From the secretion of neurotransmitters via synaptic vesicles to the expulsion of cellular waste via contractile vacuoles, exocytosis and its sequel, endocytosis, are being explored with a variety of new optical tools. Fluorescent markers, especially styryl dyes such as FM1-43 (which reversibly labels endosomal membranes), have been used to follow exo- and endocytic events in many cell types. Even though the development of new dyes is still largely empirical, some theoretical principles have emerged to guide future dye chemistry. Moreover, advances in optical imaging technology that augment conventional fluorescence microscopy are appearing. For example, interference reflection microscopy (which requires no flurophore) and total internal reflection microscopy have recently been used to observe single exocytic events at the contact point between a glass coverslip and the plasma membrane.