This paper reviews publications that have fortified our understanding of the electrowetting-on-dielectric (EWOD) actuation mechanism. Over the last decade, growing interest in EWOD has led to a wide range of scientific and technological investigations motivated by its applicability in microfluidics, especially for droplet-based optical and lab-on-a-chip systems. At this point in time, we believe that it is helpful to summarize the observations, insights, and modeling techniques that have led to the current picture showing how forces act on liquid droplets and how droplets respond in EWOD microfluidic devices. We discuss the basic physics of EWOD and explain the mechanical response of a droplet using free-body diagrams. It is our hope that this review will inspire new research approaches and help design useful devices. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.