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We describe a simple, piezoelectric shear-force detection for controlling the tip–sample distance in near-field optical microscopes. The fiber is glued to a V-shaped piezoelectric cantilever and the assembly is fixed to a piezoelectric plate. The piezoelectric plate excites the fiber at resonance, while the piezoelectric cantilever of small mass detects the fiber motion with a high sensitivity. When the fiber approaches within, typically, 10–20 nm above the sample, shear forces cause the signal to reduce. The only signal processing before injecting it into the feedback loop is demodulation by a lock-in amplifier. The high signal-to-background allows the fiber resonance to be identified easily. We demonstrate the performance of our system with shear-force images of two test patterns. © 1997 American Institute of Physics.