In characterizing a laser intensity distribution, accepted practice has fallen behind the capabilities of modern image analysis techniques. We have significantly narrowed this technological gap with the development of a Laser Intensity Profile System (LIPS). The LIPS provides real time displays of either near field or far field energy distributions, as an aid in resonator alignment, and accurate calculations of the integrated far field intensity ("energy in the bucket") and the angular position of the laser centroid. The electronic interface with the laser allows individual laser pulses to be recorded, providing the only quantitative way of determining, for example, the shot-to-shot variation in beam divergence during transient laser warmup. The LIPS building blocks are drawn from available video equipment, including a silicon-target vidicon for linear response and sensitivity in the near infrared, a video disc for image storage and convenient instant replay, and an image analyzer which develops both isometric and color-coded intensity level contour displays of the laser pulse. Analysis is performed using a micro-processor. After initial setup, very little operator expertise is required, making the system ideal for production line performance tests as well as laboratory diagnostic studies. The LIPS is described in detail, and several applications to laser evaluation and characterization are presented. In addition, some areas are discussed where performance improvement may be expected in the near future.