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What is the difference in meaning between image and glyph? Both terms are used in programming IDE to represent a picture that will be drawn. I'm confused since sometimes these terms used alongside each other, obviously meaning slightly different things.

EDIT: Terms were taken from Delphi VCL and DevExpress components.

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

As with many things in programming, the specific definitions of these words will be tied directly to whatever IDE you're using. That being said, the general experience I've had with these words in programming have been:

  • image, in general, tends to be a fairly general term. It can refer to a photograph, a line drawing, a logo, text rendered in an image format, etc.

  • glyph, on the other hand, is usually close to the typographic sense of the word "A representation of a letter, character, or symbol". Examples might be company logos, stylized lettering as a header, etc. I've never seen it used for a photograph (well, potentially a photograph of a logo).

If the two are used in the same setup, my expectation would be that image would actually serve a less general role, instead representing pictures that were not glyphs.

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To me, glyphs are the specific shapes of letters and other characters as found in font files. The glyph for A in Times-Roman differs from the glyph for A in Palatino. Point-size disregarded (though some fonts produce different glyphs for small point-sizes). – RedGrittyBrick Apr 8 '11 at 8:16
@RedGrittyBrick: Yes, this is the original meaning, though some have extended it to mean roughly "a symbol used to represent an object or action" - which is, of course, roughly what "icon" used to mean, but that term has (at least in the Windows world) taken on a more specific meaning (that implies it will be stored in a specific format, come with multiple images at certain, fixed, sizes/resolutions etc...) – psmears Apr 8 '11 at 10:02

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