A computer icon is a pictogram displayed on a computer screen in order to help the user navigate a computer system or mobile device. The icon itself is a small picture or symbol serving as a quick, “intuitive” representation of a software tool, function, or data file accessible on the system.
It functions as an electronic hyperlink or file shortcut to access the program or data. Icons, in conjunction with computer windows, menus, and a pointing device form the graphical user interface of the computer system and enable the user to easily and intuitively navigate the system.
They belong to the much larger topic of the history of the graphical user interface that has largely supplanted the text-based interface for casual use. The user can activate them using a mouse, pointer, finger, or recent voice commands.
Their placement on the screen, also in relation to other icons, may provide further information to the user about their usage. In activating an icon, the user can move directly into and out of the identified function without knowing anything further about the location or requirements of the file or code.