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Small-molecule fluorophores manifest the ability of chemistry to solve problems in biology. As we noted in a previous review (Lavis, L. D.; Raines, R. T. ACS Chem. Biol. 2008, 3, 142-155), the extant collection of fluorescent probes is built on a modest set of "core" scaffolds that evolved during a century of academic and industrial research. Here, we survey traditional and modern synthetic routes to small-molecule fluorophores and highlight recent biological insights attained with customized fluorescent probes. Our intent is to inspire the design and creation of new high-precision tools that empower chemical biologists.