Icon Facts

News posted by stippi on Mon, 2006-11-06 22:19

With this article, I want to introduce you to some interesting facts about the new Icon format that Haiku is using. At first sight, they are just scalable vector icons, and Haiku is not the only operating system to have them. But the interesting bits are in the implementation details which should make Haiku stand out from the rest.

The first unique feature is that Haiku uses a special vector storage format, that has been specifically designed to store icons; we call it the Haiku Vector Icon Format, or HVIF for short. Haiku is not using the SVG format. Support for that is available through SVG import and export features in the Haiku icon editor "Icon-O-Matic". HVIF saves so much space, that icons are typically even smaller than the BeOS bitmap icons, which use 1280 bytes. The average Haiku vector icon uses about 500-700 bytes, with some icons slightly over 1000 bytes and some even below 250 bytes. This means that an icon stored as an attribute of a file will fit in the so-called small data region, which resides within the inode of the file. When Tracker reads information about a file to display it, its name, size, date and also the icon are all read within a single disk operation, when the files inode is fetched. Obviously, this is very beneficial for speed, since the hard disk remains one of the slowest components of a computer. The only performance hit is rendering the icons, which is fast compared to the disk operation. If Haiku were to use SVG icons, we would need at least one extra seek after fetching the inode (as the icon is too big to fit in there), and