This paper describes the use of Fourier techniques to characterize the transmitted and reflected wavefront of optical components. Specifically, a power spectral density (PSD), approach is used. High power solid-state lasers exhibit non-linear amplification of specific spatial frequencies. Thus, specifications that limit the amplitude of these spatial frequencies are necessary in the design of these systems. Further, NIF optical components have square, rectangular or irregularly shaped apertures with major dimensions up to 800 nm. Components with non-circular apertures can not be analyzed correctly with Zernicke polynomials since these functions are an orthogonal set for circular apertures only. A more complete and powerful representation of the optical wavefront can be obtained by Fourier analysis in 1 or 2 dimensions. The PSD is obtained from the amplitude of frequency components present in the Fourier spectrum. The shape of a resultant wavefront or the focal spot of a complex multi-component laser system can be calculated and optimize using PSDs of the individual optical components which comprise the system. Surface roughness can be calculated over a range of spatial scale-lengths by integrating the PSD. FInally, since the optical transfer function of the instruments used to measure the wavefront degrades at high spatial frequencies, the PSD of an optical component is underestimated. We can correct for this error by modifying the PSD function to restore high spatial frequency information. The strengths of PSD analysis are leading us to develop optical specifications incorporating this function for the planned National Ignition Facility.© (1996) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.