This report provides an account of research undertaken at the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom, into phthalocyanine derivatives substituted at six or more of the nonperipheral sites by alkyl groups. When first prepared they were only the second series of substituted phthalocyanines known to exhibit columnar liquid crystal behaviour. The compounds also form structured films by the spin-coating technique, a formulation with potential for FET devices. The zinc metallated derivatives are photosensitisers of singlet oxygen and show good potential for applications in photodynamic therapy. A mixed cyclotetramerisation of a 3,6-dialkylphthalonitrile with a second aromatic dinitrile forms so-called 3: 1 phthalocyanines in which three of the benzenoid rings are substituted with two alkyl groups and the fourth is substituted differently. Appropriate substituents provide amphiphilic compounds that form well-ordered films by the Langmuir-Blodgett method and self-assembly techniques. Characterisation of the films using a variety of methods is discussed and applications described. Examples of 3: 1 phthalocyanine-like macrocycles in which one of the benzenoid rings is replaced by a heterocycle extend the range of properties exhibited. These include broadband absorption in the near infrared and, in particular cases, edge-to-face dimerisation through coordination of a pyridine nitrogen to a zinc centre in a second macrocycle. The potential for using suitably functionalised 3: 1 phthalocyanines as building blocks for more complex structures such as liquid crystalline main-chain polymeric phthalocyanines and phthalocyaninodehydroarmulenes is described. (C) 2002 The Japan Chemical Journal Forum and Wiley Periodicals, Inc.