We review the historical and recent development of experimental techniques that are based on the combination of photoemission spectroscopy and high lateral resolution. The discussion specifically deals with the essential features of the two main classes of approaches in this domain-scanning spectromicroscopy and the techniques based on electron optics. Selected examples are presented to illustrate the exceptional capabilities made possible by the technological advances of recent years. The article is concluded by a short discussion of the foreseeable future of this fast-developing field. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.