Microsoft touts functional programming with F#

New features and integration of the F# language touted for the .Net platform.

Microsoft is boosting integration of functional programming with its Visual Studio 2008 software development platform.

Improved integration is featured in a September Community Technology Preview of the F# language for the .Net platform. F# has been positioned as a language based on concepts of functional programming, in which computation is treated as the evaluation of mathematical functions. It also supports object-oriented programming.

"This release marks an important step along the path we laid out in October to integrate the F# language into Visual Studio and to continue innovating and evolving F#," said S. "Soma" Somasegar, senior vice president of the Microsoft Developer Division, in a blog entry this week.

Functional programming has been viewed as valuable in domains such as the financial and scientific realms as well as technical computing. Microsoft has described F# as combining type safety, performance and scripting with advantages of running on a modern runtime, with intentions to make the language a "first-class citizen" on .Net.

Accessible here, the CTP features improvements to the F# language and libraries to make them simpler and more regular, Somasegar said. "Broadly improved" Visual Studio 2008 integration allows F# users to scale from scripting and explorative development to large-scale component and application design from within Visual Studio.

Also, Microsoft with the CTP is introducing a language feature called "Units of Measure," which extends F# inference and strong typing to floating point data.

Another Microsoft blogger, Don Syme, who has spearheaded development of F# in the Microsoft Research group, stressed added support for scripting in the language, compiler, and Visual Studio via the CTP. An improved project system, meanwhile, enables large-scale, tool-based software development with F#.

"One of the key things about F# is that it spans the spectrum from interactive, explorative scripting to component and large-scale software development," Syme said.

The new F# Language Services provides more reliable intellisense typing tips.

"Programming with F# can be enormously fun and rewarding, as well as just plain productive. This is now more true than ever, and we hope you enjoy using F# as much as we do," Syme said.

Additionally, Microsoft has launched an F# Development Center on MSDN, providing resources for developers and links to F# user communities. F# has been a joint project of Microsoft's Developer Division and Microsoft Research.

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