The various physical factors affecting measured diffraction intensities are discussed, as are the scaling models which may be used to put the data on a consistent scale. After scaling, the intensities can be analysed to set the real resolution of the data set, to detect bad regions (e.g. bad images), to analyse radiation damage and to assess the overall quality of the data set. The significance of any anomalous signal may be assessed by probability and correlation analysis. The algorithms used by the CCP4 scaling program SCALA are described. A requirement for the scaling and merging of intensities is knowledge of the Laue group and point-group symmetries: the possible symmetry of the diffraction pattern may be determined from scores such as correlation coefficients between observations which might be symmetry-related. These scoring functions are implemented in a new program POINTLESS.