Using icons instead of folders


In Episode 7  of The Digi Show I (Katie) read an email from a listener that mentioned using icons instead of folders for her organizing system. This is very easy to do on a Mac with the free img2icns app, but she also included that this could be done on a PC as well with the right tool. I went on a search and found iconverticons and gave it a try. I’ve since been perplexed and somewhat mentally consumed by the whole idea of changing my folder systems to icons. I’m not the only one – a few listeners  have gone down the “rabbit hole” as well and the comments field has been hopping with tips and tricks being passed back and forth. I love that I have been able to learn so much from our listeners and I thought it would be fun to share some of this information with all of you.


Icons vs. folders

I currently use a folder-based system for organizing all of my digital scrapbook supplies, documents, and photos. You can read more about it in this post. I also got the inspiration to have a folder just for previews (in each of my categories) from Steph after writing that post. This has been an incredibly easy and effective organizational system for me and I had no plans to change it. When I found out about the icon maker, I wondered if my whole previews folder had just become obsolete?

Here’s a little peek at how my current system works. This is a look inside my “Summer & Beach” folder. On some of the folders, you can see a preview image because I took the time to go in and change the settings on each folder by right clicking on it and going to “Properties” then “Customize” and then under “Folder Images” choosing the preview image to show up as the default image. Obviously, I have not done this for all my folders and I don’t worry too much about it because I mainly use my preview folder when I want to look at the choice for the “Summer & Beach” category.


Now you can see the difference with the 3 folders I changed to icons (Anna, BGD, Flergs/Kay Miller)


The preview is the icon that replaces the folder. When I click on that icon image, it still  opens the folder. Cool!


What program should I use if I’m on a PC?

These are the programs that were mentioned the most often in the comments of The Digi Show episode. (all of them are free)

  • IcoFX – drag the kit preview onto the IcoFx screen. Choose 256×256 size.
  • ToyCon – open the little box image and then move the file you want to convert right onto the box. Choose 256×256 size.
  • iConverticons – you upload the image right on the website and then download the .ico file. The download will include several sizes, use the biggest one for the most flexibility.

The basic idea behind all of these programs is that you will store your converted .ico files in the folder with the kits they belong to. Right-click, go to “Properties” then “Customize” then “change icon” and then you will find the .ico file in your folder and select that as the icon image. It’s critical to keep your .ico files in the same place so that Windows knows where to find them. Don’t move them after you’ve customized the icon view on your folder.

Some users like to have a separate folder just for icons and that works well also. That would work well if you are batch processing, which a listener said you can do in the IcoFx program. When asked what the reason was for keeping the separate folder, one of the commenters responded:

“There are several reasons I learned the hard way why it was best to have a single folder (this is for Windows Systems):

1) As suggested when you use the batch files under Tools it is very easy to change multiple previews into icons at one time – if you wanted the icon to remain in each folder you would have to do them individually. In batch processing when you assign these icons to their respective folders navigating is a breeze because Windows “remembers” where you were last when you hit the “Change Icon” part of the Properties Window. So it always brings you to the Folder Icons folder first. In fact, I always change the preview name to this convention: designername_kitname_kit_preview. Thus when I need to assign the icons in the folders’ properties I can quickly and easily find each icon – C’s for CarinaGardner or the E’s for EchoPark, etc….

2) It is a safe way to preserve the Icons IMO and prevent them from “looking” like duplicates in the kit folder and accidentally being deleted. If you navigate into a folder you can see the icon file and the preview file appear identical in any of the View by Icons mode.

3) Windows architecture sets up its own internal icons in a separate folder which can be found stored in shell32.dll located at C:\Windows\System32\. Not that I believe Windows programmers are infallible, but it is my belief that icon indexing is faster when the icons are stored in a single place. Since this is a system file you can’t view it directly but you can extract the system icons out of it…guess how…yep… with IcoFX! I briefly contemplated finding a way to get mine into a .dll file but decided it was best not to mess with Windows OS for fear of retaliation of the Microsoft gremlins ;>)

4) If anything ever happened to a digital kit folder it would be easy to restore the icon(s) rather than remake it/them. Keep a backup of this icon folder in a safe location.

5) With Windows if you save the icon inside the kit folder and at any point move that folder the icon will not stay linked as suggested because the directory path to the icon has to remain intact. Once you move the folder with the icon you are altering the path to the icon. This is why it is so important that the icon not be moved once it is assigned. Have Lyndel try this and she will see for herself that her nice icon vanishes back to a mundane yellow system folder. Put it back and voila! instant icon again.


* a sidenote for Mac users – The img2icons app for the Mac is just drag and drop the preview into a box and then drop the folder into the same box and it instantly converts.


Do I really need icons?

Do what works for you! I still love my folders of previews so I’m not quite ready to delete them yet, even though it’s not necessary to have the previews in a folder and the changed icon files.  I guess I will give it some time and see what works for me. I do love the beauty of icons instead of folders and it really appeals to my nature as a visual person.

Where I’m really loving the icon idea the most is on my computer desktop. I love to have fun wallpapers loaded on my screen, but I also keep some vital folders on my desktop. Now I can create beautiful icons to look nice with the background on my screen. I love learning about new tricks on my computer! Here are some fun links to check for free icons to download:

Special thanks to Debbie, Joan, Lyndel, and all the other listeners/readers who helped me with research and advice for this post! I really appreciate it!

katie big