How Microsoft deals with 4562

4562. Four thousand five hundred and sixty two. 4562 is the amount of system icons (found in the systems32 folder) in Windows Vista. However due to duplicates, this is number is not totally accurate. But I don’t see you counting, so stop complaining.

I took the liberty of extracting all the icons and making a huge (4412x14856px) panoramic image just to visualize the sheer quantity of 4562 icons. So please take a look, otherwise I would have wasted all morning of my Sunday for nothing.

Flash panorama powered by Zoomify

So the problem everyone complains about is, “Microsoft needs to replace all the legacy Windows 3.1 and 95-era icons for Vista”. How easy does that sound? From an advanced user and IT pro perspective, as of Windows Vista Beta RC1, most user interface elements does not exhibit any traces of the legacy icons. But if you dig a little deeper, you will definitely come across them. Microsoft’s unofficial statement is that they will try as hard as possible to redefine all legacy icons, but won’t make any promises.

The situation is Microsoft has less than months to continue working on Windows Vista before the final build has to be dispatched to the manufacturer. And because of that, I don’t think by RTM, all the icons will be updated. There are still so much designing to do for Vista besides icons, and simply because no one has unlimited resources, not everything can have the highest priority. The sad fact is I don’t think anyone else who uses Windows would care enough about icons to complain, except designers and enthusiasts.

But Microsoft isn’t the only people to blame. Quite a significant amount of legacy icons actually come from third parties who bundle their default drivers with Windows. Companies like HP, Canon and Epson embed quite a shameful amount of disgusting 95-era icons in their bundled drivers and applications. And the chances of them proactively redesigning those icons is less than 0.

In conclusion, it is simply not possible at this point to make sure every Windows icon is redesigned to the ‘Aero standard’ of photo-realistic high-resolution illustrations. The people to blame are Microsoft, for building such a monolithic and pro-legacy operating system, and also most third party hardware vendors, for not having the slightest clue about designing modern interfaces. We’re just going to have to live with it.

P.S. Ironically, 4562 is also the IRS form number to record depreciation and amortization. I found that funny.

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