Deep-UV (248 nm, 193 nm) excimer laser ablation is used to pattern thin oxide films or layer stacks. The ablation of extended areas as well as submicrometer structuring is possible. Due to their optical, chemical, and thermal stability, these inorganic films are better suited for optical applications compared to organic films, especially if UV transparency is required. The ablation of and layers and combinations is investigated. Patterned films can be used as masks, diffractive phase elements, or gratings. © 2005 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers.