Nitric oxide (NO) mediates multiple physiological and pathophysiological processes in the cardiovascular system. Pharmacological compounds that release NO have been useful tools for evaluating the pivotal role of NO in cardiovascular physiology and therapeutics. These agents constitute two broad classes of compounds, those that release NO or one of its redox congeners spontaneously and those that require enzymatic metabolism to generate NO. In addition, several commonly used cardiovascular drugs exert their beneficial action, in part, by modulating the NO pathway. Here, we review these classes of agents, summarizing their fundamental chemistry and pharmacology, and provide an overview of their cardiovascular mechanisms of action.