Anodic aluminium oxide (AAO) has been investigated and utilized in numerous products for almost a century. But the rapidly increasing interest in nanoscale materials and their outstanding properties has propelled nanoporous AAO to the fore as one of the most popular nanomaterial with applications across a gamut of areas including molecular separation, catalysis, energy generation and storage, electronics and photonics, sensors and biosensors, drug delivery and template synthesis. Material fabrication of AAO is based on facile and inexpensive electrochemical anodization with the self-ordering process of nanopores not requiring any lithography or templating, and the outcome of the process are perfectly ordered and size controlled nanopores with distinctive pore geometries. Recent research on AAO is characterized by a remarkable trajectory of innovation, in particular with regards to control of surface functionality and, concomitantly, to the design of intricate structural features such as modulated, branched, and multilayered pore architectures. This review illuminates research on recent development of AAO focussing on surface and structural engineering, and on emerging applications. Key examples and critical preparative issues and resulting improvements sparking opportunities for further applications in AAO properties are discussed. We conclude this review with an outlook providing a critical perspective on future trends on surface and structural engineering of AAO.