Today, the synthetic chemist has a large repertoire of metal activation methods at his disposal. After a first breakthrough was made at the beginning of the seventies with the introduction of the Rieke metals, a series of further, in part more efficient methods were describes, based on which not only classical metal-induced reactions could be substantially improved but also completely new reactions could be discovered. In this article the individual activation methods are discussed and compared as far as is possible using the currently available data. Especially noteworthy are the metal–graphite combinations because of their unsurpassed reactivity and concomitant easy preparation and manipulation. As shown by numerous applications of these reagents on polyfunctional substrates, particularly natural products, high reactivity of the metal and excellent selectivity are by no means precluded. Besides the purely preparative aspects also insights gained so far into the general principles and limits of metal activation are outlined, and attempts at determining the morphology of highly dispersed systems are reported.