Long wavelength emitting, extended conjugation boradiazaindacenes are novel dyes with considerable ICT character. By appending a dipicolylaminylethylamine group, the parent compound was transformed into a fluorescent dye with a strong chelating ability for Zn(II) ions. The zinc complex which has bright orange fluorescence, reversibly signals anions with very large changes in both the absorption and the emission spectra. The remarkable change in the emission intensity is explained in relation to the electron donating capacity of the substituent on the styryl functionality. (c) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.