Optical designers were among the first to use the computer as an engineering tool. Powerful programs have been written to do ray-trace analysis, third-order layout, and optimization. However, newer computing techniques such as database management and expert systems have not been adopted by the optical design community. For the purpose of this discussion we will define a relational database system as a database which allows the user to specify his requirements using logical relations. For example, to search for all lenses in a lens database with a F/number less than two, and a half field of view near 28 degrees, you might enter the following: FNO < 2.0 and FOV of 28 degrees ± 5% Again for the purpose of this discussion, we will define an expert system as a program which contains expert knowledge, can ask intelligent questions, and can form conclusions based on the answers given and the knowledge which it contains. Most expert systems store this knowledge in the form of rules-of-thumb, which are written in an English-like language, and which are easily modified by the user. An example rule is: IF require microscope objective in air and require NA > 0.9 THEN suggest the use of an oil immersion objective The heart of the expert system is the rule interpreter, sometimes called an inference engine, which reads the rules and forms conclusions based on them. The use of a relational database system containing lens prototypes seems to be a viable prospect. However, it is not clear that expert systems have a place in optical design. In domains such as medical diagnosis and petrology, expert systems are flourishing. These domains are quite different from optical design, however, because optical design is a creative process, and the rules are difficult to write down. We do think that an expert system is feasible in the area of first order layout, which is sufficiently diagnostic in nature to permit useful rules to be written. This first-order expert would emulate an expert designer as he interacted with a customer for the first time: asking the right questions, forming conclusions, and making suggestions. With these objectives in mind, we have developed the Optics Toolbox. Optics Toolbox is actually two programs in one: it is a powerful relational database system with twenty-one search parameters, four search modes, and multi-database support, as well as a first-order optical design expert system with a rule interpreter which has full access to the relational database. The system schematic is shown in Figure 1.