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Collecting basics
Ok, it's kind of a personal thing, but here's some clues nonetheless:
 
Introduction
Let's face it. Most quality icons are Mac-made. Fact. Another fact is, that a lot of quality icons are made by Japanese artists, Pc- and Macusers. So, you need some tools and rules to get these icons out and working for you; they're packed in 'strange' files (.hqx, .lzh) and though there's great apps to do the (real) work, your time is getting consumed too. But hey, why bother - got something better to do ???
[*plastic:] Collecting Icons isn't just fun, it's a serious addiction you don't wanna be cured off.
A work of art deserves a little respect, so you might consider some things, particularly when you need to extract and convert files. A good rule might be, only to download icons from the artists themselves. There's a lot of 'redistribution' going on; in my experience you can't always trust the contents of these files. In particular, there are some pc-megasites, offering icons and other graphics in huge collections! You can get a lot of 'copyrighted' material with no reference to the artists there. What's the fun ? Don't you wanna know who made them, what's their occupation, if they've got more, what their website looks like... it's amazing how much creativity's going on, compared to the trouble it takes to create just a single icon.

It's not that easy for a Macuser to convert his/her icons to pc-format. If they provide a Windows version, check first... sometimes icons get crippled or the 16 x 16 version gets lost without them knowing it. Or they provide an .icl file and you might have no names. I get myself to work in these cases.
Storage formats
You've got this .icl, sometimes .nil/.dll, files, containing multiple icons. What's so good about this format ? It saves some space, but names aren't shown. I've got a big collection, but it still is about 50 Mb. Any game takes three times this space (or more), nowadays. They don't even sell harddisks below 3 Gb anymore. So it's about priorities, I guess.

An .icl doesn't often, but cŗn contain icon names. But they won't show up in most applications handling the file. MicroAngelo shows it, but you can't save them as such; they must be named manually...
[*toptool:] Still, there's IconShop (free, Win 9x/2k), which shows this information and let's you save them all this way. This app has an option "Ignore names stored in resource". I've got this checked, most of the time, for Mac conversion. For .icl extraction you should uncheck it, though. Best association with .icl files!
Note #1: I know all those little .ico files take much more clusterplace then Windows tells me... still, there's room enough.

Note #2: If you like "Zapato's" icons as much as I do, be sure to run those through IconShop; names are important here.
Directory structure
[*plastic;] This is really personal, and you shouldn't let me tell you how to organize your icons. Still, let me point out two starting-points. First, you could store them on "subject". I started with this idea, but it got cluttered very soon... |copland| has got about a dozen system sets, do I want a folder with loads of system sets and these disappearing in there ? Or, MOZCO GARASH! sets, they have very different subjects, divided into about a dozen subfolders ? No, I want those icons together and also seperated from the rest, that's what they deserve...

So, there's a second starting-point, sorting by "artist". Should that be it ? No, again, because I've got dozens of icons where I don't know the artist. Extracted icons from games, applications, some system ports, etc. Also, if I put a folder down for every artist I've downloaded icons from, that would be a lot of folders, kinda like hard to find anything there...

So, what's needed is a mix of these entries. Artist you respect in particular should have their folder in the root of your collection, but make some subject oriŽntated folders too, maybe you can find a "general call" to put a couple of artists under (?), here you should follow your own interest and download behaviour, for sure...

Ok, for a personal example.. I've got about 50 folders in the root of my collection. Half of these are for artists I like in particular, the other half is using a subject. But there's some folders I use to categorize more individual artists in. I've got a "Japan" folder, an "Other[Artists]" folder and a "System sets" folder. Actually, these are the most crowded, and maybe this structure isn't very logical. But it helps me quickly find things, and that's what counts... the structure reflects how I look at what's available.
Folder icons
So, you've noticed that there's often an icon included with Mac archives, for the folder the icons are in. It's native in BeOS too, and with XP, Windows has the option too (natively, that is).

Why not get them this way on your pc, that is, different icons for different folders. With IE4+ installed, all Windows versions can handle it, all detailed here. Maybe you don't want to clutter your whole OS, but for your icon collection, this is a great way to display your sets as they were intended.
The "Readme"
Besides being kinda interesting sometimes (Gort, Kaos), it's just... decent (no, nÚt a dirty word) to get them out, also, the right way. And since most files can be opened with notepad, there's really no reason not doing it. Cause someday you're gonna mail some icons you somehow think are great to someone (who wants to know who ...).

After extracting some Macfiles there's usually some 'readme' file with no extention in the folder. After opening with notepad you'll notice that about half the text is of no use on a pc. It's info for presentation.
Just delete it, edit a little and save to a .txt file. You might check punctuation, in particular quotationmarks don't get converted.

Japanese 'Readme's' mostly contain the name, email-address & webpage in English; I remove the rest, since the conversion of the Japanese characters is worthless. When I get no information in English and/or it's a Macfile, it's a little more difficult.

In this case I can't figure out what's the Macstuff that is of no use on this machine, and what's the information. I tend to replace the file with a standard readme I made, filling in the artist & addresses. It's a good idea to put an .url file in the folder too.
Artist:
E-mail:
Homepage:

Important!

The original readme-file included with this icons was of no use on this pc because one of the following reasons:

* it wasn't found/there;
* it couldn't be converted (usually it was contained in a special kind/version of .sit/.hqx files, or, worse, in a (japanese) .lzh archive);
* it couldn't be translated (& got crippled) - usually the case with japanese, korean (etc.) files.

He or she would probably want you to keep the files in their original state, enjoy them for your personal use only. If you want to distribute them in any way, you should ask/notify the author.
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