Consuming F# results in C#

We know that C# is the .NET language we should use to build vanilla class libraries. A library built with that language will be easly consumed in other .NET dialects. After all this is why the BCL is written in this language.

However there are excellent libraries written in F# that are commonly user by C# developers. The first that come to my mind is FsCheck, designed for properties testing.

Another example is quote.fs. It’s project of mine, still in embryonic state. Essentially an experiment aimed to design an F# library usable from C# (and eventually other .NET languages).

I’ve included static class to map the functional surface API and convert every AsyncResult<T> to Task<T> (more C# frendly). Anyway functional languages don’t like null values and you will need to face some kind of result type in C#.

F# built-in result type is defined as follow:

type Result<'T,'TError> =
    | Ok of ResultValue:'T
    | Error of ErrorValue:'TError

It contains a value or an error in a very simal way to Haskell either type (Data.Either). You can find a C# implementation in CSharpx Either.cs.

Let’s code

A result type is (as you can verify with Reflector or Intellisense) has a compiled name of FSharpResult<T, Error>. Hit dotnet fsi from a terminal and see how result value is built from the F# side:

> let useless x =
-     match x with 
-     | true -> Ok 3.14
-     | _ -> Error "bad input";;
val useless : x:bool -> Result<float,string>

The useless function will succeed if value of x is true. In this case it will a return a PI number otherwise an error message. This is why F# REPL states that useless function return type is Result<float,string>. In F# consuming that value is elegant and simple like creating it:

let result = useless true
match result with
| Ok value -> Numbers.Add value
| Error message -> printfn "Trouble: %s" message

From an C# standpoint, supposing that you wrap this function in a static method of a static class, you will end up consuming it the in following way:

var result = CSharpFriendly.Useless(true);
if (result.IsOk) {
    // success, do something with the value
} else {
    // fail, report an error message

I don’t think this can stand comparison with F# pattern matching. But if you add CSharpx to your project a better result (forgive the pun) can be achived with easy. Just use the FSharpResult<T, Error> extension method that fits your needs. In such case Match is the perfect choice, since allows you to mimic F# pattern matching using lambda functions:

// refactoring
var result = CSharpFriendly.Useless(true);
    value => Numbers.Add(value),
    message => Console.WriteLine($"Trouble: {message}"));

Voilà! Game is done, ugly code is gone away. You can learn all available extension methods directly from FSharpResultExtensions source and some usage example from Unit Tests.


I think that, with very little effort from both sides, F# libraries can be comfortably used from C# code. In this way a developer that knows both languages is free to decide which fit better for a particular task.

In few words, freedom of design!

Written on January 14, 2020