I have started to learn myself haskell using the book named “Real world Haskell”. I have so far only come to chapter 4, but I am already in love with some of the features:

  • Its strict static type system, which makes it easy to understand what a function does. Moreover, it allows you to think through what your code is going to do as well as make the decisions of what to do for special cases up front. The following is a definition of a function which compares the length of two lists, and returns their order (==, <, >). The definition clearly states that it operates on two lists of any type, and returns a value of type Ordering. Crystal clear!

      listCmp :: [a] -> [a] -> Ordering
  • Partially due to the above point, one can avoid unpleasant bugs later on, because you chose to postpone your decision on what to do with your input.

  • Pattern matching. I came across this in the Oz programming language when I was in university, but I didn’t really understand how powerful and readable everything becomes until using it in Haskell. The following function takes a separator and a list of lists as argument, and combines the lists using the separator:

      intersperse :: a -> [ [a] ] -> [a]
      intersperse sep [] = []
      intersperse sep (x:[]) = x
      intersperse sep (x:xs) = x ++ [sep] ++ (intersperse sep xs)

    I love how you can just look at the patterns to see what cases is covered by the function, rather than nesting into some complex if sentence.

  • Readability when using ‘where’ syntax. This is the implementation of the listCmp function:

      listCmp lhs rhs
          | lengthLhs < lengthRhs = LT
          | lengthLhs > lengthRhs = GT
          | otherwise             = EQ
        where lengthLhs = (length lhs)
              lengthRhs = (length rhs)

    What I like about it is that you can separate the logic performed on values from the function calls, so that when you read the code, you see the actual computation done by the function in the different cases. You can also do this with the let syntax, but I think the above reads really well.