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Pure CSS GUI icons (experimental) (nicolasgallagher.com)
127 points by tswicegood on July 2, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 28 comments

I don't get why this is "awesome".

CSS for icons is like HTML tables for markup. You have a path, split it to pieces you can represent with CSS using the methods you consider acceptable and draw a shape using ::before and ::after pseudo-elements.

Sure, those icons were carefully hand-crafted. This requires a lot of patient work, and this is admirable.

Yet, we have SVG for vector graphics. Embed it with data: URIs (I believe browsers who support CSS3 transforms can display SVG backgrounds) and that's it.

I think it's an interesting experiment to explore CSS3 stuff. Some experiments end up impractical, but they're still good to know about.

That said, for anyone wondering why they're not practical...

    Spritesheet image - 9kb [http://imgur.com/Mcr9N](png)
        CSS needed to write the positions - ~1-3kb

    Pure CSS - 60kb

gzip -9 takes the CSS down to 6757 bytes. That's not why it's impractical.

You're right about gzip/deflate! And of course you don't have to use all the icons.

So now my argument is probably that of browser compatibility and separation of jobs :)

Gzipped SVG would be a fraction of that. That should be your new argument :)

gzip -9 takes the PNG down to 4714 bytes, still smaller than the CSS.

Also, the PNG image is 24 bits per channel, obviously unnecessary for this kind of project. Taken down to 8 colors it loses no effective detail, and the size is dropped to 2.6 kb, or perhaps smaller after gzip.

Run that sprite sheet through optipng and gimp to remove extra white space and you can get it down to 4021 bytes.

And you'll also use up much more processing power to render CSS icons than to render a plain PNG ;).

It's pretty cool that his HTML is simply

    <li class="someIcon"><a href="...">label</a></li>
Not saying this particular approach is practical, but if we really could arrive at a practical solution for icons that left the HTML that clean, it'd be great.

That's very much possible using images:

  .someIcon {
  padding: 0 0 0 20px;
  background: url(someIcon.png) left center no-repeat;

Ah yes, duh. Nevermind me, total brain fart there.

Loving this. Unicode has some awesome symbol dingbats (not just arrows, even weather symbols, coffee cups and the likes) for UI icons too but this goes a step further and is more stylish (plus Android fonts don't have most dingbats, not even the arrows -- not sure about iOS).

If you're looking for resizable icons that work in non-canvas non-SVG settings, putting those vectors in a webfont is a pretty good idea too.

Check out: http://pictos.drewwilson.com/

In principle it's a good idea. There is a problem with this particular set, though. The icons are represented by ordinary characters like "A", which is confusing for users without webfonts, or on screenreaders. Some of this can be fixed by remapping the font to more appropriate characters, but you may not want to go to that much trouble.

i agree.

any reasonably complete unicode font should already include many of those glyphs. for the glyphs that aren't in the unicode standard, there are private use areas that could accommodate them.

Yeah, as the opening paragraph of the article says, I did this just as 'an exercise in creative problem solving and working within constraints. This is not a "production ready" CSS icon set.'

Hopefully it's clear that it's not being presented as something to be used in production or instead of SVG/other more appropriate technologies.

I use slightly modified versions[1] of the heart and feed icons on http://mediaqueri.es.

[1]: http://mediaqueri.es/static/icon.css

Really hate to be, that guy but this was posted almost a year ago and got ~200pts.


I see no reason why you couldn't use canvas to generate icons as data URI's. Each icon could then be represented as a set of canvas drawing instructions, that could be pre-rendered, scaled for different devices/uses, cached, etc. I think that would be a better long-term solution.

Has anyone built something like this yet?


That would be nice if you could embed SVG as background images.


IE5.0+ can use VML instead of SVG. Android 2.3 problems could be worked around with Raphaël.js or some other polyfill.

A frankensolution like that would in no way be superior to using canvas.

IE8 does not support canvas. Raphaël.js is there for a reason, and one of them is to abstract developers from implementation details and let them just say "I want this graphics here".

Weight is a non issue if you working on intranet sites. Or os applications.

And as others have pointed out, you can compress this file down to under 1k.

I like what I see. I'd love to have an icon set that didn't rely on images or "font-face" statements.

Hardly. Having worked on intranet applications I know first-hand how critical performance is. One on end of the scale you have very small companies, sharing your apps infrastructure with their timesheeting, invoicing and other app servers. On the other end you have companies like Shell, with a user base of over 110,000 employees. All their servers are hosted in the Hague.

Just use Pictos.

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