The field of cantilever-based sensing emerged in the mid-1990s and is today a well-known technology for label-free sensing which holds promise as a technique for cheap, portable, sensitive and highly parallel analysis systems. The research in sensor realization as well as sensor applications has increased significantly over the past 10 years. In this review we will present the basic modes of operation in cantilever-like micromechanical sensors and discuss optical and electrical means for signal transduction. The fundamental processes for realizing miniaturized cantilevers are described with focus on silicon-and polymer-based technologies. Examples of recent sensor applications are given covering such diverse fields as drug discovery, food diagnostics, material characterizations and explosives detection.