F Sharp Programming/Operator Overloading

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F# : Operator Overloading

Operator overloading allows programmers to provide new behavior for the default operators in F#. In practice, programmers overload operators to provide a simplified syntax for objects which can be combined mathematically.

Using Operators[edit]

You've already used operators:

let sum = x + y

Here + is example of using a mathematical addition operator.

Operator Overloading[edit]

Operators are functions with special names, enclosed in brackets. They must be defined as static class members. Here's an example on declaring + operator on complex numbers:

type Complex =
    {   Re: double
        Im: double }
    static member ( + ) (left: Complex, right: Complex) =
        { Re = left.Re + right.Re; Im = left.Im + right.Im }

In FSI, we can add two complex numbers as follows:

> let first = { Re = 1.0; Im = 7.0 };;
val first : Complex
 
> let second = { Re = 2.0; Im = -10.5 };;
val second : Complex
 
> first + second;;
val it : Complex = {Re = 3.0;
                    Im = -3.5;}

Defining New Operators[edit]

In addition to overloading existing operators, its possible to define new operators. The names of custom operators can only be one or more of the following characters:

!%&*+-./<=>?@^|~

F# supports two types of operators: infix operators and prefix operators.

Infix operators[edit]

An infix operator takes two arguments, with the operator appearing in between both arguments (i.e. arg1 {op} arg2). We can define our own infix operators using the syntax:

let (op) arg1 arg2 = ...

In addition to mathematical operators, F# has a variety of infix operators defined as part of its library, for example:

let inline (|>) x f = f x
let inline (::) hd tl = Cons(hd, tl)
let inline (:=) (x : 'a ref) value = x.contents <- value

Let's say we're writing an application which performs a lot of regex matching and replacing. We can match text using Perl-style operators by defining our own operators as follows:

open System.Text.RegularExpressions
 
let (=~) input pattern =
    Regex.IsMatch(input, pattern)
 
let main() =
    printfn "cat =~ dog: %b" ("cat" =~ "dog")
    printfn "cat =~ cat|dog: %b" ("cat" =~ "cat|dog")
    printfn "monkey =~ monk*: %b" ("monkey" =~ "monk*")
 
main()

This program outputs the following:

cat =~ dog: false
cat =~ cat|dog: true
monkey =~ monk*: true

Prefix Operators[edit]

Prefix operators take a single argument which appears to the right side of the operator ({op}argument). You've already seen how the ! operator is defined for ref cells:

type 'a ref = { mutable contents : 'a }
let (!) (x : 'a ref) = x.contents

Let's say we're writing a number crunching application, and we wanted to define some operators that work on lists of numbers. We might define some prefix operators in fsi as follows:

> let ( !+ ) l = List.reduce ( + ) l
let ( !- ) l = List.reduce ( - ) l
let ( !* ) l = List.reduce ( * ) l
let ( !/ ) l = List.reduce ( / ) l;;
 
val ( !+ ) : int list -> int
val ( !- ) : int list -> int
val ( !* ) : int list -> int
val ( !/ ) : int list -> int
 
> !* [2; 3; 5];;
val it : int = 30
 
> !+ [2; 3; 5];;
val it : int = 10
 
> !- [2; 3; 7];;
val it : int = -8
 
> !/ [100; 10; 2];;
val it : int = 5
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