Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), the most prevalent idiopathic interstitial pneumonia, is associated with a poor prognosis. An accurate diagnosis of IPF is essential for optimal management. The recent ATS/ERS/JRS/ALAT recommendations on the diagnosis and management of IPF were developed from a systematic review of the published literature. High-resolution computed tomography (HRCT) scanning has a central role in the IPF diagnostic pathway with formal designation of criteria for an HRCT pattern of UIP. In the correct clinical context, a UIP pattern on HRCT is indicative of a definite diagnosis of IPF without the need for a surgical lung biopsy. However, although the 2011 ATS/ERS/JRS/ALAT statement is a major advance, the application of guideline recommendations by clinicians has identified limitations that need to be addressed in future statements. Key problems include: 1) the lack of management recommendations for the highly prevalent clinical scenarios of probable and possible IPF; 2) the ongoing confusion about the diagnostic role of bronchoalveolar lavage (reflecting ambiguity in the current recommendation); 3) HRCT misdiagnosis by less experienced radiologists, increasingly recognised as a major problem; and 4) the lack of integration of clinical data, including the treated course of disease, in the designation of the diagnostic likelihood of IPF.