Background: Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is difficult to diagnose in the early stages and may be misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's disease (AD) or as a psychiatric disorder. This study aimed to investigate neuropsychological function in FTD of mild severity and compare it to that of mild AD and healthy control participants. Methods: The study comprised 11 individuals with FTD, 29 with AD and 27 healthy controls. Participants completed a comprehensive neuropsychological assessment in which each area of cognitive function was examined with several widely used clinical tests. Test scores were converted to age-corrected scaled scores and combined to form indices for six areas of cognitive function. These indices were attention, psychomotor speed, memory acquisition, memory recall, executive function and constructional ability. Results: The FTD group performed below the level of the controls in all areas except constructional ability. FTD and AD groups showed distinct patterns of neuropsychological performance. The FTD group showed predominantly executive dysfunction with less impaired memory function, while the AD group showed the opposite pattern. The capacity of the tests to discriminate between groups was good overall, with 90% of the total sample correctly classified. Predictive success for the FTD group was 64%, given a base rate of 16%. Conclusion: Administration of a comprehensive neuropsychological protocol including several tests of executive function allows increased certainty about accurate clinical diagnosis of mild FTD.