Ultrathin two-dimensional nanosheets of layered transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) are fundamentally and technologically intriguing. In contrast to the graphene sheet, they are chemically versatile. Mono- or few-layered TMDs - obtained either through exfoliation of bulk materials or bottom-up syntheses - are direct-gap semiconductors whose bandgap energy, as well as carrier type (n- or p-type), varies between compounds depending on their composition, structure and dimensionality. In this Review, we describe how the tunable electronic structure of TMDs makes them attractive for a variety of applications. They have been investigated as chemically active electrocatalysts for hydrogen evolution and hydrosulfurization, as well as electrically active materials in opto-electronics. Their morphologies and properties are also useful for energy storage applications such as electrodes for Li-ion batteries and supercapacitors.