High resolution imaging and spectroscopy signifi cantly improves our understanding of surface structure and chemistry for complex materials. In the Feature Article by Markus Heyde et al. (pp. 895–921) low temperature ultrahigh vacuum noncontact atomic force and scanning tunneling microscopy has been employed to characterize surface structures ranging from periodic and ordered via defective towards amorphous networks. In the presented studies it has been shown how modern scanning probe microscopy techniques can complete and clarify the atomistic models, which have been derived so far mainly from diffraction experiments. The benefi ts of locally resolving complex surface structures are obvious. A direct atomic assignment from the obtained images is possible. Surface structures with increasing dimensionality from 0D to 2D are discussed. In this article three different sample systems are highlighted, namely, magnesia on Ag(001), alumina on NiAl(110) and silica on Ru(0001).