We compare low‐temperature, excimer‐laser‐induced etching of GaAs, GaSb, InAs, and InSb surfaces covered with 1–2 monolayers of condensed Cl2. The etch properties and a relative etch rate of GaAs∼GaSb<InAs<InSb are obtained. In addition, the etch rate of GaSb is characterized as a function of various system parameters, i.e., substrate temperature, chlorine pressure, and laser fluence. Spatially well resolved, anisotropic etching of 0.5 μm features has been achieved. © 1995 American Institute of Physics.