Frequently Asked Questions
Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Macintosh icons. If you have a general question that isn't answered here, please email it to us through the 'contact' link at the bottom of the page.
- How do I use the icons once I have downloaded them?
- The icons are missing, I just see generic documents!
- How come some icons won't change?
- How do I change "stubborn" application icons?
- How do I change the default system icons?
- How do I change the Finder and Trash Can icons in the Dock?
- How do I design icons that conform to Apple's User Interface Guidelines?
- How do I create icons with that glossy 'Aqua' look?
- How do I use Mac OS X icons under Microsoft Windows XP?
- What Mac OS X software do you recommend?
- Can I use these icons in my software project or web site?
- How do i create 512x512 pixel icons for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard?
Answers to the FAQ
- 1. How do I use the icons once I have downloaded them?
Customizing icons under Mac OS X is straightforward. Simply click on the icon you would like to use and select 'Get Info' from the 'File' menu. In the window that pops up, click on the icon and select 'Copy' from the 'Edit' menu. Now close the info window, click on the icon you would like to change and again select 'Get Info' from the 'File' menu. Click on the icon inside the info window that appears and select 'Paste' from the 'Edit' menu. Close the info window and you are finished.
If you require more detailed instructions, see our article 'Setting Custom Icons in Mac OS X'. Please select the version of Mac OS X that you are using: 10.0 to 10.1.5, 10.2 and 10.3 (Jaguar and Panther).
Apple also has a nice step-by step tutorial.
- 2. The icons are missing, I just see generic documents!
Our .ZIP archives are created with the BOMArchiveHelper built into Mac OS X 10.3 and 10.4 (Panther and Tiger). If you are using an older version of Mac OS X, you will need to decompress them using Stuffit Expander version 9.0 or later. Prior versions do not support Apple's custom ZIP format that handles Mac resource forks.
Users running Mac OS X 10.3 or later may use Stuffit Expander 9.0 or later, or the built in BOMArchiveHelper. Please note that starting with Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, Apple no longer includes Stuffit Expander with the operating system (although it may still be downloaded for free). New icon sets are posted in ZIP format. Older icon sets may still be in .SIT or .SIT.HQX format, for which you will need to download Stuffit Expander.
If you are using Stuffit Expander and are seeing blank document icons, you probably have an old version. If you have followed the recommendations above and are still having trouble viewing Mac icons on your Mac, please send us an email through the 'contact' link at the bottom of the page.
- 3. How come some icons won't change?
There are a number of reasons why some icons won't change.
One reason is that if the file who's icon you are trying to change belongs to another user, you may not have write priviledges and therefore cannot modify it. Check by looking at the 'permissions' section of the Get Info window for that icon.
Another reason that you may be having trouble changing icons is that there are several icon-related bugs in various versions of the Finder. Most if not all of these bugs seem to have been squashed as of Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther). In previous version, you may not be able to change the hard disk icon, or any icon more than once per reboot. Additionally, some icon changes may take effect, but only much later.
- 4. How do I change "stubborn" application icons?
Some applications, such as Mail.app, System Prefs, and Safari load internal .icns files at startup, replacing the custom icon you may have pasted onto the application with the usual method. In order to properly customize these applications, you will need to replace their internal .icns file(s). Matthew Bice of IheartNY.com has an excellent article that explains how to do this.
Please note that the icons downloaded from InterfaceLIFT (formerly Xicons) are NOT in .icns format. You will need to convert them with something like Iconographer by MScape Software or icons2icns by Infinity-to-the-Power-of-Infinity before copying them into an application bundle.
- 5. How do I change the default system icons?
The default system icons, such as the generic folder, hard disk, removable media, the icons in the home directory, and countless others may be changed by modifying system resources. Please note that modifying system resources can cause problems with your system or even render it unbootable if not done properly and carefully. Apple does not intend the end user to modify these resources.
That being said, it certainly can be done. One way to swap out these icons is by following the directions in our article 'Customizing Default System Icons'. Make sure you use the correct version of this article, as there are some significant differences: 10.1, 10.2 (Jaguar), 10.3 (Panther). These articles are meant for advanced users only and InterfaceLIFT does is not responsible for any damage you may cause to your system.
Another way, which is potentially safer, is to download CandyBar from Panic and The IconFactory. Unfortunately, the software costs US$12.95. But it is a better option for many novice Mac users.
- 6. How do I change the Finder and Trash Can icons in the Dock?
The Finder icon and Trash Can icons in the Dock are changed in a similar manner to how the other default system icons are changed. However, they are a special case. Again, the easiest way to change these icons (if you have US$12.95 to burn) is to use CandyBar by Panic and The IconFactory.
If you are a poweruser or just plain cheap, these icons can be changed by following the directions in our article 'Customizing the Dock'. Be sure to use the correct version of this article for the operating system you are running: 10.2 (Jaguar), 10.3 (Panther).
As with changing the other default system icons, there is a potential to damage your system. Following these directions is at your own risk and InterfaceLIFT is not responsible for any damage or dataloss.
- 7. How do I design icons that conform to Apple's User Interface Guidelines?
Apple has published an article, 'Apple Human Interface Guidelines', on its developer site, which details how to make applications that provide a great Mac user experience. There is an entire chapter on designing icons in there.
- 8. How do I create icons with that glossy 'Aqua' look?
Matthew Bice of IHeartNY.com and Receiver Studio (a graphic design firm) was kind enough to write a tutorial for InterfaceLIFT. His article 'Creating Aqua Icons' guides you step by step through the process using Adobe Photoshop.
- 9. How do I use Mac OS X icons under Microsoft Windows XP?
Seen Sai Yang was kind enough to write the articles 'Converting Mac OS X icons to Windows XP' and 'Using 128x128 32-bit icons in Windows XP' for us to help Windows users make use of our vast Mac icon archive. However, we require that you please respect the copyrights of the original artists by not posting converted versions of their work for download. The icons on this site are licensed for personal use only and may not be redistributed in any form without written permission by the original artist(s).
InterfaceLIFT now also offers a Windows XP icon section. Make sure to check that out if you haven't already.
- 10. What Mac OS X software do you recommend?
Check out our complete list of Mac OS X icon software for information about the top utilities.
- 11. Can I use these icons in my software project or web site?
The "free" icons available on InterfaceLIFT are only free for personal use. If you would like to use icons in your software application, web site, or other project, you must to either obtain the designer's permission, pay a licensing fee for a stock icon collection, or hire someone to do custom design work for you. Unauthorized use of someone's copyrighted artwork, whether or not it is for commercial purposes, is wrong (...and illegal).
Our stock icon listing is intended to benefit both developers and designers. For developers the listing is an easy place to find high-quality graphics to use in their projects. Previously, a developer had to hunt around dozens of web sites pricing out icon sets or finding a designer who specializes in software interface design. Now a developer can look in one simple location and do side-by-side comparisons of quality, quantity, and pricing. And for icon designers, our listing helps promote their products to a wider and more focused audience than is possible with their own relatively low-traffic web sites. InterfaceLIFT is a leading supplier of icons to the Internet community, and now we've leveraged that position to help promote the work of the artists who contribute to the site.
- 12. How do i create 512x512 pixel icons for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard?
The IconBuilder Pro plugin version 8.1 plug for Adobe Photoshop supports 512 x 512 pixel resources for icons (.ICNS). It can also generate 256x256 pixel .ICO files for Microsoft Windows Vista.
It includes a handy utility called IconExaminer that will help you verify what resource sizes an icon contains.
Unfortunately, IconBuiler Pro is pricey at $79 for Mac OS X or $69 for Windows (with fewer features than the Macintosh version). It requires Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later, and one of the following: Photoshop 7+, Elements 2+, or Fireworks MX 2004.