The use of photosynthetic microbes as synthetic biology hosts for the sustainable production of commodity chemicals and even fuels has received increasing attention over the last decade. The number of studies published, tools implemented, and resources made available for microalgae have increased beyond expectations during the last few years. However, the tools available for genetic engineering in these organisms still lag those available for the more commonly used heterotrophic host organisms. In this mini-review, we provide an overview of the photosynthetic microbes most commonly used in synthetic biology studies, namely cyanobacteria, chlorophytes, eustigmatophytes and diatoms. We provide basic information on the techniques and tools available for each model group of organisms, we outline the state-of-the-art, and we list the synthetic biology tools that have been successfully used. We specifically focus on the latest CRISPR developments, as we believe that precision editing and advanced genetic engineering tools will be pivotal to the advancement of the field. Finally, we discuss the relative strengths and weaknesses of each group of organisms and examine the challenges that need to be overcome to achieve their synthetic biology potential.