The last 10 years have seen a number of chemists begin to take a serious interest in the deposition of materials such as compound semiconductors. Chemical deposition routes have a number of potential advantages, many of which arise from the fact that growth can take place well away from equilibrium. Chemists are particularly attracted by the idea that a volatile single molecule can deliver the elements of a compound semiconductor to the reaction site. In the present article recent advances in the deposition of compound semiconductors, principally II/VI (12/16) or III/V (13/15) materials, from single-molecule precursors will be reviewed. The chemistry of these precursors will be discussed in terms of both their synthesis and properties and the effect of the mechanism of their decomposition on the quality of deposited material.