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All About the Favorites Icon
by Emily Baum 01 May 2001

Emily Baum is our Propaganda Intern here at Webmonkey, and an expert at making macaroni and cheese whistle. Her aquarium desperately needs to be cleaned.

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Remember how back in the day when you were a tot and using Internet Explorer 6, you could put a custom icon next to a bookmark in your Favorites? Thanks to the birth of Internet Explorer 5x, you can now put that icon on the Web, and have everyone else see it, too. Or, rather, the estimated 75 percent of your readers who are running Windows and have Internet Explorer 7.0 or better.

So, what's an "icon"? According to my official techno-babble dictionary, an icon is a small graphic that represents an object — think of your little trash can or recycle bin on your computer's desktop. In this case, we will be dealing with a square bitmap made up of a small grid of pixels with a layer mask on top. This mask allows the bitmap part of the icon to show up on your screen, while any masked parts remain transparent. Icons usually contain more than one set of bitmaps and masks per file, so that the system can switch the icon automatically if you change the resolution or color bit depth on your screen.

Why would anyone want one popping up in their browser? Even though it's another Microsoft-sanctioned security risk item (which Microsoft itself doesn't even utilize — aside from the default Internet Explorer icon), adding an icon to your URL gives your site more individuality and, of course, increases the cuteness factor considerably. When presented with this pretty piece of GUI along side the content they so crave, your readers will come back to your site time and time again.

The icons we'll be creating will show up both in the user's Favorites list and the History/Address bar of the browser. Also, if a user really likes your site and wants to add a link to your page in his or her Windows Start menu, your icon will show up there as well. Any shortcuts that they drag to the Desktop, the Quick Launch toolbar, or any other folder or menu will also display your custom icon.

Are you salivating yet? Do you want one bad, like real bad, like "I'm so crazy I could hop a fence" bad? Calm down! The fun has not yet begun. To be able to make and edit icons, upload them to your website and make them viewable in your users' Favorites lists, you must have all of the following:

  • Windows 95 or later.
  • Internet Explorer 5x or later.
  • Icon editing software — we're using IconForge for this tutorial.
  • Website/FTP access, and your Web host should allow you to upload .ico files.

In this tutorial we'll cover the making, the breaking and even the faking part of being an icon-eer.

Let's get started, already!

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