In a molecular system of energy donors and acceptors, resonance energy transfer is the primary mechanism by means of which electronic energy is redistributed between molecules, following the excitation of a donor. Given a suitable geometric configuration it is possible to completely inhibit this energy transfer in such a way that it can only be activated by application of an off-resonant laser beam: this is the principle of optically controlled resonance energy transfer, the basis for an all-optical switch. This paper begins with an investigation of optically controlled energy transfer between a single donor and acceptor molecule, identifying the symmetry and structural constraints and analyzing in detail the dependence on molecular energy level positioning. Spatially correlated donor and acceptor arrays with linear, square, and hexagonally structured arrangements are then assessed as potential configurations for all-optical switching. Built on quantum electrodynamical principles the concept of transfer fidelity, a parameter quantifying the efficiency of energy transportation, is introduced and defined. Results are explored by employing numerical simulations and graphical analysis. Finally, a discussion focuses on the advantages of such energy transfer based processes over all-optical switching of other proposed forms. © 2008 American Institute of Physics.