Icon Loading

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Icons are an important user interface element in any desktop environment. Because of different user preferences and video hardware, one icon may come in different sizes and display depths. In order to make this manageable, a standard way of storing and accessing icons has been developed.

Loading icons

Accessing the iconloader

Icons are loaded using the class TDEIconLoader. Every TDE appliation has a global iconloader object. You can access this object with:

#include <tdeglobal.h>
#include <kiconloader.h>
TDEIconLoader *loader = TDEGlobal::iconLoader();

Loading icons with loadIcon()

The iconloader loads icons, transparently caches them and applies effects. To load an icon, use the method loadIcon(), which is defined like this:

TQPixmap loadIcon( TQString name, int group, int size=0,
                   int state=TDEIcon::DefaultState, 
                   TQString *path_store=0L, bool canReturnNull=false);

As you see, there are a lot of parameters. The first two are most important:

  1. name - The name of the icon to load. You must pass the bare icon name here, without extension.
  2. group - The icon group. This is explained below.

Icon groups

The idea of an icon group is an important concept in the TDE icon scheme. The icon group denotes where on the screen the icon is going to be used. This is relevant because the TDE user can bind icon sizes and visual effects to each group. When passing the icon group to the icon loader, you are in fact telling it which incarnation of the icon to load. And by requiring the group argument, the iconloader provides the means to have a consistent and configurable icon look over the whole Trinity desktop.

For example: The user can configure that (s)he wants 32 pixel icons with 0.2 desaturation for the main toolbars.

The available icon groups are given below. All are defined in the TDEIcon class, so prefix them with TDEIcon::.

  • Desktop - Icons for use on the desktop, in the filemanager and similar places.
  • Toolbar - Icon for use innormal toolbars.
  • MainToolbar - Icons for use in the main toolbar. An application can have multiple toolbars, of which one is always the main toolbar. This typically has entries like "Save" and "Open" and contains larger icons than the other toolbars.
  • Small - Various small icons, like the ones in popup menus, listviews and treelists.
  • Panel - Icons for use in Kicker panels.
  • User - Special group for loading application specific icons. This is explained in section 3: Installing icons.

So, to load the icon "kfind" for use in the Desktop group, you'd use:

TQPixmap icon;
icon = loader->loadIcon("kfind", TDEIcon::Desktop);

loadIcon() continued

Now lets discuss the other parameters of loadIcon.

  1. size - Override the globally configured size for the specified icon group. Effects bound to the group are still applied.
  2. state - The icon state. The icon state is one of TDEIcon::DefaultState, TDEIcon::ActiveState or TDEIcon::DisabledState. The icon state denotes in which state the icon is. Toolbar buttons, for example, are in state active if the mouse pointer is above them, in state disabled when they are not available, and default otherwise. Each icon state can have different effects assigned to it to give the user visual feedback.
  3. path_store - If you want to know where the icon you just loaded is in the filesystem, you can pass a pointer to a TQString here and the icon path is stored there.
  4. canReturnNull - If the requested icon is not found, the result of loadIcon depends on this parameter. If canReturnNull is true, a null pixmap will be returned, if not, the "unknown" icon is returned.

Installing icons

Icons may come in different sizes and display depths. I shall refer to these icons as themed icons. Icons that come in just one form are referred to as unthemed icons.

Default icon sizes

Themed icons come in different sizes and display depths. The standard sizes are:

40 Colors
16x16 pixels
22x22 pixels
32x32 pixels
22x22 pixels
32x32 pixels
48x48 pixels

Please refer to the KDE Icon Guide for information on which icon sizes are mandatory and more. Remember that each of these sizes can be bound to an icon group.

Icon context

Themed icons are stored in a directory hierarchy according to their 1. depth, 2. size and 3. context. The term context is a new concept introduced by KDE/Trinity icon schemes. The context of an icon is what the icon means. The standard contexts are given below:

  • action - The icon represents an action in a toolbar, for example "Open" or "Save".
  • application - The icon represents an application, for example "kfind".
  • device - The icon represents something related to a device, for example "floppy" or "mount".
  • filesystem - The icon represents something in the filesystem, for example "directory", "socket" or "trashcan".
  • mimetype - The icon represents an mimetype, for example "text/html".

Contexts are important in one case: selecting an icon. When an application wants the user to select an icon for, say, a toolbar, it would be very user unfriendly to show every single icon installed in Trinity. Instead, it is much better to let the user select an icon from the "action" icons only. These all represent some action and therefore are suitable for in toolbars.

Directory hierarchy

The directory hierarchy in which themed icons are stored follows. The directory names are self explanatory.




Directory roots

Themed icons can be installed either globally with respect to TDE, or in application specific place. In the global case, the icon theme hierarchy resides under $TDEDIR/share/icons while in the application specific case, it is under $TDEDIR/share/apps/$APPNAME/icons.

Installing themed icons

The Trinity framework has support for installing themed icons. First, you have to name your icons in a way that it is clear where it must be installed. The naming convention is explained in the table below:

depth size - context - name .png
hi 16 action
lo 22 app
32 device
48 filesys



Then use the following macro in your CMakeLists.txt file:

tde_install_icons( )

Loading themed icons

Themed icons are loaded with the iconloader, using the standard icon groups. For example:

TQPixmap pm;
pm = loader->loadIcon("kfind", TDEIcon::Desktop);

This will load the "kfind" icon, of depth and size specified for the Desktop group.

Unthemed icons

Unthemed icons are installed in $TDEDIR/share/apps/$APPNAME/pics. To install them, use this in your CMakeLists.txt:

install( FILES open.png kfind.png DESTINATION ${DATA_INSTALL_DIR}/myapp/pics )

You must not give the icons special names. Also, no further processing is done on them: no effects and size, depth selection is done.

Unthemed icons can be loaded with the iconloader using the User group. This will load a user icon:

TQPixmap pm;
pm = loader->loadIcon("myicon", TDEIcon::User);


There are 3 ways to install icons: global themed, application specific themed and unthemed. All types of icons can be loaded with the iconloader. You should choose a specific installation depending on your needs.

Initial Author: Geert Jansen <jansen@kde.org>