A key requirement for performing three-dimensional (3D) imaging using optical microscopes is that they be capable of optical sectioning by distinguishing in-focus signal from out-of-focus background. Common techniques for fluorescence optical sectioning are confocal laser scanning microscopy and two-photon microscopy. But there is increasing interest in alternative optical sectioning techniques, particularly for applications involving high speeds, large fields of view or long-term imaging. In this Review, I examine two such techniques, based on planar illumination or structured illumination. The goal is to describe the advantages and disadvantages of these techniques.