Transparent, electrically conductive and c-axis oriented ZnO thin films have been grown by the pulsed laser deposition (PLD) technique on silicon and Corning glass substrates employing either a KrF excimer laser (λ = 248 nm) or a frequency-doubled Nd:YAG laser (λ = 532 nm). The crystalline structure, surface morphology, optical and electrical properties of the deposited films were found to depend not only on the substrate temperature and oxygen partial pressure, but also on the irradiation conditions. The quality of the ZnO layers grown by the shorter wavelength laser was always better than that of the layers grown by the longer wavelength, under otherwise identical deposition conditions. This behaviour was qualitatively accounted for by the results of the numerical solution of a one-dimensional heat diffusion equation which indicated a strong superheating effect of the melted target material for the case of frequency-doubled Nd:YAG laser irradiations. By optimizing the deposition conditions we have grown, employing the KrF laser, very smooth c-axis oriented ZnO films having a full-width at half-maximum value of the (002) X-ray diffraction value less than 0.16° and optical transmittance around 85% in the visible region of the spectrum at a substrate temperature of only 300 °C.