Introduction to the Elm Programming Language

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designer drawing website development wireframeElm is an interesting new programming language. Its goal is to make web GUI programming a great experience. It compiles the source code to JavaScript, HTML, and CSS.

Elm is a functional programming language. Its main influences are Haskell, OCaml, SML, and F#. Elm is strongly statically typed and it uses type inferencing. You don’t have to specify the type for variables and parameters like in C# or Java. Elm is built on the Haskell platform and has a Haskell-like syntax, though semantics are closer to OCaml.

I want to show you some basic features of Elm in this post. I’ll write some more posts about Elm in the next few weeks.

Hello, world!

You will find an online editor on the Elm homepage where you can try out the programming language. Just click “Try” and you’ll get to the online editor. On the left side you’ll see the editor and on the right side the result when you run the program. You can run the program by clicking on “Compile” (below the editor).

We’re learning a new language and the first program in a new language is usually a “Hello, world” program. It looks like this in Elm:

    main : Element
    main = plainText "Hello, world!"

main defines the entry point of the program. It is of type Element which represents a rectangle on the screen with a known width and height. Elements are combined to define complex widgets and layouts. The type is defined in the library Graphics.Element which is imported automatically when the program starts.

The first line of our program is the type signature. It defines the name and its type separated by a colon. The entry point has the name “main” and Element is its type. The type signature is optional.

The second line is the code. "Hello, world!" is a string. The function plainText converts the string to an element. You can see, that you don’t need braces for calling a function.

Here is another version of the hello world program:

    main = asText "Hello, world!"

Did you notice the difference? The second program prints the string “Hello, world!” with quotes and the first program without quotes. The first version uses the function plainText to convert the string to an element. plainText takes a string and creates the Element from the string value.

The second program uses asText which takes any value and uses its string representation for creating the Element. The string representation of a string includes the quotes and the value does not.

    main = asText (4,5)

This program prints the string representation of the tuple, “(4,5)”. A tuple is an ordered list of elements. The tuple above contains two integer values, 4 and 5. If you change asText to plainText you’ll get a type error. plainText expects a string as parameter, but (4,5) is a tuple.

Elm is reactive

Elm has an interesting type called Signal. A signal is a value which changes over time. Let’s see it in action:

    import Mouse

    main : Signal Element
    main = lift asText Mouse.position

The first line imports a library for working with mouse input called Mouse. The second line is the optional type signature. As you can see the type of the entry point main has changed to Signal Element. This means that output of the program can change over time.

The Mouse module contains a signal called position of type Signal (Int,Int). Every time the mouse is moved its value changes. The value is of type (Int,Int) which is a tuple with two integer numbers. It represents the current mouse position on the screen.

The function lift takes a function as first argument and a signal as second element. Every time the signal is updated the new value is applied to the function and its return value is used as new value for the signal returned by lift. We use asText as function so that lift converts each tuple with the mouse positions to a string when the mouse position changes.

I showed you how a basic hello world program looks like in Elm and I introduced you to Elm’s concept of signals. I will focus on the functional nature of the language in my next post about Elm.

The 25 Most Interesting Links about ASP.NET vNext and the K Runtime

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What is nextMicrosoft revealed its plans for the next generation of .NET at the TechEd North America in May. The next version of ASP.NET will bring some interesting features for ASP.NET web developers:

  • It will be fully open source.
  • ASP.NET MVC, ASP.NET WebAPI and SignalR will be integrated into one framework.
  • Multiple versions of the runtime can be installed side-by-side.
  • It runs on Mono, on both Linux and Mac OS X.
  • No dependency on System.Web.
  • Better support for development with text editor and command line tools.

I collected some links for more information and details about this topic.

Blog posts about ASP.NET vNext and the K Runtime

Videos about ASP.NET vNext and the K Runtime