VSTO & .NET & Excel

October 27, 2011

Axialis Stock Icons For Toolbar & Ribbon

Filed under: .NET & Excel, Excel, UI Design — Dennis M Wallentin @ 5:43 pm

I’m the first to admit that I have moved forward and backward when it comes to stock icons and which icons to use. The UI plays a critical role in all kind of softwares which means that we also need to consider what kind of icons to be used. With the introduction of Ribbon UI I would say that the design has become even more important. It requires a larger area of the hosted Windows.

When I design UIs I try to put myself in the role of an end user who spends a considerable time with my solutions in Excel. Some cool UI design is no longer cool after two weeks use where the user spends perhaps 10-15 hours during that period using the solution.

However I cannot say that I’m well educated when it comes to design. I try to follow Microsoft’s concept for designing Ribbon UIs.

The following screen shot shows examples of the new stock icons from Axialis who has recently started out to offer complete icons sets. Yes, it’s the same company who also offers the great icon creator tool, IconWorkshop.

Personally I prefer light-weighted colored icons with a soft tone and that is also what the new icon set, Axialis Ribbon & Toolbar Stock Icons, offers. What we get is an improved professional UI.

It’s easy to forget that in VS.NET we cannot use resource files that have names like “aaa bbb.ping”. So if we use let say 16 icon files we need to rename them all before using them. Axialis has managed to keep that in mind and therefore all icon files have names like “aaa_bbb.ping”.

This is what Axialis writes about the new released icons:/
Icons are available in sizes 16×16, 24×24, 32×32, 48×48 and normal, hot & disabled states. Provided file formats are PNG, ICO and BMP. Colors are coded in RGB with alpha channel transparency in PNG and ICO icons. BMP icons are coded in RGB with magenta areas to define transparency.

For more information please visit one of the links. I also recommend visiting their homepage on a more regular basis as they plan to release more stock icons sets.

Kind regards,



  1. We also use Axialis for all our icon creation needs, including our current Add-Ins project. However, with a new effort to support the Ribbon, we made a conscious decision *not* to have our Add-In icons match the look of the built-in controls, for one reason: based on past experience, Microsoft will be sure to re-style the look of their Office icons (usually every other major release) before the shelf-life of our Add-In expires. We don’t want to be in a position of re-styling our icons every few years just to match; conversely, we’ve decided that we’re better off by staying distinct (within our own add-ins tabs) and consistent.

    Certainly others will want to use the Axialis offerings, and that’s fine. We simply have reached a different conclusion — and created our own using Axialis iconWorkshop icons — based on our long-term needs.

    We understand perfectly why Microsoft elects to re-style their flagship product every few years — marketing has always been their strong point — but it can cause problems for software vendors such as us whose products are based on Office over many years.



    Comment by Bruce — November 3, 2011 @ 7:19 pm

    • Bruce,

      Thanks for Your comment. You raise an interesting aspect of UI design. The Ribbon UI gives Microsoft an exclusive right to dictate the design including the layout of icons. Of course, it leads to a situation where we must either accept the conditions or decide to go another path.

      For larger commercial tools I can see the need for providing an UI that people connect to the products. In this context it means an unique profile of the icon set(s) in use.

      I fully agree that the recent development of MS Office is more controled by the marketing people than the productionteams for each software in the suite.

      Kind regards,

      Comment by Dennis Wallentin — November 3, 2011 @ 9:44 pm

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