This review describes the principles and practices involved in the calculation of intraocular lens (IOL) power. The theories behind formulas for calculating IOL power are described, using regression and optical methods employing ‘thin lens’ and ‘thick lens’ models, as well as exact ray-tracing methods. Numerical examples are included to illustrate the points made. The paper emphasizes the importance of establishing an accurate estimation of corneal power as well as an accurate technique for the measurement of axial length and accurate methods of predicting postoperative anterior chamber depth (ACD). It is concluded that current improvements in diagnostic and surgical technology, combined with the latest generation IOL power formulas, make the calculation and selection of appropriate IOL power among the most effective tools in refractive surgery today.