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Symbol Set Comparison

by Spectronics


Target Audience




Software Association

Copyright Information


Commercially Available Symbol Sets

PCS (Picture Communication Symbols) Classic

Picture Communication Symbols™ (PCS) are simple images that represent everything from single words to full messages.

They were originally designed for developing communication aids. They can be used in a variety of environments including classrooms/educational facilities, clinical settings and at home.

The original PCS are most often used with children, young students, and adults who have grown accustomed to the familiar style.

Colour and B&W

Approx. 11,000

4,500 in the core library and the rest are available as addendums

These are often referred to as Boardmaker Symbols. Developed in USA but localised for many countries including Aus & NZ. There are also many country specific libraries. You can also request new symbols via their website.

Boardmaker (for creating printed resources); Boardmaker Plus; Boardmaker with SD Pro; Boardmaker Studio(for creating printed and interactive resources)

Also available as an add on for Clicker 5 and Cloze Pro

Available as a symbol set in the DynaVox range of devices.

Permission is usually granted as long as the symbols are acknowledged,

More information


Resources and ideas:
Boardmaker Achieve Community

PCS (Picture Communication Symbols) ThinLine

Developed by Mayer-Johnson as an alternative to the PCS Classic symbols. These were developed for use primarily with the newly released Boardmaker Studio to give a new fresh alternative to the classic library and also to be able to be manipulated easily within the new platform.

The new and growing collection of PCS ThinLine symbols use a more precise style that is often helpful for conveying academic topics. The look of these symbols is more detailed and the symbols are organised according to categories e.g. School, People, Feelings, Actions, Leisure etc.

Colour and B&W

Each of these 20 collections contain approximately 300 symbols.

These were developed in the USA and have been localised with Australian terms.

Boardmaker (for creating printed resources); Boardmaker Plus; Boardmaker with SD Pro; Boardmaker Studio(for creating printed and interactive resources)

Permission is usually granted as long as the symbols are acknowledged,

More information


Boardmaker Achieve Community


COMPIC is a set of computer generated line drawings (pictographs) created and developed in Victoria, Australia. COMPIC pictographs are based on the international symbol conventions and represent a wide range of concepts, activities and objects.

Initially developed as an augmentative communication resource, COMPIC can be utilised in a variety of situations including Schools, Hospitals, and Community. Both adults and children can use the pictographs in a variety of settings to assist with overcoming communication and/or literacy difficulties.

Colour and B&W

1,700 pictographs.

These symbols were widely used in Australia, and more specifically in Victoria in the late 1980’s to 1990s. They are not as widely used anymore mainly due to the limited number of symbols available and the lack of further development.

COMPIC Publishing Software is available which gives access to the 1,700 symbols.

Permission to use commercially must be obtained.



Widgit Symbols

Developed in the UK and previously known as Rebus Symbols and the Widgit Literacy Symbols. They were developed to support literacy and to help make information accessible to those struggling with traditional orthography. They are a rule based symbol set and have a schematic structure which makes learning easier once the rules are known.

Used by all ages but perhaps more to support curriculum of school students and used by adults more.

Colour and B&W

Over 11,000 symbols covering a core library of over 35,000 words

Commonly used in Australia as an alternative to PCS. Many people have used them in the Writing with Symbols Program, especially in special school s and adult services to develop resources with Symbol Supported Text.

Available as the primary symbol set in the Widgit software applications Communicate: SymWriter and Communicate: In Print.

Also available as an add-on for programs such as Boardmaker; Clicker 5; Cloze Pro. Can also purchase the metafiles for use in many other third party software programs.

Dependent on software licensing and distribution intention. More information



SymbolStix symbols have a unique style. They were designed and developed by N2Y for use in its Internet weekly newspaper, News-2-You, and its online curriculum, Unique Learning System. Generic activities and persons are depicted as lively stick figures – stick figures with “an attitude”.

Colour and B&W

Over 12,000 symbols in the library

They have a similar feel to them as PCS but are more stick figure in nature, possibly making them more acceptable for adult users who do not like the traditional PCS library.

An individual subscription comes with full access to the SymbolStix library, including unlimited downloads or symbols and templates for one year.

Available as a symbol set in applications such as Tobii Communicator; Tobii SymbolMate and Proloquo2go.

Free for non-commercial use.

For commercial use see Licensing


Bliss library

A symbolic, graphical language that was developed by C.K. Bliss in the 1940’s for the purpose of international communication. It was first applied to the communication of children with physical disabilities in 1971. The system has a large and flexible vocabulary and contains logical rules for expanding vocabulary and grammar.

Developed for people of all ages and used with people with a wide range of intellectual abilities.


Over 4,500

Still widely used in some European countries. Rarely used in Australia. Many of the symbols are fairly abstract and would require the user to be cognitively able. The symbols can be easily hand drawn if necessary though.

Blissymbols are available as add-ons for some software programs such as Tobii SymbolMate and Boardmaker. They are also available as an additional symbol set for some communication software such as the Grid and Tobii Communicator.

Licensing conditions



These symbols were designed to accompany the Makaton manual signing program. They were originally based on Rebus and so are similar to Widgit symbols.

Developed for children and adults with physical and intellectual disabilities.


2000 in the core vocabulary which are both symbols and signs. An additional 8 themed based categories with approximately 100-200 symbols and signs in each.

These are not widely used in Australia. You do not have to use these symbols to use Key Word Sign. Any symbol set can be used to augment the manual sign.

Symbol databases are available on CD in a format that can be used in other third party software programs. There is a core vocabulary and an additional 8 themed based libraries.

For commercial use, a license can be set up. More Information



Developed by Pyramid Educational Products Inc, this picture CD is a collection of brightly coloured and clear images Jpeg pictures.

Most commonly used by children who communicate using a Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS).


Over 2,400

The name implies that you would only use these if you were using PECS. Any symbol set can be used when using the PECS approach and these symbols can be used for other purposes also.

The images are available as jpegs on CD for use in many third party software programs.




Designed for creating augmentative communication displays for the Australian audience by an Australian Speech Pathologist (Ylana Bloom). Specifically designed to meet the needs of people with intellectual disabilities.

Contains images associated with the disability standards


Over 3,000

Relatively inexpensive to get hold of the symbols only. You can also request new symbols directly from the website.

Available in the Softpics with Fantastic Pics software.

You can also get the symbols only. Since they are jpegs files you can use them in other programs such as PowerPoint, Word, Boardmaker etc.



Change Picture Bank and CHANGE Health Picture Bank.

CHANGE is a UK based equal rights organisation led by people with learning disabilities.

Have been developed with people with learning disabilities for the purposes of making written information more accessible. Most of the pictures depict adults.


Over 500 illustrations in both the picture bank and the health picture bank.

The picture banks come with a guide for making written information accessible.

Some of the symbols are possibly not very consistent in style and some may be too visually busy for some users.

You can purchase the images individually for download, or purchase the picture banks which contain hundreds of illustration grouped by topic on a CD Rom.

More Information



A unique symbol set created as a language generating system to support a low-tech manual communication board program. The icons are a unique combination of Minspeak icons and single meaning pictures with drawing conventions used in other symbol sets. They were designed as a way to teach language concepts prior to transitioning to a high tech speech generating device or to have as a standalone system.

Designed for use with children and adults as a:

Stand-alone system; as a back up to high tech devices;

As a way of transitioning from low tech to high tech.


Over 1,800.

This symbol set was designed to assist Minspeak users (or potential Minspeak users) to learn the unique language generating system through low-tech symbols.

These symbols are available in bitmap and in Boardmaker format. This means they can be imported into Boardmaker.



Overboard Symbols

Overboard is a leading tool for parents, teachers and speech language pathologists for creating printed communication boards, schedules, reading/writing activities, visual supports and speech enhanced dynamic display (AAC) solutions!

Appropriate for children and adults.


Over 5,500 symbols.

Includes over 250 communication device templates.

Talking Overboard is the communication overlay and board designer.

There is an Overboard Player for activities that have been designed using the software and this is a free download. You can copy and paste symbols to any other program.


Gus Communication Devices Inc.

Imagine symbols

These symbols were developed for communication and literacy in print and digital formats for use with communication devices and displays.

The illustration are appropriate for any age.



You can purchase the book which is organised by category. The book can be photocopied. You can also purchase the DVD which includes a PDF of the book and high resolution jpegs of each symbol with a search utility.



Valuing People ClipArt

Was developed for and by people with learning disabilities in the original Valuing People White Paper. Mainly used for making written information more accessible.

Developed for adults with learning disabilities.


More than 2,000.

These images are available to purchase on a USB stick with over 2000 images. They are also available as a network version.

The symbols may be used for personal use with attribution. Contact

Inspired Services Publishing

Say it Works CD Picture Library

Picture bank on adult related topics including disability, drugs, alcohol, equality and diversity, mental health, supported living, pictures relevant to person centred planning.

Designed for adolescents and adult audiences. Useful for making written information accessible.


Over 900

Pictures of scenarios, rather than single meanings.

They are available on a CD Rom as PDF and Jpeg files which can be used in other documents.

Terms and Conditions



Designed for communication and language learning. Symbols can be combined to create more meanings.

Designed for use by both adults and children.

Colour and B&W


They are available on a CD Rom as PDF and Jpeg files which can be used in other documents. Represented on the DynaVox range of devices. Can also be purchased on a CD Rom for use with Boardmaker.

More information

Poppin and Company

Pictogram Symbols

These symbols are white on a high contrast black background which provides focus for communication and instruction.

Developed for use by individuals with intellectual disability; cerebral palsy; Down’s Syndrome; Autism; stroke; and Alzheimer’s. They are suitable for use with people throughout the lifespan.



The PictoPrint Software is available as an inexpensive purchasable web download, Use to develop printed materials with the Pictogram symbols. Pictocom SE is speaking software which uses the Pictocom symbols. Some of these images are animated.


PICTOCOM International

Universal Icon Maker

This is software that has various templates for the Enabling Devices range of speech generating devices. To access the symbols, the PDF file must then be printed and physically pasted onto the templates.

Up to 150 English symbols.


This software to develop overlays for various speech generating devices.


Enabling Devices

Clarity Symbols (formerly Libsyms)

A British symbol set covering all aspects of language use. They are rule driven to help learners develop language. Designed for teaching language and literacy development.

Over 40,000


They are stored in 55 main categories. They have transparent backgrounds so can be dropped onto coloured backgrounds easily.

They are in Windows Metafile format which means they can be more easily edited without distracting from the quality. Some are included as part of the liberator speech generating devices such as the Vantage Lite; Springboard etc.



Crick Picture Library

The Crick Picture Library was developed specifically for use with the Crick range of software including Clicker 5 and ClozePro.

Designed for use with children and adults for literacy support.


Over 1800 in both libraries and an additional 150 Australian and New Zealand Symbols available.

The picture library is divided into curriculum related folders.

The Crick Picture Library is only available through the Clicker 5 Software. It is not available for any other software. For free downloadable activities that have been developed using Clicker 5 see www. learninggrids. com


In Australia see www. spectronicsinoz .com For more information about the Crick Programs see the Crick Software Website

Picture Master Language Software PMLS.

This software includes an extensive library of line drawings, illustrations, photos and animated symbols. The software allows you to create onscreen communication systems or printable resources.

Colour and B&W

Approx. 3,600 symbols in different formats (line drawings, illustrations, photos and animated symbols).

Templates for Unlimiter speech generating devices e.g. Cardinal, Hummingbird and Bluebird. Each symbol has a recorded speech file attached and different accents are available. Symbols can be searched by category or by title.

Novita Tech

Ping Boy 3D Symbol Language Learning

The software is a resource for assisting in the development of language comprehension and expressive language.


500 animated 3D symbols for use in onscreen activities.

The symbols can illustrate core vocabulary in the areas of actions, feelings, objects and more. The software is supplied on a USB flash drive.

Novita Tech

Alexia pictograms

Alexia is software that aims at the construction of texts in French from pictograms.

Designed for individuals experiencing communication difficulties to enable them to use modern tools of communication such as email, but is also used in educational settings to develop language.


Over 2,600.

Each month new icons are added to the Alexia library. If you have subscribed to the software you can access these free symbols.

The colour images are in .gif format. Some are animated. The images are available within the Alexia software and also available on Pictelia software. Pictelia is software that allows you to organise and operate a bank of pictograms.

Free for non-commercial use with attribution.


Smarty Symbols

Smarty Symbols
A symbol library originally created by Smarty Ears with the assistance of a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist to serve as an standard picture library for developing educational activities, apps, and softwares.

For children and adults


Over 11,000

Organised by verbs, animals, vegetables, fruits, feelings, toys, craft, clothing items, furniture and over one hundred other categories.

Currently included in several iPhone/iPod Apps such as Expressive, That’s How I Feel, Yes/NO, iTake Turns.

Commercial and non commercial licenses available. Options to license part or all of the picture library for companies or developers to make it available in their application of product. Different formats available on request.

Payment structure varies depending on: 1. The number of symbols you would like to license
2. How long you plan to use the symbols
3. One payment versus profit share style



ParlerPictos Symbols
Parlerpictos is a bank of pictograms developed in France

This symbol set was developed for people of all ages with a temporary or permanent disability to communicate.

Colour and B&W

2500 pictograms which are classified into 21 categories.

This pictogram bank is available in either software or a paper format (which is available only in B&W).

The bank is available in software which enables you to also do some basic board design. There is a reduced price for parents. Once purchased the images can be used in other applications such as Word or Boardmaker.

For more information contact them directly.



Metacom Symbols
Metacom is a set of symbols developed in Germany.

Originally designed for children. However the vocabulary has now been expanded to include more options for adults.

Colour and B&W


The symbols are stored as both PNG and JPG formats.

The Metacom software is available on a CD Rom and is suitable for use with Mac and PC.

For more information contact them directly.

Target Audience




Software Association

Copyright Information


FREE Symbol Sets


Also known as straight street symbols, these symbols are “open source” meaning they are free, usable and sharable. Originally developed due to a need for “free” access to a symbol set. They believe that communication is a fundamental human right.

Colour and B&W

Around 1,000.

The symbols are provided in .wmf and .svg format. You can contribute a symbol to this library so there are a variety of styles available within the symbol set. They are reviewed by a panel of mainly speech language pathologist and teaching staff. They plan to add photos and sounds as well to the library.

You can view the symbols online and have to register and log in to download the symbols. These symbols can be imported to some other third party software programs and communication devices such as Boardmaker, Clicker 5 etc.

Straight Street

Northumberland LEA

These are Clipart images produced by the Northumberland ICT team.

Developed for children.

Colour and B&W

Approximately 500 split into various categories such as foods, nursery rhymes etc.

The symbols look as though they have been developed to support various levels of the curriculum according to the categories that are available.

Can be copied or saved from the site for use in other third party software. You can choose to save the images as jpegs or bitmaps.

Free for education use

Northumberland LEA

Sclera Pictos

There was a need for new and more pictograms in an adult day centre in Belgium. These were initially hand drawn and later available electronically. These symbols are free to download.

Designed for adults with an intellectual disability.

B&W but you can adjust the colour of symbols yourself.

Over 9,000

The symbols can be used in many other third party software programs such as Word. PictoSelector is a Windows application written for easy selection and printing of Pictos.

Licensed under a Creative Commons Licence


Symbols for Sensory Work

Created by Mike Ayers to enhance communication within Sensory environments and so that individual pieces of equipment can be named.

This range of Symbols is designed to help with visual communication for sensory work.



The symbols are available as a free download in PDF format – not electronically.

The symbols can not be used in any software program as they are in PDF format. They would need to be cropped by an editing program and then imported.

Free for direct use for teaching, communication and sensory work. Commercial use by approval by Mike Ayers.

Mike Ayers Design

ARASAAC Pictograms

ARASAAC Pictograms
ARASAAC stands for the Aragonese Portal of Augmentative and Alternative Communication. It is a Spanish website which offers graphic resources such as a colour and black and white symbol set to facilitate communication. The Portal website is also available in English, French and Portuguese – Just click on ‘Welcome’ at the top to set the language to English.

Colour and B&W

10,960 Colour and 8,993 B&W symbols. Also available are 1,442 photos.

Symbols can be downloaded individually from the website as needed. The entire library of colour and black and white symbols can be downloaded from the ARASAAC Website in 10 language packages including English.

Free for non-profit use with attribution. More information


Literacy Support Pictures Library (Slater Symbols)

Slater Software offer a free online symbol resource search tool where you can drag symbols into your own document in programs such as Word etc.

Designed initially for school ages children with special needs.


10,500 are in their Literacy Support Pictures Library but not sure that all of these are available for free through this online tool.

Free online symbol resource is available here Slater Software Website. The Full library of Literacy Support Pictures may be accessed through their purchasable software programs such as Picture It Software and PixWriter.

Free for non-commercial use with attribution.

Slater Software


Designed for communication.


Over 1,500 symbols divided into 3 series.

Series I focuses on basic daily living verbs and leisure activities. Series II concentrates on nouns. Series III include places, emotions, seasons etc.

The symbol set is available on the freely downloadable AMDi Tech/Overlay Designer Software which allows you to create overlay templates for the entire range of communication devices. The symbols are Windows Metafiles (.wmf) so can be imported into other software packages.

More Information

AMDiTech Utility Software

The Noun Project

These symbols were designed to create a comprehensive collection universal symbols/graphics for all of the things we use and encounter in day to day life.



It says only nouns but it actually has a number of other symbols for other verbs etc. such as surfing. By making their content freely available, they hope their collection will become a universal standard.

Each graphic is downloadable when you click on it and comes to you in scalable vector graphic format.


The Noun Project


PICOL symbols
PICOL stands for PICtorial COmmunication Language.

It is a project that aims to provide free and open icons for electronic devices.


About 520 icons

A large number of icons available for free download.

They can be downloaded as pixel or vector images directly from the internet.

PICOL is free to use and to alter.


A note about Clip Art – Clip Art is a generic term and not a symbol set as such. It is used to refer to pre-made images used to illustrate any medium and is available in bitmap or vector graphic format. We acknowledge that there are ever changing banks of clip art images available on the web, majority of these are royalty free and some are purchasable – but is beyond the scope of this resource to reference all of these but these. However, they may be useful in the construction of symbol based resources.


The following blog helped to identify the range of symbol sets available and links to further information

Sally Millar has also developed a useful guide to symbol sets – this is available from:
Millar. S. (2010) ‘Guide to Pictures and Symbol Sets for Communication’ publ. CALL Scotland, download at www.callscotland.org.uk (Resources, Information Sheets)

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