Wednesday, January 16, 2008
I'm continuing my series showing ways in which F# is a exciting .NET language. As I mentioned before, if you have any suggestions for future topics please feel free to email them to dustin AT

While F# can easily access the standard .NET formatting functions (e.g. String.Format()), it also provides its own set of functions for outputting formatted text. In fact, F# offers the a printf-based family of functions that should be familiar to C programmers. Consider the following simple example using F#'s interactive environment.

> printf "%s %d 0x%x %.2f\n" "F# Rules!" 128 128 12.8;;

F# Rules! 128 0x80 12.80

Most of these formatting functions also have an additional "n" version that implicitly adds a new-line character. For example, we could modify the above code to use printfn like so:

> printfn "%s %d 0x%x %.2f" "F# Rules!" 128 128 12.8;;

F# Rules! 128 0x80 12.80

Of course, using an invalid argument will result in an error. Notice what happens if we pass 12 instead of 12.8 for the %f format specifier:

> printfn "%s %d 0x%x %.2f" "F# Rules!" 128 128 12;;

  printfn "%s %d 0x%x %.2f" "F# Rules!" 128 128 12;;

stdin(3,46): error: FS0001: The type 'int' is not compatible with any of the
types float,float32, arising from the use of a printf-style format string
stopped due to error

What should give .NET developers pause is the fact that the error above does not occur at runtime. This isn't some exception being thrown—it's a compiler error. In other words, the compiler actually parses and type-checks format strings!

This behavior becomes more useful inside of Visual Studio. When a type mismatch occurs within a format string, the F# background compiler marks the problem with a red squiggly underline:

Type-safe Format String Error

Hovering the mouse over the error will show a tooltip containing the same message that the interactive environment displayed.

Type-safe Format String Error with Tooltip

This is another example of how F# is extremely statically-typed. The F# compiler works to make even format strings type-safe.

posted on Wednesday, January 16, 2008 8:12:50 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Comments [2]

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