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Laser beam quality is more complicated and subtle than is usually assumed, a fact that has caused no end of frustration and misunderstanding between laser manufacturers, users, and acquirers. This text should arm the reader with the tools to understand beam quality specifications and to write custom specifications that are traceable to the intended application.We finish with the first rule of laser beam quality: "Any time you try to reduce the performance of a complex electric field with seven dimensions to a single number, there is inevitable loss of information." It is up to the user to determine what information to be included in the metric will ensure that if the laser meets the specification, it will also accomplish the intended application or mission.
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