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Genetically encoded calcium indicators (GECIs), together with modern microscopy, allow repeated activity measurement, in real time and with cellular resolution, of defined cellular populations. Recent efforts in protein engineering have yielded several high-quality GECIs that facilitate new applications in neuroscience. Here, we summarize recent progress in GECI design, optimization, and characterization, and provide guidelines for selecting the appropriate GECI for a given biological application. We focus on the unique challenges associated with imaging in behaving animals.