Programming Books

6 Excellent Free Books to Learn Standard ML

ML (“Meta Language”) is a general-purpose functional programming language. It has roots in Lisp, and has been characterized as “Lisp with types”. ML is a statically-scoped functional programming language like Scheme.

It is known for its use of the polymorphic Hindley–Milner type system, which automatically assigns the types of most expressions without requiring explicit type annotations, and ensures type safety – there is a formal proof that a well-typed ML program does not cause runtime type errors.

Standard ML is a functional programming language with a formal specification. It has static types to prevent a wide array of common errors, but also features powerful type inference, requiring few to no type declarations. It is easy to define new data types and structures, due to algebraic data types, and write well-abstracted, easy to reason about code due to its powerful module system and parametric polymorphism (generics).

There are several languages in the ML family; the three most prominent are Standard ML (SML), OCaml and F#. We have written separate articles recommending the best free OCaml books and free F# books.


1. ML for the Working Programmer, 2nd Edition by Larry C. Paulson

ML for the Working ProgrammerThis book teaches the methods of functional programming – in particular, how to program in Standard ML. The author shows how to use such concepts as lists, trees, higher-order functions and infinite data structures and includes a chapter on formal reasoning about functional programming. This is meant to be a practical book.

These include fast sorting functions and efficient function implementations of arrays, queues, and priority queues. Examples also include a ^D*l-calculus reducer and theorem prover. Most features of ML (including modules and imperative programming) are covered in depth and the book can be used without an ML reference manual.

The main features of the new Basis Library for the revised version of ML are described, and many new examples are given, e.g. polynomial arithmetic and new ways of treating priority queues.

The reader is assumed to have some experience in programming in conventional languages such as C or Pascal. For such individuals, be they students, graduates or researchers, this will be a useful introduction to functional programming.

Read the book


2. A Tour of Standard ML by Alex Alegre

A Tour of Standard MLThe tour consists of a set of chapters, each intended to showcase different features of Standard ML.

For each section, there’s a concise example illustrating the material.

A Tour of Standard ML is built using Hakyll, a Haskell library for generating static sites.

This tour is published under the MIT License.

Read the tour


3. The History of Standard ML by David MacQueen, Robert Harper, and John Reppy

The History of Standard MLThis paper focuses on the history of Standard ML, which plays a central role in the ML family of strict functional languages, as it was the first to include the complete set of features that we now associate with the name “ML” (i.e., polymorphic type inference, datatypes with pattern matching, modules, exceptions,and mutable state).

The paper covers the early history of ML, the subsequent efforts to define a standard ML language, and the development of its major features and its formal definition.

The authors also review the impact that the language had on programming-language research.

Read the paper


Next page: Page 2 – The Standard ML Basis Library and more books

Pages in this article:
Page 1 – ML for the Working Programmer and more books
Page 2 – The Standard ML Basis Library and more books


All books in this series:

Free Programming Books
AdaALGOL-like programming language, extended from Pascal and other languages
AgdaDependently typed functional language based on intuitionistic Type Theory
ArduinoInexpensive, flexible, open source microcontroller platform
AssemblyAs close to writing machine code without writing in pure hexadecimal
AwkVersatile language designed for pattern scanning and processing language
BashShell and command language; popular both as a shell and a scripting language
BASICBeginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code
CGeneral-purpose, procedural, portable, high-level language
C++General-purpose, portable, free-form, multi-paradigm language
C#Combines the power and flexibility of C++ with the simplicity of Visual Basic
ClojureDialect of the Lisp programming language
ClojureScriptCompiler for Clojure that targets JavaScript
COBOLCommon Business-Oriented Language
CoffeeScriptTranscompiles into JavaScript inspired by Ruby, Python and Haskell
CoqDependently typed language similar to Agda, Idris, F* and others
CrystalGeneral-purpose, concurrent, multi-paradigm, object-oriented language
CSSCSS (Cascading Style Sheets) specifies a web page’s appearance
DGeneral-purpose systems programming language with a C-like syntax
DartClient-optimized language for fast apps on multiple platforms
DylanMulti-paradigm language supporting functional and object-oriented coding
ECMAScriptBest known as the language embedded in web browsers
EiffelObject-oriented language designed by Bertrand Meyer
ElixirRelatively new functional language running on the Erlang virtual machine
ErlangGeneral-purpose, concurrent, declarative, functional language
F#Uses functional, imperative, and object-oriented programming methods
FactorDynamic stack-based programming language
ForthImperative stack-based programming language
FortranThe first high-level language, using the first compiler
GoCompiled, statically typed programming language
GroovyPowerful, optionally typed and dynamic language
HaskellStandardized, general-purpose, polymorphically, statically typed language
HTMLHyperText Markup Language
IconWide variety of features for processing and presenting symbolic data
JArray programming language based primarily on APL
JavaGeneral-purpose, concurrent, class-based, object-oriented, high-level language
JavaScriptInterpreted, prototype-based, scripting language
JuliaHigh-level, high-performance language for technical computing
KotlinMore modern version of Java
LabVIEWDesigned to enable domain experts to build power systems quickly
LaTeXProfessional document preparation system and document markup language
LispUnique features - excellent to study programming constructs
LogoDialect of Lisp that features interactivity, modularity, extensibility
LuaDesigned as an embeddable scripting language
MarkdownPlain text formatting syntax designed to be easy-to-read and easy-to-write
Objective-CObject-oriented language that adds Smalltalk-style messaging to C
OCamlThe main implementation of the Caml language
PascalImperative and procedural language designed in the late 1960s
PerlHigh-level, general-purpose, interpreted, scripting, dynamic language
PHPPHP has been at the helm of the web for many years
PostScriptInterpreted, stack-based and Turing complete language
PrologA general purpose, declarative, logic programming language
PureScriptSmall strongly, statically typed language compiling to JavaScript
PythonGeneral-purpose, structured, powerful language
QMLHierarchical declarative language for user interface layout - JSON-like syntax
RDe facto standard among statisticians and data analysts
RacketGeneral-purpose, object-oriented, multi-paradigm, functional language
RakuMember of the Perl family of programming languages
RubyGeneral purpose, scripting, structured, flexible, fully object-oriented language
RustIdeal for systems, embedded, and other performance critical code
ScalaModern, object-functional, multi-paradigm, Java-based language
SchemeA general-purpose, functional language descended from Lisp and Algol
ScratchVisual programming language designed for 8-16 year-old children
SQLAccess and manipulate data held in a relational database management system
Standard MLGeneral-purpose functional language characterized as "Lisp with types"
SwiftPowerful and intuitive general-purpose programming language
TclDynamic language based on concepts of Lisp, C, and Unix shells
TeXMarkup and programming language - create professional quality typeset text
TypeScriptStrict syntactical superset of JavaScript adding optional static typing
ValaObject-oriented language, syntactically similar to C#
VHDLHardware description language used in electronic design automation
VimLPowerful scripting language of the Vim editor
XMLRules for defining semantic tags describing structure ad meaning
Share this article

Share your Thoughts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.