Is your bash-fu not cutting it? Why not create executable F# script files instead? In this post we will go through how to make executable .fsx scripts and how to include NuGet dependencies. We’ll also be using F# interactive during development.


  1. Visual Studio Code
  2. Ionide extension
  3. Mono
  4. F# compiler
  5. Paket
  7. OS with shebang support

Create an F# script file

To get started with F# FSI REPL, we’re going to create an F# script file with the .fsx extension. Opening this in VSCode+Ionide will give you intellisense, which makes everything much easier. Writing directly into F# interactive is not very intuitive.

Now go ahead and create a new file called Script.fsx somewhere (the name doesn’t really matter). We’re going to try to write some code for navigating a .fsproj XML file to look for e.g. which target frameworks are defined. Maybe we’ll try to edit as well.

Now to start writing a parser for a project file, we need an example. Put the following example into your script file:

let fsprojContents = """<Project Sdk="Microsoft.NET.Sdk">


    <Compile Include="Library.fs" />


Now you can press Ctrl+Shift+P and choose FSI: Send File. This will open an F# interactive pane at the bottom with something like this:

val fsprojContents : string =
  "<Project Sdk="Microsoft.NET.Sdk">

    <Tar"+[143 chars]

When sending things to the FSI, it usually cuts long values like this and writes the number of chars left, e.g. +[143 chars], instead. To view the full value, write the name of the variable in the FSI window followed by ;;.

> fsprojContents;;
val it : string =
  "<Project Sdk="Microsoft.NET.Sdk">


    <Compile Include="Library.fs" />


Let’s code

To parse the XML we’re going to use the .NET XML parser located in System.Xml. To make that available, simply open it at the top of your fsx file like any other source file. Now add something like this to create an XmlDocument from the fsprojContents.

open System.Xml

let fsprojContents = ...

let loadXml (text : string) =
    let doc = XmlDocument()
    doc.LoadXml text

let xml =
    loadXml fsprojContents

Now you can mark all the text using Ctrl+A and press Alt+Enter to send all selected text to the FSI. Now we have to try to find some XML nodes to see if we can navigate the XML.

let tryGetNode name (node : XmlNode) =
    let xpath = sprintf "%s" name
    match node.SelectSingleNode(xpath) with
    | null -> None
    | n -> Some(n)

let projectNode =
    |> tryGetNode "Project"

let projectNodeName =
    |> (fun x -> x.Name)

Sending this to the FSI should print:

val projectNodeName : string option = Some "Project"

Allright! Now we’ll just have to add some navigation functions to find the TargetFramework and/or TargetFrameworks nodes. It’s actually supported to have them both at the same time, but then TargetFramework overrides the plural form.

Now we’ll just add some functions for getting those nodes:

let tryGetNodeInPropertyGroup nodeName (node : XmlNode) =
    |> tryGetNode "Project"
    |> Option.bind (tryGetNode "PropertyGroup")
    |> Option.bind (tryGetNode nodeName)

let tryGetTargetFramework (node : XmlNode) =
    |> tryGetNodeInPropertyGroup "TargetFramework"

let tryGetTargetFrameworks (node : XmlNode) =
    |> tryGetNodeInPropertyGroup "TargetFrameworks"

let getNodeValue (node : XmlNode) =

Making the script executable

Now we’re going to do something cool. We’re going to make the script executable to make it into an F# bash script. This way we can test the code using the CLI. Add the following shebang at the top of your .fsx and file and the following code to get a hold of the arguments passed to the script:

#if run_with_bin_sh
  exec fsharpi --exec $0 $*

/// Skip the 4 first arguments, since they are just the script file name etc.
/// [|"/usr/lib/mono/fsharp/fsi.exe"; "--exename:fsharpi"; "--exec"; "./Script.fsx"|]
let argv =

// ... all the previous code goes here ...

let targetFramework =
    |> System.IO.File.ReadAllText
    |> loadXml
    |> tryGetTargetFramework
    |> getNodeValue

printfn "TargetFramework: %A" targetFramework

You can now make this script file executable and run it with a path to an .fsproj file.

$ chmod +x Script.fsx
$ ./Script.fsx some/project.fsproj
TargetFramework: netstandard2.0

Changing the target frameworks

To change the target framework we need some code for updating the XML and saving it to file. We also need to take the new target framework as an argument:

let setNodeValue value (node : XmlNode)=
    node.InnerText <- value

let readXmlDocument path =
    |> System.IO.File.ReadAllText
    |> loadXml

let xmlDocument =
    readXmlDocument argv.[0]

|> tryGetTargetFramework
|> function
    | Some node ->
        setNodeValue argv.[1] node
        xmlDocument.Save argv.[0]
        printfn "'TargetFramework' for project '%s' changed to '%s'" argv.[0] argv.[1]
    | None ->
        printfn "Unable to find 'TargetFramework' tag"

The following command will now change the target framework of project.fsproj to netstandard2.1. Success!

$ ./Script.fsx some/project.fsproj netstandard2.1
'TargetFramework' for project 'some/project.fsproj' changed to 'netstandard2.1'

Adding dependencies

If we want to be more fancy on the input arguments we can use Argu, but how can you do that in a script?

  1. Manually add references to .lib files downloaded by e.g. Paket
  2. With the help from FAKE CLI’s integration with Paket

Manually (with Paket)

If you haven’t already, add the following alias to your ~/.bash_aliases file:

alias paket='mono .paket/paket.exe'

Then run the following commands to download Paket and make it download Argu to a packages folder next to your script.

$ mkdir .paket
$ wget -O .paket/paket.exe
$ paket init
$ paket add Argu

Then below the shebang in your script add the following to reference the library:

#I __SOURCE_DIRECTORY__ // Makes sure relative paths in #r statements starts from here.
#r "packages/Argu/lib/net45/Argu.dll"

open Argu

This, however, is a little brittle, since it requires you to have the packages folder follow your script and all paths to be correct, so now I will show you how to make a stand alone script using FAKE CLI instead.


First you have to install FAKE CLI as a global dotnet tool:

$ dotnet tool install fake-cli -g

Now you have fake as a command line tool which has a special Paket integration using some special #r statements. Now we’ll change two things, first the shebang to invoke fake cli instead of fsi and add Argu via the special #r syntax. So replace the top of your script file from

#if run_with_bin_sh
  exec fsharpi --exec $0 $*

#r "packages/Argu/lib/net45/Argu.dll"

open Argu

let argv =


#if run_with_bin_sh
  exec fake run $0 $*

#r "paket:
nuget Argu

// Make sure to match the name of your script file, since
// FAKE CLI creates a .fake/{script_name}.fsx folder next to this script
#load "./.fake/Script.fsx/intellisense.fsx"

open Argu

let argv =

Now we can use Argu to parse our command line arguments by adding something like this at the bottom of our script:

type Arguments =
    | [<Mandatory;CustomCommandLine("change")>] ProjectPath of ProjectPath:string
    | [<Mandatory;CustomCommandLine("targetframework")>] TargetFramework of TargetFramework:string
    interface IArgParserTemplate with
        member s.Usage =
            match s with
            | ProjectPath _ -> "specify the project file to update"
            | TargetFramework _ -> "specify the target framework to set"

let errorHandler =
        ProcessExiter(colorizer =
            | ErrorCode.HelpText -> None
            | _ -> Some System.ConsoleColor.Red)

let argsParser =
    ArgumentParser.Create<Arguments>(programName = "./Script.fsx", errorHandler = errorHandler)

let args =
    argsParser.Parse argv

if args.GetAllResults() |> List.length <> 2 then
    |> printfn "%s"
    let projectPath =
        args.GetResult (<@ ProjectPath @>)

    let targetFramework =
        args.GetResult (<@ TargetFramework @>)

    let xmlDocument =
        |> readXmlDocument

    |> tryGetTargetFramework
    |> function
        | Some n ->
            setNodeValue targetFramework n
            xmlDocument.Save projectPath
            printfn "'TargetFramework' for project '%s' changed to '%s'" projectPath targetFramework
        | None ->
            printfn "Unable to find 'TargetFramework' tag"

Now we have an argument list that resembles dotnet CLI and has a nice help:

$ ./Script.fsx
ERROR: missing parameter 'change'.
USAGE: ./Script.fsx [--help] change <ProjectPath> targetframework <TargetFramework>


    change <ProjectPath>  specify the project file to update
    targetframework <TargetFramework>
                          specify the target framework to set
    --help                display this list of options.

So we try again with proper arguments:

$ ./Script.fsx change some/Project.fsproj targetframework net461
'TargetFramework' for project 'some/project.fsproj' changed to 'net461'

And if you have a bunch of project files you want to update you can leverage bash like this:

$ find . -name "*.fsproj" -type f -exec ./Script.fsx change {} targetframework net461 \;

where {} is the placeholder for the find command’s results and \; means it invokes the script once for every matching file.

Adding more dependencies

To add more dependencies to your script, simply add them in the #r "paket: //" block, then delete the Script.fsx.lock that has been generated and re-run the script. FAKE CLI will then download the new dependencies before running the rest of the script.

#r "paket:
nuget Argu
nuget FSharp.Data

That’s it for now!