top of the icon will usually display a brief description. If you still can’t find the function you need, most programs still provide the more traditional text menu.
Program icons can be more difficult, since they usually feature an image associated with the program brand. In some cases, that may relate to the function of the program, such as a music player that features musical notes. However, this is not always the case. Because of this, many operating systems allow you to display text under program icons to make identifying them easier.
Can I change an icon?
That will depend on the operating system or program you’re using. In Windows, you can right-click on a program icon, select Properties, go to the shortcut tab, and click the “change icon” button. Some programs include a number predefined icons you can choose from, or you can select any other icon you have stored on your computer. Icons for files are usually assigned based on the program they are associated with. In order to change these, you will need to change the associated program. Mobile operating systems typically provide less ability to change icons. Likewise, program icons, such as those on your browser’s toolbar, are often set and cannot be changed. Some applications may allow you to customize the look of your icons using a skin plugin, but this will change the look of all of your icons.