The generalized nonlinear Schrodinger (GNLS) equation is solved numerically by a split-step Fourier method. The first, second and fourth-order versions of the method are presented. A classical problem concerning the motion of a single solitary wave is used to compare the first.. second and fourth-order schemes in terms of the accuracy and the computational cost. This numerical experiment shows that the split-step Fourier method provides highly accurate solutions for the GNLS equation and that the fourth-order scheme is computationally more efficient than the first-order and second-order schemes. Furthermore, two test problems concerning the interaction of two solitary waves and an exact solution that blows up in finite time. respectively are investigated by using the fourth-order split-step scheme and particular attention is paid to the conserved quantifies as an indicator of the accuracy. The question how the present numerical results are related to those obtained in the literature is discussed. (C) 2004 IMACS. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.