The Swi/Snf family of nucleosome-remodeling complexes has been shown to play important roles in gene expression throughout eukaryotes. Genetic and biochemical studies previously suggested that Swi/Snf activates transcription by remodeling nucleosomes, thereby permitting increased access of transcription factors for their binding sites. Recent studies have identified additional Swi/Snf biochemical activities and have suggested possible mechanisms by which Swi/Snf is targeted to specific promoters. Surprisingly, studies have also revealed that, besides being necessary for activation, Swi/Snf is required for transcriptional repression of some genes. These analyses have transformed our understanding of the function of the Swi/Snf family of complexes and suggest that they control transcription in diverse ways.