Information describing the properties and uses of four commercial softwood species in western Canada is presented to help evaluate resource assessment needs and to help set research priorities. Western hemlock, western larch, white spruce and amabilis fir are each described with respect to the resource, the raw material, and manufacturing uses. Information on the resource includes tree description, the species distribution and commonly associated species, standing volume, growth and yield, important diseases and pests, and other damaging agents. Description of the raw material includes the gross and microscopic features of the wood, common defects, and physical (shrinkage and drying properties), chemical, and mechanical properties. Specified strengths based on clear wood samples and visually graded products are given whenever available. Manufacturing uses focus on current applications, and include products such as sawlogs, lumber, plywood and veneer, and pulp. Potential products such as laminated veneer lumber and other value-added engineered products are identified where information is available. Gaps in current knowledge about the species are identified and recommendations are made to fill these gaps. It is noted that information on how forest management practices impact wood characteristics and product yields is generally lacking.