A method of solvent-free sample preparation is shown to be of universal applicability for matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry (MALDI-MS). Results obtained were compared with those of traditional solvent-based sample preparation for MALDI-MS in order to demonstrate their similarities with respect to accuracy, sensitivity and resolution for polymers such as polystyrene and poly(methyl methacrylate) in a mass range from 2 to 100 kDa. The results revealed that there is fundamentally no difference in the quality of the obtained mass spectra, and we conclude that the mechanism of desorption and ionization remains unchanged. However, the solvent-free sample preparation turned out to have some advantages over the traditional method in certain cases: quick and easy applicability is shown for polyetherimide avoiding time-consuming optimization procedures. In particular, industrial pigments that are insoluble in common solvents were characterized without interfering signals from fragments. The method even showed improvements with respect to reproducibility and mass discrimination effects in comparison to traditional sample preparation. Additionally, this contribution provides new insight regarding the analyte/matrix preorganization for the desorption step which now appears to be independent of crystallinity. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.