An increasingly large number of microbial species with potential for synthetic biology and metabolic engineering has been introduced over the last few years, adding huge variety to the opportunities of biotechnology. Historically, however, only a handful of microbes have attained the acceptance and widespread use that are needed to fulfil the needs of industrial bioproduction. Synthetic biology is setting out to standardise the methods, parts and platform organisms for bioproduction. These platform organisms, or chassis cells, derive from what has been termed microbial cell factories since the 1990s. In this collection of reviews, 18 microbial cell factories are featured, which belong to one of these three groups: (i) microbes already used before modern biotechnology was introduced; (ii) the first generation of engineered microbes; and (iii) promising new host organisms. The reviews are intended to provide readers with an overview of the current state of methodology and application of these cell factories, and with guidelines of how to use them for bioproduction.