We review the principles of formation, physical properties, and current or envisaged applications for a wide range of carbon allotropic forms. We discuss experimental and theoretical advances relating to staple zero-, one-, and two-dimensional carbon structures, such as fullerenes, carbon nanotubes, and graphene. In addition we emphasize research on emerging carbon allotropes (carbon nanoscrolls, funnels, etc) that result from combining or deforming allotropic forms with well-defined dimensionality. Such materials fall in-between clearly delineated dimensional categories and consequently exhibit unique characteristics that are promising for electronic, optical, and mechanical applications. We also consider other approaches to tuning properties of carbon-based materials, such as chemical functionalization, intentional introduction of structural disorder, and placement of guest atoms or molecules inside hollow structures. Finally, we discuss the properties of and experimental methods for studying zero-dimensional systems (paramagnetic nitrogen impurity atoms) in diamond matrix. The review emphasizes the interplay between the various material properties of carbon-based nanostructures and the designs for nanoscale devices that rely on synergistic combinations of these properties. For example, an electromechanical vibrator, a strain sensor, a nanodynamometer, and a nanoelectromechanical memory cell that we describe exploit both electronic and nanomechanical properties of low-dimensional carbon structures, a reed switch and a magnetic field sensor use magnetic and nanomechanical properties, a maser based on nitrogen-doped diamond uses thermal and optoelectronic properties, etc. All presented device concepts have been validated by calculations, and some have been implemented experimentally.