Al-doped ZnO (AZO) nanostructure arrays with different shapes (tilted rods, vertical rods, spirals, and zigzags) were fabricated by utilizing glancing angle deposition (GLAD) technique in a DC sputter growth unit at room temperature. During GLAD, all the samples were tilted at an oblique angle of about 90 degrees with respect to incoming flux direction. In order to vary the shapes of nanostructures, each sample was rotated at different speeds around the substrate normal axis. Rotation speed did not only affect the shape but also changed the microstructural and optical properties of GLAD AZO nanostructures. The experimental results reveal that GLAD AZO nanostructures of different shapes each have unique morphological, crystal structure, mechanical, and optical properties determined by scanning electronmicroscopy, X-ray diffraction, transmission, and reflectance measurements. Vertical nanorods display the largest grain size, minimum strain, lowest defect density, and highest optical transmittance compared to the other shapes. Growth dynamics of GLAD has been discussed to explain the dependence of structural and optical properties of nanostructures on the substrate rotation speed. (C) 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.