Significant progress in the examination or manipulation of submicrometre particles and large molecules is likely to be dependent upon a suitable method in locating and orienting them onto working substrates. Ideally this would be a general purpose tool that allowed local programming to attract selectively species of interest. Charge writing onto electrets with a scanning-probe microscope offers one possible method. Here the use of this technique for memory applications (the only significant body of research) is examined in order to judge the feasibility of using it with different operational parameters for 'electrostatic clamping'. Until recently it was not regarded as practicable, but new materials developments, especially oxide-nitride-oxide-silicon electrets, show considerably more promise. A clear answer to our question cannot yet be given, but further investigations are suggested and recommended.