The crystallization kinetics of thin (35 and 60 nm) amorphous as-deposited Ge films were studied using diffraction limited laser beam irradiation and laser pulses between 30 ns and 1 ms. The recrystallization of crystalline as-deposited films was also studied for similar laser conditions. Crystallization was observed for pulses as short as 50 ns. It was concluded that the irradiation of amorphous thin films with small beam spots (— 1 μm) gives a very different crystallization morphology from that observed previously for larger beam diameter and same laser pulse length. In the present case for short irradiation times, the nucleation process dominates over crystal growth. Temperature calculations allow the understanding of these results by showing that only the small spot irradiation sustains the material at high temperature for times comparable to the pulse width. Laser irradiation of as-deposited crystalline films produced grains with significantly fewer defects than grains crystallized from as-deposited amorphous films. © 1988, Materials Research Society. All rights reserved.