Fungal pathogens cause many of the most serious crop diseases. One of the principal reasons for the success of this group is their ability to locate and perceive appropriate host surfaces and then to elaborate specialized infection structures. Here we review the processes implicated in surface attachment, germ tube elongation, and development of appressoria. The involvement of surface-acting proteins such as fungal hydrophobins and integrins in these processes is evaluated, along with a description of studies that have revealed the existence of conserved signaling pathways that regulate appressorium formation. Finally, we anticipate the prospect of genome-level analysis of fungal pathogens and the key research questions that will need to be addressed.