Fully optimized semiempirical quantum-chemical calculations of photochromic spiropyrans are presented. The vertical ionization potentials are calculated and their variation with substitutions are correlated to experimental oxidation potentials. The effects of the substitutions are studied and the partial charges on indoline and pyran components generated by HOMO are found to be responsible for the variations. The deactivating groups on the indoline ring system and deactivating groups on the pyran system increase the ionization potential and, consecutively, the oxidation potential. (C) 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.