This article focuses on laboratory atomic force microscopes (AFMs) used in ambient air and liquid environments. It begins with a discussion on the origin of AFM and development trends occurring in AFM. This is followed by a section on the general principles of AFM and a comprehensive list of AFM scanning modes. There is a brief description of how each mode works and what types of applications can be made with each mode. Some of the processes involved in preparation of samples (bulk materials and those placed on a substrate) scanned in an AFM are then presented. The article provides information on the factors applicable to the accuracy and precision of AFM measurements. It ends by discussing the applications for AFMs in the fields of science, technology, and engineering.