Microsoft retools F# for Visual Studio 2015

New tools allow Microsoft's functional language to work better with Visual Studio

Microsoft retools F# for Visual Studio 2015

F#, a functional programming language developed by Microsoft Research, is getting a second generation of tools for use with the Visual Studio software development platform.

Visual F# Power Tools serves as an extension to the Visual Studio IDE, including the newly released Visual Studio 2015 platform and the 2013 platform that came before it. "The goal of the extension is to complement the standard Visual Studio F# tooling by adding missing features, such as semantic highlighting, rename refactoring, find all references, metadata-as-source, and more," F# community developers Anh-Dung Phan and Vasily Kirichenko said in a recent post in the .Net Blog.

The new tools are downloadable at the Visual Studio website and include interoperation for F# 4.0 constructs, improved theme detection on Visual Studio 2015, and settings for explicit dependency on F# tools, though Visual Studio 2012 is no longer supported. F# Power Tools also feature semantic highlighting, with the colorizing of F# code based on semantic structures, similar to what's available with the C# editor.

Power Tools provides source code formatting, as well as automatic generation of pattern match cases. Find All References, meanwhile, enables developers to place the cursor on any symbol defined in the current solution and have all references displayed with navigation information. The NavigateTo capability assists with project navigation, working on mixed F#/C# solutions.

Future plans for F# and tooling call for integrating an FSharpLint style-checking tool. Such features as syntax coloring and code completion also could be added, and C# interoperability, in which tooling features should be aware of referenced C# projects, is under consideration.

F# is an open source, cross-platform functional-first programming language. With functional programming, computation is treated like mathematical functions. Functional programming has spread to other languages, including Scala, Clojure and even Java 8, which was released last year. F# has gathered momentum in the Tiobe index of language popularity, currently ranking 15th in the index, which is based on Internet searches related to languages.

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