During the past four years the phase III trials on stroke prophylaxis in atrial fibrillation and on treatment of venous thromboembolism have been completed for four new oral anticoagulants – dabigatran, apixaban, edoxaban and rivaroxaban. The studies have revealed advantages in terms of a reduced risk of bleeding, most importantly of intracranial bleeding. These anticoagulants also have favourable pharmacokinetics, eliminating the need for routine laboratory monitoring and dose adjustments. There are, however, some differences between the drugs in certain subsets of patients, according to patient characteristics or to indication for treatment. These features are reviewed here. The management of patients in association with invasive procedures or major bleeding is also discussed. Finally, a strategy of how to select patients for warfarin or the new anticoagulants and thereafter possibly also among the latter is outlined.