The functional levels of biological cells or organisms can be separated into the genome, transcriptome, proteome and metabolome. Of these the metabolome offers specific advantages to the investigation of the phenotype of biological systems. The investigation of the metabolome (metabolomics) has only recently appeared as a mainstream scientific discipline and is currently developing rapidly for the study of microbial, plant and mammalian metabolomes. The metabolome pipeline or workflow encompasses the processes of sample collection and preparation, collection of analytical data, raw data pre-processing, data analysis and data storage. Of these processes the collection of analytical data will be discussed in this review with specific interest shown in the application of mass spectrometry in the metabolomics pipeline. The current developments in mass spectrometry platforms (GC-MS, LC-MS, DIMS and imaging MS) and applications of specific interest will be highlighted. The current limitations of these platforms and applications will be discussed with areas requiring further development also highlighted. These include the detectable coverage of the metabolome, the identification of metabolites and the process of converting raw data to biological knowledge.