Over the past decade the adoption and refinement of the GAL4 system by the Drosophila field has resulted in a wide array of tools with which the researcher can drive transgene expression in a precise spatiotemporal pattern. The GAL4 system relies on two components: (1) GAL4, a transcriptional activator from yeast, which is expressed in a tissue-specific manner and (2) a transgene under the control of the upstream activation sequence that is bound by GAL4 (UASG). The two components are brought together in a simple genetic cross. In the progeny of the cross, the transgene is only transcribed in those cells or tissues expressing the GAL4 protein. Recent modifications of the GAL4 system have improved the control of both the initiation and the spatial restriction of transgene expression. Here we describe the GAL4 system highlighting the properties that make it a powerful tool for the analysis of gene function in Drosophila and higher organisms.