Photonic molecules, named by analogy with chemical molecules, are clusters of closely located electromagnetically interacting microcavities or "photonic atoms". As two or several microcavities are brought close together, their optical modes interact, and a rich spectrum of photonic molecule supermodes emerges, which depends both on geometrical and material properties of individual cavities and on their mutual interactions. Here, we discuss ways of controllable manipulation of photonic molecule supermodes, which improve or add new functionalities to microcavity-based optical components. We present several optimally-tuned photonic molecule designs for lowering thresholds of semiconductor microlasers, producing directional light emission, enhancing sensitivity of microcavity-based bio(chemical)sensors, and optimizing electromagnetic energy transfer around bends of coupled-cavity waveguides. Photonic molecules composed of identical microcavities as well as of microcavities with various degrees of size or material detuning are discussed. Microwave experiments on scaled photonic molecule structures are currently under way to confirm our theoretical predictions.© (2007) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.