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A method for accurate depth profiling of a region subjected to ablation with ultrashort laser pulses is demonstrated. Time-gated imaging of the backscattered radiation from the ablation region is performed in a geometry, which allows the depth along a chosen axis on the sample to be determined with a single measurement. The profiling system has a spatial resolution of a few micrometers and applications are promoted by the fact that the measurement is performed with the same pulse that undertakes ablation. This also indicates that the method is inherently suited for in situ on-the-fly measurements. © 2001 American Institute of Physics.