F Sharp for the Holidays

To help drum up excitement for the recently released Visual Studio .NET 2008 (VS08) at the WI-INETA Holiday Party this year, folks who are passionate about .NET are being encouraged to give 5-minute micro-presentations on new features about which they are particularly excited. One rumor that piqued my interest was that F# would be released as part of VS08.

As it turns out, although F# did not get released with VS08, F# RC is available in the form of a stand alone installer which provides VS08 integration. Installation is fast and easy, and in no time you will be up and running with a powerful functional programming language, a great IDE, and full access to the latest and greatest APIs that Microsoft has to offer. The following is a screenshot with a few niceties highlighted in blue:


Although technically it may fall outside the bounds of the original WI-INETA goal of presenting only on VS08 features, I’m hoping that optionsScalper will return to reprise his role as the local F# evangelist by giving a micro-presentation on F# and VS08.


How do you practice?

Someone noticed that I’ve learned how to practice guitar. I asked what they meant by that, and they said that I “start slow, memorize the piece, and keep practicing, a little faster each time”. That is what works for me. When it comes to learning how to become a better programmer, I’m not sure that it is so simple (not to say guitar is simple of course!).

How do you practice programming?

I’ve got some ideas on how I do it, but it I’m going to take some time to think about it.

That post is over the hills and far away!

One reason why F Sharp is exciting

One of the most common reasons cited for not learning more about functional programming is the lack of both good libraries and good development environments. This is a little bit surprising, because when it comes to learning a language, these two features are likely to have the least impact on the learning process. Despite that, this lament continues; there must be more to it!

Programmers, like most folks today, are largely short on time. Wherever they invest it, they expect a good return. When it comes to programming, every programmer hopes that the investment he makes in learning a new language has at least a fighting chance at being applied to solving a billable problem.

F# completely blows away these two huge barriers to folks learning more about functional programming: it has complete access to the .NET platform and has excellent integration with Visual Studio .NET.

This is very, very exciting: even if a programmer never ends up using a functional programming language for billing work, he will have had a lot of fun learning a new paradigm, and will be a better programmer for it!