The seed consists of three distinct regions, the zygotic embryo and endosperm and the maternal seed coat. Development of the seed requires co-ordinated growth and differentiation within each of these regions. Although the major events that occur during seed development have been studied extensively at the anatomical, physiological and molecular level, a comprehensive understanding of gene activity in each seed region has been lacking. DNA microarrays and extensive sequencing of cDNA libraries permit genome-wide analyses of mRNA populations of biological samples. We review recent studies of genome-wide gene activity that illustrate approaches used to provide new insights into the processes that occur during seed development.