Another day gone by looking into F#. Today I thought I would ramble on about lists and arrays in F#. Coming from a C# background I barely ever use arrays now days in my C# code – why you may ask – because I find lists generally handle most of the business scenario’s that I come across.
So it has been an interesting experience with me keep bumping into Array’s & Lists in F# and I wondered why the frequency of coming across arrays was so much more in this language than in C#.
Take for instance the code I stumbled across today.
let rng = new Random() let shuffle (array : 'a array) = let n = array.Length for x in 1..n do let i = n-x let j = rng.Next(i+1) let tmp = array.[i] array.[i] <- array.[j] array.[j] <- tmp array
Quite simply its purpose is to “shuffle” an array of items. So I thought, why does it have the “a’ array’” explicitly declared? What if I changed it to a list? Well… as I was about to find out there are some subtle differences between array’s & lists in F# that do not exist in C#. Namely, mutability.
A list in F# is an ordered, immutable series of elements of the same type, while an array is a fixed-size zero based, mutable collection of consecutive data elements that are all of the same type.
For me the keyword is immutable vs mutable collection. That’s why I could not simply swap the ‘a array with ‘a list in my function header because then later on in the code the syntax would not be valid where I “swap” item positions.
i.e. array.[i] <- array.[j] would be invalid because if it was a list, it would be immutable and so couldn’t change by its very definition..
So where does that leave me? It’s to early days to say. I don’t know what the balance will be in future code – will I typically always use lists or arrays or even have a balance, but time will tell.