Computer users juggle applications as they perform various tasks and surf the Internet, but behind all those apps lies the desktop: the first and last thing they see when they begin and end a computer session for the day. Scattered on the desktop, varying by user, are icons that denote files, folders and programs. In most cases, these icons simply sit on the screen waiting to be double-clicked into action, but in other cases, the icons themselves jump into their own animated action, with no clicking required.
A desktop icon is a small image that symbolizes a folder, software program or file on the main screen of your computer or laptop. All computers come with default icons, such as a trash can for the "Recycle Bin" icon. These icons are static. But icons can be used for multiple purposes, employed as desktop signifiers and in other uses, such as identifying blogs or websites.
Animated icons differ from their static compatriots in that, simply, they move. Animated icons are used extensively online, but can make their home right on your desktop. A large number of digital designers have already done the work for you by placing free (or for-fee) downloadable animated icons on websites. Create your own custom designs for the applications and functions you use often, such as a trash can that gobbles up files or an surfboard image that rides a small ocean wave, by using graphics software such as Photoshop and animation software such as Adobe Flash.
The key to animating a desktop icon is the file format. Any animated icon will remain static unless you save the file as an animated GIF, the only "moveable" file format. When you're designing your icon in your program of choice, save a copy of the file in its original format, as well, so you can edit the icon at any time by going to the source file. Then, re-save it with the same GIF name to replace the old one, or a new filename to create different versions.
Animated icons, called "blinkies," may be intrusive or distracting to users, especially those working in a dual- or multiple- monitor situation. If your attention is focused on one screen, the glittery, blinking animation of an icon on another screen may disrupt your focus simply because it catches your eye. With an entire desktop full of tiny, moving parts in your line of sight, working or participating in an online discussion can be a challenge. Another issue is icon permission. Many artists provide free animated icons for downloading. Before you download any icons from the Internet, determine that they have been uploaded free for the taking.
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