As with theme and skin downloads, many websites provide alternatives for the Windows desktop icons. If you do a web search for "Windows icons" (using Google, MSN Search, or your favorite web search engine), you will get a number of results. You will find fewer possibilities, however, than you would if you were searching for "desktop wallpaper" or "screensavers." Icons are not as easy to make as some of the other theme/skin elements, so fewer collections are available for download.
Many of the themes and skins you download from the Web include alternative desktop icons. You can mix and match the icons between themes and skins to create your own original combinations.
Here are three of the best sites for desktop icon collections:
The icon files you find on the icon websites will vary in format. Some sites, such as Leo's Icon Archive, provide the icons as individual files that are available in both GIF and ICO file formats. You download the file by right-clicking the icon and then using the Save Picture As command on the shortcut menu. In effect, to build an entire collection of icons, you need to download each file separately.
Other sites, such as IconPlus, provide icon sets, so all the icons are wrapped together in a single file with a file extension of .icl. The icon set file is also often contained in a compressed Zip file (see Figure 10.2). This means you have to use the Extraction Wizard to extract the icon library file from the zipped archive.
Figure 10.2. Desktop icon library downloads are often contained in zipped files.
After you have downloaded individual icons or icon sets, you can substitute them for the default desktop icons. You can also save your desktop icon selections as part of a Windows theme (see Chapter 4, "Creating Windows XP Themes from Scratch").
Many icon artists and creators bundle their icons in library files (such as .icl files) so you can't extract or edit the individual icons and then claim them as your own. It's a way of providing icons to users while also maintaining the intellectual property of the icon set's original artist.
Skinning software packages can also provide the ability to select substitutes for the desktop icons and other Windows icons. For example, Style XP provides the ability to select new icons for the desktop (the shell icons) and other Windows default icons such as folder icons (see Figure 10.3).
Figure 10.3. Skinning software such as Style XP also provides options for replacing icons.
Each of the skinning software packages provides the ability to download additional icon sets that work with that particular skinning package. So, if you use one of the skinning packages discussed in Chapter 6, "A Closer Look at Skinning Software," you might find that the software and its associated download site provide you with all the icon sets you could ever need. For example, Style XP provides www.themexp.org.
However, the alternative to using icons that come with themes and skins, in icon sets, and as individual icon files is to create your own icons. The next section begins a discussion of some of the ways you can create your own individual icons and icon sets.