Metal-organic materials are found to be a fascinating novel class of functional nanomaterials. The limitless combinations between inorganic and organic building blocks enable researchers to synthesize 0- and 1-D metal-organic discrete nanostructures with varied compositions, morphologies and sizes, fabricate 2-D metal-organic thin films and membranes, and even structure them on surfaces at the nanometre length scale. In this tutorial review, the synthetic methodologies for preparing these miniaturized materials as well as their potential properties and future applications are discussed. This review wants to offer a panoramic view of this embryonic class of nanoscale materials that will be of interest to a cross-section of researchers working in chemistry, physics, medicine, nanotechnology, materials chemistry, etc., in the next years. © 2011 The Royal Society of Chemistry.