Ideal optical elements can be approximated by bending flats or cylinders. This paper considers the applications of these approximate optics to synchrotron radiation. Analytic and raytracing studies are used to compare their optical performance with the corresponding ideal elements. It is found that for many applications the performance is adequate, with the additional advantages of lower cost and greater flexibility. Particular emphasis is placed on obtaining the practical limitations on the use of the approximate elements in typical beam-line configurations. Also considereC are the possibilities for approximating very long length mirrors using segmented mirrors.