In recent years, the use of display vectors and in vitro selection technologies has transformed the way in which we generate ligands, such as antibodies and peptides, for a given target. Using this technology, we are now able to design repertoires of ligands from scratch and use the power of phage selection to select those ligands having the desired (biological) properties. With phage display, tailor-made antibodies may be synthesized and selected to acquire the desired affinity of binding and specificity for in vitro and in vivo diagnosis, or for immunotherapy of human disease. This review addresses recent progress in the construction of, and selection from phage antibody libraries, together with novel approaches for screening phage antibodies. As the quality of large naïve and synthetic antibody repertoires improves and libraries becomes more generally available, new and exciting applications are pioneered such as the identification of novel antigens using differential selection and the generation of receptor a(nta)gonists. A combination of the design and generation of millions to billions of different ligands, together with phage display for the isolation of binding ligands and with functional assays for identifying (and possibly selecting) bio-active ligands, will open even more challenging applications of this inspiring technology, and provide a powerful tool for drug and target discovery well into the next decade.