Functional programmers often seem to complain that for loops are
better off done with maps, and that, in any case, they're just
degenerate cases of the same thing, as all imperative constructs can be
created in a fully functional way…
That being the claim, I thought it might be a fun exercise to try to implement for loops in Haskell.
First of all, I tried to work out the type, and guessed at:
> for :: a -> (a->Bool) -> (a->a) -> (a-> IO ()) -> IO ()
Where a usage might be something like:
> for 1 (<10) (+1) (\x -> putStr $ show x)
First of all, I tried the â€œstraightforwardâ€ recursive version, and got as far as compiling:
> for i p pp f =
> do if p i
> (f i)
> -- but now what?
> return ()
The doâ€˜s and the return are of course there pretty
much at random, by adding, removing, and moving things till I could get
it to compile. But it does work, partially, certainly it gets through a
single iteration! I tried various options to recurse, and thought that
something like this should work.
> for (pp i) p pp f
But it doesn't, and ghcâ€˜s error messages are typically cryptic. Half an hour later I was about to give up, and then remembered the iterate function. After which the following higher order version sort of wrote itself.
We construct the list of iterators:
> iterate pp i
But of course we only need to take them while the predicate is true
> takeWhile p
And we need to sequence the actions
> mapM_ f
(OK, I remembered that someone had pointed mapM_ at me and found it in an earlier blog entry…)
Leading to the following definition:
> for i p pp f = mapM_ f $
> takeWhile p $
> iterate pp i
OK, so this version of a for loop doesn't have a last
keyword to break out of the loop early, but otherwise it does pretty
much what you'd expect. I don't know whether the earlier thunks
(iterated values of i that have already been used) will be
kept by ghc even after they have already been used or not, but that's
an implementation / optimization detail.
I'm not sure why the recursive version seems harder to write: I
guess because I don't understand what the do-notation is doing.
(Generally speaking, programming tasks tend to be easier when you
actually know what the code is doing rather than just trusting the
As a final note, this is the type that ghc infers from this definition (more general than the one I'd started with).
> for :: (Monad m) => a -> (a -> Bool) -> (a -> a) -> (a -> m b) -> m ()