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In scanning near-field optical microscopy, scanning ion conductance microscopy and for localized electrochemical deposition out of micropipettes, the detection of shear forces between the tip and sample is one of the most common methods of distance control. Here, pulled micropipettes were utilized to form an evaporating drop of water whose frictional force in air causes a specific resonance shift of the tip vibration. This resonance shift and the amplitude at the resonance were investigated with regard to their dependence on the drop diameter. In order to calculate the friction, the tip is approximated as a damped harmonic oscillator. The typical range of the shear forces in scanning probe microscopies is estimated to be between 1 pN and 0.1 nN. © 2001 American Institute of Physics.