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GBIC >> Software Reviews >> Icon Extractors

Icon Extractors

Icon Extractors have the ability to find and extract icons embedded in files, such as .exe, .dll, .ocx, .scr, and others. Typical features include searching for icons within folders and subfolders, saving the icons (including saving to other image formats), and creating/managing libraries of icons.

Review Results
The Top 3 Icon Extractors are:

  1. ICL-Icon Extractor $20
  2. IconCool Manager $36
  3. SIB Icon Extractor $20
You'll note that all of the top icon extractors are shareware. The top rated freeware icon extractor, 123IconHunter came in only at position 10, a fairly low showing for freeware as compared to other application categories that I've reviewed.

The 1st and 2nd place positions were easy picks - the applications with the highest scores. But as you can see in the results table below, there were several icon extractors which scored in the 12-17 range - meaning that award of 3rd place was very close.

For each of the applications I have provided a screen shot as well as my written notes, taken during testing of the applications. Click the "More..." button on each application to see the screenshot and notes.

Icon Background
An icon is simply a bitmap, typically of a standard size as defined by Microsoft for use in Windows. An icon file may contain multiple icons, usually (but not necessarily) of the same image. Having several sizes of the same image allows Windows to select the icon size to match the way it's used, as described in the following list of Windows features and the icon sizes they use:

  • 16x16 - windows and taskbars
  • 24x24 - Start menu
  • 32x32 - desktop
  • 48x48 - explorer
  • 128x128 - WindowsXP special format (seldom used)
  • 256x256 - Windows Vista only (uses .PNG compression to keep file size small)

Only the Vista 256x256 icons are compressed and the compression is optional.

Icon Colors
Icons use color depths of 16, 256, or 16.8M colors. The 16 and 256 color depth icons use color palettes (part of the file) to define the color of each pixel, whereas 16.8M color icons use a 24bpp (bits per pixel) format to define the color of each pixel.

Icons of all sizes and colors may include a transparent color. Transparency allows the icon pixel to take on the color of the background.

Starting with WindowsXP, icons may also provide variable opacity (opacity). The variable opacity information is typically referred to as the alpha channel and is implemented by adding 8 bits for every per pixel - for a total of 32bpp. The benefit of variable opacity is to provide shadows and smoother edges to icons.

Here are some other icon references that might be of interest to you:

Icon Editor Features
These are the minimum features that I expect from an icon extractor Each of the candidate programs will be ranked against how well they implement the following features, based on awarding a maximum of 20 points for having the features listed below.

  • Standard Colors
    Standard colors are 16, 256 and 16.8M (RGB).
  • StdSizes
    Standard sizes are 16,32,48.
  • Multiple Image Formats
    Ability to read and saving icons where the icon file contains multiple images.
  • XP
    Supports Windows XP alpha channel.
  • Vista
    Supports Windows Vista 256x256 PNG compressed icons.
  • Folders /SubFolders
    Ability to scan a folder and display all icons within the folder, as well as any subfolders beneath the folder.
  • Screen Capture
    Captures icons from the desktop screen, using standard icon sizes
  • Image Import
    Ability to read image files (jpg/bmp/gif/png) and convert to standard icon sizes. The quality of the resulting icon is crucial.
  • Image Export
    Ability to save icons in other formats, such as bmp, jpg, gif and png.
  • Libary Support
    Ability to create files with many icons, incluing multi-icon groups.
  • Screenshot / Notes
    An image of the application, plus notes I took while reviewing the application.

Special Features
Some of the icon extractors have features which are very useful, although not absolutely necessary. I've indicated which of the applications provide these features. You might find that one of these features to be more important in selecting an icon extractor for your particular needs.

  • Shell Integration
    Adds the application to the right-mouse (context) menu, allowing a user to open an icon-bearing file more easily.
  • Free Icons
    Free icons that come with the application, or that are available for download from the authors site. Some users include copyrighted icons, a bad practice.
  • Locater
    Directs the applications explorer interface to jump to the file that contains the selected icon.
  • XP Folder Browser
    In XP explorer, the top level is the Desktop. Some browsers use a less useful folder explorer that stops at hard drives as the top level
  • Online Update
    Checks online to see if the current file is the most recent. This is not the same as simply going to the web site so that a user can check for themselves.
  • Full Help File
    Not only information about the specific menus/buttons/toolbars, but additional background, explanation, and tips to help users get the most from the software
  • View Duplicate Icons
    Highlights duplicate icons prior to deleting the duplicates
  • Use Source Filename
    When saving icons, the icon filename includes the name of the file from which the icon was extracted.
  • Multiple Languages
    For the obvious reasons.
  • List of Free Icon WebSites
    A list of URLs where free icons can be found.

Candidate Programs
These are the programs included in this review. The table shows the overall rating given to each program, based on its ability to provide the features described above. To fit on this page, some features were left off the table. You can download the spreadsheet which I created that has rating rationale and additional details on each the features of each application.

Program Rating Cost Date Std
XP Vista Folders /
ICL-Icon Extractor 19 $20 2006 x x x x x xx
IconCool Manager 19 $36 2007 x x x x x xx
SIB Icon Extractor 17 $20 2006 x x - x x xx
ABB Icon Pro 16 $36 2006 x x x x x --
Icon Searcher 15 $40 2007 x x x x x xx
ABB IconExplorer 14 $20 2006 x x x x x --
Icon Sucker 2 Pro 14 $10 2002 x x x x x xx
IconView Pro 14 $40 2005 x x - x - x-
Icon.Pump 13 $26 2003 x x x x - xx
123IconHunter 13 $0 2006 x x x x - xx
Buddy Icon Grabber 12 $20 2005 x x x x - xx
Icon Scanner 12 $20 2006 x x x x - xx
PC Icon Extractor 12 $20 2006 x x x x - xx
Quick Icon Grabber 12 $20 2001 x x x x - xx
Extract Icon Tool 11 $?? 2006 x x x x - x-
Icon Seizer 11 $20 2006 x x - x - xx
GetIcon 9 $0 2006 x x x x - --
IceXX 9 $29 2006 x x x x - --
Icon Collector 9 $0 2002 x x x x - --
EasyExtractIcon 8 $12 2005 x x x x - --
IconsExtract 8 $0 2006 x - - - - xx
Image Digger 8 $25 2004 x x x - - x-
Super Icon Helper 8 $30 2005 x x - x - --
AIconExtract 6 $14 2005 x x x - - --
Icon Extractor 2000 5 $15 2005 x x - - - --
Icon Snatcher 5 $0 1999 - - x - - --
Icon Sucker 2 Free 5 $0 2002 x x - - - --
Icons from File 5 $0 2007 - - x - - x-

User Feedback & Suggestions
I welcome any suggestions on other icon editors that should be considered, or suggestions on how better to review the selected programs.