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F# Officially Joins Visual Studio

April 12, 2010 | Posted by Microsoft Research Blog

Judith Bishop, director, Computer Science, Microsoft External Research

It’s official: With today’s launch, F# makes its formal debut as a part of Microsoft Visual Studio 2010. Although F# has proved its ability to make a significant positive impact on the lives of professional programmers and others, the inclusion of version 2.0 of F# in Microsoft’s development tool firmly establishes its status as a major .NET programming language. Already popular, F# extends the .NET platform by offering a productive language for developers working in technical, algorithmic, parallel, and data-rich areas. F# 2.0 is the first supported version of the language and includes new, improved features.

F# provides type-safe, succinct, efficient and expressive functional programming on the .NET platform. It is a simple and pragmatic language, and has particular strengths in data-oriented programming, parallel I/O programming, parallel CPU programming, scripting and algorithmic development. It offers access to a huge .NET library and tools base and comes with a strong set of Visual Studio development tools. This combination has been so successful that the language is now a first class language in Visual Studio 2010, and can also be used on Mac, Linux and other platforms. F# originates from Microsoft Research, Cambridge, and the MSR F# team, led by Don Syme, which continues to partner with the Microsoft Developer Division.

Microsoft Research has served as the incubation center for the development of F#, which began seven years ago. From the beginning, Microsoft has worked closely with members of the global research community to ensure optimal development of the language. One collaborator is R. Nigel Horspool, professor of computer science at the University of Victoria, whose courses expose students to different programming paradigms. He lauds the ability of F# and Visual Studio to simplify and expedite the programming process in various ways, including helping the programmer remember the methods attached to different data types and how to use those methods. F# programs, he says, tend to be much shorter and can be used by programmers more quickly. And the fewer lines of code required, of course, the higher the productivity.

In his classroom, Horspool isn’t the only one impressed with F#. His top students love it, he reports, and are amazed at what their programs can accomplish with only a small amount of code.

As a productive language for typed functional and object-oriented programming on the .NET platform, F# is being adopted across a number of industry verticals, where it is particularly useful for companies that need to conduct algorithmic analysis of large quantities of business information. Known for its ability to make it easier for analysts to experiment with different data and derive analysis of a higher quality, F# has been selected as the language of choice by major banks in the United Kingdom and, as a result, is influencing the curricula for business and finance students at top colleges in London.