Although classical materials characterization methods have existed for many years, modern microanalytical techniques had their start just over twenty years ago. In this paper, I will discuss some of the common techniques available today including AES, XPS, or ESCA, RBS, SIMS, and EDAX. A comparison of the key capabilities and limitations will be given including sensitivity, spatial resolution, quantitative analysis, nondestructive testing, chemical state determination, and analysis speed. It is clear that the reason each of these techniques still exists as commercial instrumentation is that each provides a unique set of capabilities, but also a unique set of limitations. To become viable in the materials analysis arena, a new technique must offer a significant extension of the capabilities already available but not at the cost of too severe a set of limitations. Examples would be the development of tools that offer both high sensitivity with accurate quantitative analysis, or good spatial resolution with high sensitivity, or minimal damage but good spatial resolution, etc. A number of papers in this volume will describe the details of these emerging technologies which provide advances in these areas; and I will attempt here to put a number of these new developments in perspective with regard to the more commonplace techniques available.