Optical ring resonators are commonly discussed on the basis of a frequency-domain model, that divides a resonator into coupler elements, ring cavity segments, and the straight port waveguides. We look at the assumptions underlying this model and at its implications, including remarks on reciprocity/symmetry arguments, the general power transfer characteristics, the resonance condition, the spectral distance and width of the resonances, the quantities that describe the resonator performance, and a few remarks about tuning. A survey of bend mode properties and a coupler description in terms of coupled mode theory fills the abstract notions of the model. As an example for devices that rely on a standing wave principle, in contrast to the traveling waves found in the microrings, we consider in less detail microresonators with square or rectangular cavity shapes. Also here a frequency domain coupled mode theory can be applied that opens up simple possibilities to characterize resonant configurations. © 2004 American Institute of Physics.