|What is Favicon.ico?
Personalise Your Site's Bookmark
By Christopher S L Heng
|Some time back, I had
an email from a visitor asking me how I managed to have thefreecountry.com's
icon displayed next to my URL in his browser's location bar.
In fact, had he checked carefully, he would also have noticed
that the icon is also used in his "Favorites" menu.
Internet Explorer ("IE") 5.0 and above has a facility where,
if someone bookmarks your website, it associates a particular
icon with your website in the bookmark. It tries to obtain that
icon by first requesting for "favicon.ico" from the directory
of your web page. If it cannot find such a file, it will try
to obtain it from the root directory of your website, failing
which, it will simply use a default icon for the bookmark.
On the other hand, the favicon.ico file is available, the icon
will also be displayed beside your website name in the "Favorites"
menu, the location bar in IE, and if the user opens up the "Favorites"
folder, it will be the icon used for the link to your site.
What You Need
If you have an Windows icon editor (which you may already have
if you have purchased a programming language development system
for Windows), you're all set.
All is not lost, however, if you do not have the above. Windows
users can still create ICO files with the following tools:
- Get any graphics editor that can create a GIF or BMP file.
For example, the Windows Paint program that comes with Windows
can create a BMP file. Actually you can use any graphics
editor that can create a graphics file that is supported
by IrfanViewer (see next requirement).
- Download the free IrfanViewer from http://www.irfanview.com/.
This is an excellent and free graphics viewer that can not
only display a huge variety of graphics formats, but also
convert between them. You will need this to convert your
graphics file to the ICO format that IE and Windows require.
Help! My Web Host Doesn't Allow ICO Files!
- Create an image 16X16 pixels in size. Yes, it is really
small and you can't really draw much in it. You should also
restrict yourself to the standard Windows 16 colours, although
I suspect that 256 colours (which is present on most Windows
platforms nowadays) will work fine.
If you like, you can also create a 32X32 pixel icon, which
will be scaled to size for the Favorites menu and the location
bar. You can even put both 16X16 and 32X32 pixel icons into
the same icon file. Windows will use the former for its
menus and the latter when the user opens up a folder that
is set to display large icons. It's probably not really
necessary to do this if you can't be bothered.
- Save the image. If you have an icon editor, save it as
an ICO file (named "favicon.ico", of course) and skip the
file format conversion step (below). If you are using Windows
Paint, save the image as a BMP file. If you are using another
program you might want to try saving it in a GIF format.
Even if your program does not support these formats, you
might still be able to get away with it if IrfanViewer can
load and display that format.
- Fire up IrfanViewer and open the file you created. Click
File | Save as to open the "Save Picture As" dialog box.
Select the "Windows Icon" type from the "Save as type" drop
down box. Change the name in the "File name" edit box to
"favicon.ico", and click the "Save" button. IrfanViewer
will automatically convert the file to the format you selected.
- Upload it to your website. You need not upload one to
every directory of your site if you don't want to waste
space - simply put it in your root directory and IE will
apparently locate it eventually.
If your hosting company does not allow files with the .ICO extension
to be uploaded, you might try to work around it by uploading
it (in binary mode) with some other extension (like GIF). Once
it's on your site, rename it using your FTP program to the correct
How Many People are Bookmarking My Website?
This "favicon.ico" actually has a useful side-effect whether
or not you bother to put a special "favicon.ico" on your site.
You can actually find out the number of IE 5+ users who bookmark
your site by simply counting the requests for "favicon.ico"
in your web server logs. From that number, you can estimate
the total number of people who bookmark your site by applying
this formula: number of IE 5 bookmarks divided by the fraction
of your visitors using IE 5.
For example, if two-thirds of your visitors use IE 5+, and you
get 100 requests for the icon, simply divide 100 by two-thirds
to get 150. This is by no means an accurate measure - it does
not take into account numerous factors: but at least it can
give you a hint of how useful people find your site.
All the best on your website!
Copyright by Christopher S L Heng. All rights reserved.
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