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The design and analysis of phase-coupled arrays of vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) can greatly profit from concepts related to photonic crystals (PhCs). VCSEL-arrays can be modeled as PhCs in which the refractive index varies periodically in the plane normal to the beam propagation direction. The relatively simple implementation of these structures via lithography techniques permits the exploration of complex PhC configurations and the realization of novel spatial-mode-controlled VCSEL array structures. We elaborate here the concept of VCSEL-based PhC heterostructures that permit the control of photonic envelope functions in novel and useful ways. In particular, we discuss envelope function confinement, coupling and switching. Several such heterostructures, implemented using VCSEL arrays employing Bragg mirror patterning, are demonstrated and investigated experimentally.