Throughout evolution, glia have key regulatory roles in neural development and function. Typically, they control the response to developmental and/or pathological signals, thereby affecting neural proliferation, remodeling, survival, and regeneration. Such complex biology depends on the plastic features of glial cells, but also on the presence of different classes of glial cells, hence the importance of understanding the cellular and the molecular mechanisms underlying their development. The fly community has made major breakthroughs by characterizing the bases of gliogenesis and here we describe the glial lineages as well as the glial promoting factor active in the embryo of Drosophila melanogaster. WIREs Dev Biol 2016, 5:67-84 . doi: 10.1002/wdev.200 For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.