Several approaches are described with the aim of producing near-field optical probes with improved properties. Focused ion beam milling allows the fabrication of small apertures in a controlled fashion, resulting in probes with excellent polarization properties and increased transmission. Microfabrication processes are described that allow the production of apertures of 30-50 nm, facilitating the mass-fabrication of apertured tip structures that can be used in a combined force/near-field optical microscope. Finally, possible future developments are outlined.