A method is presented for choosing optimal oligodeoxyribonucleotides as probes for filter hybridization, primers for sequencing, or primers for DNA amplification. Three main factors that determine the quality of a probe are considered: stability of the duplex formed between the probe and target nucleic acid, specificity of the probe for the intended target sequence, and self-complementarity. DNA duplex stability calculations are based on the nearest-neighbor thermodynamic values determined by Breslauer et al. [Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. (1986), 83: 3746]. Temperatures of duplex dissociation predicted by the method described here were within 0.4 degrees C of the values obtained experimentally for ten oligonucleotides. Calculations for specificity of the probe and its self-complementarity are based on a simple dynamic algorithm.