Microsoft moves on F# functional language

Product of research project to be integrated with Visual Studio

Microsoft plans to integrate F#, a functional programming language developed by the Microsoft Research group, into its Visual Studio application development platform, said S. "Soma" Somasegar, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Developer Division, in his blog.

The company, however, has not laid out a formal release schedule, although Somasegar pledged to both integrate F# into Visual Studio and continue evolving it.

Pronounced "F sharp," F# is based on the concepts of functional programming, Somasegar said. Functional languages treat computation as the evaluation of mathematical functions. The mathematical slant of functional programming is appealing to professionals in domains described with mathematical notation, including financial, scientific, and technical computing, said Somasegar.

F# combines type safety, performance, and scripting with the advantages of running on a on a modern runtime, Microsoft Research said. It supports interactive scripting like Python and the strong type inference and safety of ML. F# can access.Net libraries and database tools.

Bloggers corresponding about F# on the hubFS blog had positive responses to Microsoft's plans.

"I can't overstate how excited I am by this news," one blogger said.

"I discovered F# a few months ago and since then have made it my primary programming language (moving from Python and Java). I have found it to be a great language for developing simpler scripts or programming 'toy' implementations of algorithms. I've also found it to be a great language for building up real applications because of the ability to leverage everything already existing for .Net," the blogger said.

Somasegar cited other functional programming efforts at Microsoft.

"Language features, such as lambda expressions in C# and generics in .Net 2.0, have roots in functional languages, and LINQ (Language Integrated Query) is directly based on functional programming techniques," Somasegar said. LINQ extends C# and Visual Basic and simplifies how database and XML queries are written in these languages.

F# is designed to be a "first-class citizen" on .Net and will run on the on Microsoft CLR (Common Language Runtime), Somasegar said. Object-oriented programming is embraced and F# integrates with the .Net Framework. F# makes boosts .Net in the academic world, Somasegar said.

"We believe that through F# and languages like IronPython and IronRuby we can help offer students and educators choices beyond the current mainstream and enable the use of these languages across the curriculum. This helps educators have the option to use Visual Studio as a consistent tool set from course to course," he said.

Also in the application development realm Monday, the Microsoft Developer Division unveiled its Tester Center Web site. The site enables testers to connect with a community, contribute content and share testing practices and experiences.

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