A large number of polycrystalline materials, both manmade and natural, display preferred orientation of crystallites. Such alignment has a profound effect on anisotropy of physical properties. Preferred orientation or texture forms during growth or deformation and is modified during recrystallization or phase transformations and theories exist to predict its origin. Different methods are applied to characterize orientation patterns and determine the orientation distribution, most of them relying on diffraction. Conventionally x-ray pole-figure goniometers are used. More recently single orientation measurements are performed with electron microscopes, both SEM and TEM. For special applications, particularly texture analysis at non-ambient conditions, neutron diffraction and synchrotron x-rays have distinct advantages. The review emphasizes such new possibilities.A second section surveys important texture types in a variety of materials with emphasis on technologically important systems and in rocks that contribute to anisotropy in the earth. In the former group are metals, structural ceramics and thin films. Seismic anisotropy is present in the crust (mainly due to phyllosilicate alignment), the upper mantle (olivine), the lower mantle (perovskite and magnesiowuestite) and the inner core (egr-iron) and due to alignment by plastic deformation. There is new interest in the texturing of biological materials such as bones and shells. Preferred orientation is not restricted to inorganic substances but is also present in polymers that are not discussed in this review.