While you can create icons for your shortcuts with Windows XP's built-in Paint program, the editing tools within Paint are very basic. If you want to create more flashy icons, consider a dedicated icon editing program. There are literally hundreds of dedicated icon-editing programs available for download on the Web; however, many of these programs are more for the graphic editing professional than the average user who just wants to create some basic, yet interesting icons.
Fortunately, there's a shareware program from Aha-Soft called IconXP. IconXP is uncomplicated, yet has some very powerful features. In fact, its user interface looks and works very much like Paint, so you'll feel right at home as you begin to explore some of its advanced graphics effects, such as drop shadows and color gradients.
You can download IconXP and experiment with it using the 30-day free trial. If you decide to keep it, you can register the software for $29.95.
Note: This tip applies to both Windows XP Home and Windows XP Professional.
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Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.