I'm designing a user interface for a WPF app. I was wondering which icon is the most intuitive to represent a Settings section. In my experience a single/multiple cog wheels seems to be the most common. Yet Google Chrome uses a wrench, and several other apps I've seen use a crossed hammer and wrench. Which is the most intuitive? Are both now commonly recognised?

Fortunately, in this project I'm able to have a label in addition to the icon to help the user.

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    There rarely is a "most/best" answer to questions like these. Plus, it's usually heavily context-centric as well. To answer the question, all of your examples seem fairly common so any one of them would be fine. Don't over think it. ;)
    – DA01
    Apr 10 '12 at 2:35
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    Yeah, I agree. Although, I did ask around and got some interesting feedback. I was told to avoid the crossed hammer and wrench because it is similar to the communist hammer and sickle. Maybe others will have valuable comments as well. Apr 10 '12 at 2:45
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    I think asking around is akin to over-thinking things. The hammer and sickle comment is really completely irrelevant as it'd make absolutely no sense in nearly every context short of perhaps software for managing global politics or something. Be wary of 'design by committee'.
    – DA01
    Apr 10 '12 at 3:16
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    @Angavar "hammer & wrench" a la SQL Server Management is a tad different to "hammer & sickle". Are the people telling you to avoid this having communist global hegemony fantasies? ;)
    – Xiaofu
    Apr 10 '12 at 3:21
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    IMHO - the main problem with the hammer and the wrench is that when you need to use the icon in a smaller size (such as 8*8 or 16*16 pixels) they become pretty unrecognizeable. Therefore it's better to only use the cog wheel or the wrench. Apr 10 '12 at 10:52

It is not an overly important choice, all your ideas make perfect sence.

You could make consistency of the UI a factor when choosing this. If you have other buttons that use "toolbox tools" as icons, it might be better to go for the wrench for example. Or it might be better in that case to excplicitly not go for the wrench, when for example you start to feel that it gets confusing for the user to have tens of buttons represent a toolbox item.

Imagine a "build" and "build settings" button in an IDE. If the settings icon is a wrench, and the build icon is a hammer, what will the "build settings" icon look like? The problem with combining a hammer and a wrench is that a wrench can be considered a building tool too. So it might be better to use a cog. It's all a matter of trying the options and going with your guts really.

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