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Span hits F#, LinkedIn gets mumbly, and UWP (yes, it's still clinging on) furnished with new toys

Microsoft wants everyone to be Fluent in this week's round-up

In a week where Outlook went dark, prices crept up and Office Server 2019 emerged, blinking, into the light, here are some tales from Redmond you may have missed.

F# version bump

Microsoft continued its support for the F# programming language with a preview of version 4.5. The jump from 4.1 is aimed at getting the language itself, the FSharp.Core binary and the NuGet package into alignment.

F#, while not often troubling the top 10 of most popular languages, has carved itself a niche in the business world with a syntax aimed at solving complex analytical problems. The strongly typed language can be found lurking on Mac and Linux and is, as one would expect, interoperable with the majority of .NET libraries and languages.

There are a couple of standouts amid the fixes and features. The most notable is Span, which arrived last year in .NET Core 2.1. Span allows coders to expose arbitrary chunks of memory in a safe manner (for example, a subset of an array) without performance penalties. The other, match!, is a code saver, which will allow inline calls to another computational expression and pattern match on its result.

The Register took the preview out for a test drive and, after fighting with NuGet for a while, found 4.5 to be a worthy upgrade and remarkably stable. As for final release, Microsoft plans to unleash it when Visual Studio 2017 15.8 finally hits the big time later this year.

Voice Messages on LinkedIn

From the department of "who actually asked for this?" comes the arrival of Voice Messages on social-media-for-suits platform LinkedIn.

In last week's announcement, the platform speculated that sending a voice message would be so much better than typing something out. Clearly, the blog author has little experience of sending or receiving incoherent ramblings on answerphones.

Rolling out initially on iOS and Android, the feature allows LinkedIn users to record up to a minute of audio (so expect a good few cut-offs before the point of the comment is reached) that can be played back by the recipient. The web version of LinkedIn will only support playback for now and, as yet, automatic transcription is not present.

The feature should go global in the coming weeks, you lucky, lucky people.

Microsoft has a treat for the remaining UWP developer

Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps have a noble goal. Microsoft's intention is to allow developers to write one app that will work on all devices that run Windows 10, from IoT through mobile, PC to the likes of HoloLens.

Of course, the abject failure of Microsoft's mobile strategy has blown a hole in that plan somewhat, and Redmond has had a hard time persuading desktop developers to move into the brave new world of UWP. Those developers are likely suffering from "platform fatigue" – a syndrome arising from the seemingly endless array of platforms launched by a software maker to much fanfare before being quietly stuffed into a bag of rocks and dropped off Brighton Pier a few years later.

After failing to lure large numbers of developers to move with tools such as the Desktop Bridge (which allows coders to package up their legacy apps for Microsoft's Store) Redmond has turned to Fluent design with the first preview release of NuGet packages rammed full of shiny new UI goodness.

Previously, the UI component shipped as part of Windows and its accompanying SDK. To get new UI components, developers were forced to wait until a new version of Windows shipped and, more importantly, users installed the thing.

The new approach means that devs can start building and deploying apps immediately, without having to worry about what customers are running (so long as it isn't earlier than the Anniversary update). Furthermore, apps won't necessarily have to perform version checks to avoid using controls that might otherwise be unsupported.

The Register inflicted the NuGet packages upon an otherwise virgin install of Visual Studio and, once we'd had the usual fight of persuading XAML to work, found ourselves slipping easily into the Fluent world with the new toys working as advertised.

At least until Microsoft decides to move the goalposts once again. ®


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