Technologies for display of recombinant protein libraries are today essential tools in many research-intensive fields, such as in the drug discovery processes of biopharmaceutical development. Phage display is still the most widely used method, but alternative systems are available and are becoming increasingly popular. The most rapidly expanding of the alternative systems are the cell display-based technologies, offering innovative strategies for selection and characterization of affinity proteins. Most investigations have focused on eukaryotic yeast for display of protein libraries, but similar systems are also being developed using prokaryotic hosts. This review summarizes the field of bacterial surface display with a strong emphasis on library applications for generation of new affinity proteins. The main focus will be on the most recent progress of the work on primarily Escherichia coli, but also on studies using a recently developed system for display on Gram-positive Staphylococcus carnosus. In addition, general strategies for combinatorial protein engineering using cell display are discussed along with the latest developments of new methodologies with comparisons to mainly phage display technology.