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Beautiful app icons are an important part of the user experience on all Apple platforms. A unique, memorable icon evokes your app and can help people recognize it at a glance on the desktop, in Finder, and in the Dock. Polished, expressive icons can also hint at an app’s personality and even its overall level of quality.
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In macOS 11, app icons share a common set of visual attributes, including the rounded-rectangle shape, front-facing perspective, level position, and uniform drop shadow. Rooted in the macOS 11 design language, these attributes showcase the lifelike rendering style people expect in macOS while presenting a harmonious user experience. To download templates that specify the correct shape and drop shadow, see Apple Design Resources.
IMPORTANT When you update your app for macOS 11, use your new app icon design to replace the icon you designed for earlier versions. You can’t include two different app icons for one app, and the macOS 11 app icon style looks fine on a Mac running Catalina or earlier.
Design a beautiful icon that clearly represents your app. Combine an engaging design with an artistic interpretation of your app’s purpose that people can instantly understand.
Embrace simplicity. Find a concept or element that captures the essence of your app and express it in a simple, unique way, adding details only when doing so enhances meaning. Too many details can be hard to discern and can make the icon appear muddy, especially at smaller sizes.
Establish a single focus point. A single, centered point of interest captures the user’s attention and helps them recognize your app at a glance. Presenting multiple focus points can obscure the icon’s message.
To give people a familiar and consistent experience, prefer a design that works well across multiple platforms. If your app runs on other platforms, use a similar image for all app icons while rendering them in the style that’s appropriate for each platform. For example, in iOS and watchOS, the Mail app icon depicts the white envelope in a streamlined, graphical style; in macOS 11, the envelope includes depth and detail that communicate a realistic weight and texture.
Consider depicting a familiar tool to communicate what people use your app to do. To give context to your app’s purpose, you can use the icon background to portray the tool’s environment or the items it affects. For example, the TextEdit icon pairs a mechanical pencil with a sheet of lined paper to suggest a utilitarian writing experience. After you create a detailed, realistic image of a tool, it often works well to let it float just above the background and extend slightly past the icon boundaries. If you do this, make sure the tool remains visually unified with the background and doesn’t overwhelm the rounded-rectangle shape.
Make real objects look real. If you depict real objects in your app icon, make them look like they’re made of physical materials and have actual mass. Replicate the characteristics of substances like fabric, glass, paper, and metal to convey an object’s weight and feel. For example, the Xcode app icon features a hammer that looks like it has a steel head and polymer grip.
If text is essential for communicating your app’s purpose, consider creating a graphic abstraction of it. Actual text in an icon can be difficult to read and doesn’t support accessibility or localization. To give the impression of text without implying that people should zoom in to read it, you can create a graphic texture that suggests it.
To depict photos or parts of your app’s UI, create idealized images that emphasize the features you want people to notice. Photos are often full of details that obscure the main content when viewed at small sizes. If you want to use a photo in your icon, pick one with strongly contrasting values that make the main subject stand out. Remove unimportant details that make primary lines and shapes fuzzy or indistinct. If your app has a UI that people recognize, avoid simply replicating standard UI elements or using a screenshot in your icon. Instead, consider designing a graphic that echoes the UI and expresses the personality of your app.
Don’t use replicas of Apple hardware products. Apple products are copyrighted and can’t be reproduced in your icons or images. Avoid displaying replicas of devices, because hardware designs tend to change frequently and can make your icon look dated.
Use the drop shadow in the icon-design template. The template includes the system-defined drop shadow that helps your app icon coordinate with other macOS 11 icons.
Consider using interior shadows and highlights to add definition and realism. For example, the Mail app icon uses both shadows and highlights to give the envelope authenticity and to suggest that the flap is slightly open. In icons that include a tool that floats above a background — such as TextEdit or Xcode — interior shadows can strengthen the perception of depth and make the tool look real. Shadows and highlights should suggest a light source that faces the icon, positioned just above center and tilted slightly downward.
Avoid defining contours that suggest a shape other than a rounded rectangle. In rare cases, you might want to fine-tune the basic app icon shape, but doing so risks creating an icon that looks like it doesn’t belong in macOS 11. If you must alter the shape, prefer subtle adjustments that continue to express a rounded rectangle silhouette.
Consider adding a slight glow just inside the edges of your icon. If your app icon includes a dark reflective surface, like glass or metal, add an inner glow to make the icon stand out and prevent it from appearing to dissolve into dark backgrounds.
Keep primary content within the icon grid bounding box; keep all content within the outer bounding box. If an icon’s primary content extends beyond the icon grid bounding box, it tends to look out of place. If you overlay a tool on your icon, it works well to align the tool’s top edge with the outer bounding box and its bottom edge with the inner bounding box, as shown below.
In addition to the bounding boxes and suggested tool placement, the icon design template provides a grid to help you position items within an icon. You can also use the icon grid to ensure that centered inner elements like circles use a size that’s consistent with other icons in the system.
App Icon Attributes
All app icons should use the following specifications.
|Color space||Display P3 (wide-gamut color), sRGB (color), or Gray Gamma 2.2 (grayscale)|
|Layers||Flattened with transparency as appropriate|
|Resolution||@1x and @2x (see Image Size and Resolution)|
|Shape||Square with no rounded corners|
Don’t provide app icons in ICNS or JPEG format. The ICNS format doesn’t support features like wide color gamut or deliver the performance and efficiency you get when you use asset catalogs. JPEG doesn’t support transparency through alpha channels, and its compression can blur or distort an icon’s images. For best results, add deinterlaced PNG files to the app icon fields of your Xcode project’s asset catalog.
App Icon Sizes
Your app icon is displayed in many places, including in Finder, the Dock, Launchpad, and the App Store. To ensure that your app icon looks great everywhere people see it, provide it in the following sizes:
- 512x512 pt (512x512 px @1x, 1024x1024 px @2x)
- 256x256 pt (256x256 px @1x, 512x512 px @2x)
- 128x128 pt (128x128 px @1x, 256x256 px @2x)
- 32x32 pt (32x32 px @1x, 64x64 px @2x)
- 16x16 pt (16x16 px @1x, 32x32 px @2x)
Maintain visual consistency in all icon sizes. As icon size decreases, fine details become muddy and hard to distinguish. At the smallest sizes, it’s important to remove unnecessary features and exaggerate primary features to help the content remain clear. As you simplify icons that are visually smaller, don’t let them appear drastically different from their larger counterparts. Strive to make subtle variations that ensure the icon remains visually consistent when displayed in different environments. For example, if people drag your icon between displays with different resolutions, the icon’s appearance shouldn’t suddenly change.
The 512x512 pt Safari app icon (on the left) uses a circle of tick marks to indicate degrees; the 16x16 pt version of the icon (on the right) doesn’t include this detail.
There are times when your Mac desktop files or icons disappear all of a sudden. Sometimes, you may find everything on my desktop disappeared on Mac. This page guides you to turn the icons back on, restore icons missing on Mac immediately. Learn how to restore missing desktop files and icons on Mac with EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac and other manual methods on your own.
When the desktop files and drive icons disappear on your Mac, stay calm. Accordingly, due to macOS or Mac OS X update, personal settings, and careless operations, you may find Mac desktop files and icons not sowing.
Follow through the two parts below to display your disappeared Mac desktop icons and restore the lost files with ease:
|Workable Solutions||Step-by-step Troubleshooting|
|Phrase 1. Display Missing iCons||Method 1. Use Finder..Full steps|
Method 2. Use Time Machine Backup..Full steps
|Phrase 2. Get Missing Files||Method 1. Use Mac Desktop File Recovery Software..Full steps|
Method 2. Use iCloud Backup..Full steps
Method 3. Use Time Machine Backup..Full steps
Method 4. Use Stacks..Full steps
Method 5. Use Trash..Full steps
Everything on My Mac Desktop Disappeared, Help
Don't worry if you are having a similar case as listed here, you can continue reading and find the right solution to make your Mac desktop icon showing and restore all missing files on your own.
Case 1 - Everything on my desktop disappeared on Mac computer, need help!
'Hello, after saving a .xls file on my desktop, all my desktop files and folders disappeared! Impossible to find them, also my bin was empty too, nothing to find or delete. Also, I didn't do any back up in the past to restore. What's worse, some drive icons are also missing! Those files and folders are really important as they are work-related. What should I try? Please, urgent help is needed. Thanks!'
Case 2 - Mac desktop files not showing, seemed lost, after macOS update.
'Does someone know how to bring the lost desktop files back after macOS update? My desktop files not showing after macOS update, how do I do? Do I still have a chance to restore them?'
Why Did Everything on My Desktop Disappear on Mac?
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At times you might notice that files and icons from your Mac desktop are missing or they have just disappeared. Here are the normal reasons:
- #1. macOS or Mac OS X update causes Mac desktop icons and items lost
- #2. Default settings of Finder that makes no icons and items appear on Mac desktop
- #3. Set files to hide on Mac
- #4. The false operation that delete items on Mac
It is really shocking especially for those who have stored important files, folders, and icons on the Mac desktop. However, before you assume that they are permanently gone from your Mac desktop, refer the following points to see if you can restore disappeared files and icons from the desktop.
Part 1. Show and Retrieve Missing Mac Icons
It is easy to find missing Windows icons. But when it comes to Mac, most people become confused. It's the Finder that controls the display of Mac desktop and all of its icons, including drive icons of storage devices.
Usually, when you install macOS or upgrade Mac OS X, it renders the desktop without the drive icons by default. Sometimes, misoperations cause desktop icons missing from the desktop.
Luckily, you can show the disappeared Mac desktop icons by using either of the following methods.
Method 1. Show Missing Mac iCons using Finder
By changing the Finder's default settings, you can effectively make the desktop display the missing icons again.
Step 1. Click on the desktop or open a Finder window.
Step 2. From the menu bar, select 'Finder Preferences'.
Step 3. In the Finder Preferences window that opens, click the 'General tab'.
You'll see a list of devices that can have their associated icon displayed on your desktop.
Step 4. Place a checkmark next to the items you wish to display on the desktop.
After this, close the Finder Preferences window. The selected items will display on the desktop again.
Method 2. Retrieve Disappeared Mac Desktop iCons from Times Machine Backup
Pre-condition: You have created a Time Machine backup of your Mac desktop before the icons and files missed.
When you lost desktop settings, you can also try to bring them back by running Time Machine backup recovery. It will bring you back to the date before Mac desktop icons disappearing.
Let's see how to retrieve the disappeared Mac desktop icons:
Step 1.Connect the external Time Machine backup disk to Mac. Enter 'Time Machine' from the Time Machine menu.
Step 2. Use the timeline or up and down arrow browse and select the backup point.
Step 3.Press 'Space' bar to preview and see whether it's the one you want.
Step 4.;Click 'Restore' to restore the selected file.
After this, you can view and check items like icons saved on your Mac desktop again, including the missing files.
Part 2. Recover Missing Desktop Files/Folders on Mac
There are several ways that can help to find the missing files from the Mac desktop. Check out the workable methods and follow to restore desktop files on Mac now.
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Note that the former method is presented, the more effective it will be.
Quick Fix. Check If the Desktop Files Are Hidden
Mac has a built-in application called Terminal. Using this application, you can search, delete, or modify files and folders. You can also use it to check if desktop files are hidden or missing.
Here are the steps:
Step 1. Go to Mac terminal on Mac.
Step 2. Type defaults write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles true and press Return.
Step 3. Type killall Finder and hit Return.
This will close Mac Terminal and shows those hidden files on your Mac desktop. If this technique doesn't work, recover files from the empty Mac desktop with Mac desktop files recovery software.
Method 1. Restore Mac Desktop Files/Folders Using Mac Desktop File Recovery Software
Applies to: All levels of Mac users to restore missing Mac desktop files and folders.
Work on: Latest macOS 10.15.5 (Catalina)/10.15.4 and even older Mac OS X, like 10.9.
When your saved items lost on Mac desktop, professional Mac data recovery software - EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac can scan the hard drive to scan and find disappeared files from Mac Desktop. It can smoothly restore disappeared files from Mac desktop without any difficulties.
Many users have used this application to recover 200+ files, Keynotes, Pages documents, AbiWord files, MS Office files, archive files, PDF documents from Mac desktop. Download this effective desktop file recovery software and get the desktop files back.
Moreover, if you only need to recover a few files less than 2GB, you may try the free version of EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac. It works exactly the same as the pro version.
Steps to Restore Missing/Lost Mac Desktop Files
Step 1. Select the disk location (it can be an internal HDD/SSD or a removable storage device) where you lost data and files. Click the 'Scan' button.
Step 2. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac will immediately scan your selected disk volume and display the scanning results on the left pane.
Step 3. In the scan results, select the file(s) and click the 'Recover Now' button to have them back.
After this, you can save the found files back to your Mac desktop and use them again.
Method 2. Restore Lost Mac Desktop Files via iCloud Backup
Applies to: iCloud users who have set up iCloud to Sync Mac files, restore missing Mac desktop files from iCloud backup.
Works on: All Mac computers with iCloud backup.
If you have synced Mac files to your iCloud, you can immediately bring the lost or missing desktop files like documents back via your iCloud account.
Here are the steps:
Step 1. Go to iCloud.com and sign in with your account and password.
Step 2. Click iCloud Settings and scroll to the bottom, click 'Restore Files' under the Advanced section.
Step 3. Tick the boxes of your lost files on Mac, and click 'Restore'.
Method 3. Restore Not Showing Mac Files via Time Machine Backup
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Applies to: Restore lost Mac files via Time Machine backup.
Works on: All Mac computers.
Being similar to iCloud backup recovery, if you have created a backup of your Mac files to a Time Machine backup disk, you can also immediately bring them back on your Mac desktop.
For a detailed guide, you can revert to Method 2 in Part 1 for help.
Method 4. Use Stacks to Find Missing Desktop Files on Mac
Applies to: Re-organize and make Mac desktop files show up.
Works on: macOS Catalina, Mojave, etc.
If you are using the latest macOS on your computer, such as macOS Catalina, Mojave, you can use Stacks on your computer to automatically organize your desktop files by file type.
When you lose or missing files on the Mac desktop, try Stacks. It may surprise you.
Step 1. On Mac desktop, right-click an empty space to bring up the Context Menu.
Step 2. Uncheck 'Use Stacks'.
Step 3. Repeat Step 1 again, and check 'Use Stacks' this time.
After this, you may find the missing files back on your desktop again.
Method 5. Restore Missing Mac Desktop Files from Trash
Applies to: All levels of Mac users to bring deleted files saved on Mac desktop from Trash.
Works on: All macOS and Mac OS X platforms.
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When you lost files on Mac desktop, you may mistakenly drag them into the Trash bin. Then you can try to find them in the Trash.
Here are the steps:
Step 1. Open Trash Bin on Mac desktop, find the files that you lost.
Step 2. Drag the files you want to recover back to the desktop.
Or you can right-click on the file and select 'Put Back'.
On this page, we explained why do the desktop icons and saved items disappeared on Mac, and also covered several practical methods to help you find and restore the missing icons on Mac desktop.
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To make everything work fine on your Mac, you need first display Mac icons using methods in Part 1. Then you can apply file recovery tips such as to let EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac help and retrieve Mac desktop files.
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After finishing all the operations, your jobs are done. You can use your Mac icons and files again.