Create a gist now

Instantly share code, notes, and snippets.

What would you like to do?
Learn Lua quickly with this short yet comprehensive and friendly script. It's written as both an introduction and a quick reference. It's also a valid Lua script so you can verify that the code does what it says, and learn more by modifying and running this script in your Lua interpreter.
-- Two dashes start a one-line comment.
--[[
Adding two ['s and ]'s makes it a
multi-line comment.
--]]
----------------------------------------------------
-- 1. Variables and flow control.
----------------------------------------------------
num = 42 -- All numbers are doubles.
-- Don't freak out, 64-bit doubles have 52 bits for
-- storing exact int values; machine precision is
-- not a problem for ints that need < 52 bits.
s = 'walternate' -- Immutable strings like Python.
t = "double-quotes are also fine"
u = [[ Double brackets
start and end
multi-line strings.]]
t = nil -- Undefines t; Lua has garbage collection.
-- Blocks are denoted with keywords like do/end:
while num < 50 do
num = num + 1 -- No ++ or += type operators.
end
-- If clauses:
if num > 40 then
print('over 40')
elseif s ~= 'walternate' then -- ~= is not equals.
-- Equality check is == like Python; ok for strs.
io.write('not over 40\n') -- Defaults to stdout.
else
-- Variables are global by default.
thisIsGlobal = 5 -- Camel case is common.
-- How to make a variable local:
local line = io.read() -- Reads next stdin line.
-- String concatenation uses the .. operator:
print('Winter is coming, ' .. line)
end
-- Undefined variables return nil.
-- This is not an error:
foo = anUnknownVariable -- Now foo = nil.
aBoolValue = false
-- Only nil and false are falsy; 0 and '' are true!
if not aBoolValue then print('twas false') end
-- 'or' and 'and' are short-circuited.
-- This is similar to the a?b:c operator in C/js:
ans = aBoolValue and 'yes' or 'no' --> 'no'
karlSum = 0
for i = 1, 100 do -- The range includes both ends.
karlSum = karlSum + i
end
-- Use "100, 1, -1" as the range to count down:
fredSum = 0
for j = 100, 1, -1 do fredSum = fredSum + j end
-- In general, the range is begin, end[, step].
-- Another loop construct:
repeat
print('the way of the future')
num = num - 1
until num == 0
----------------------------------------------------
-- 2. Functions.
----------------------------------------------------
function fib(n)
if n < 2 then return 1 end
return fib(n - 2) + fib(n - 1)
end
-- Closures and anonymous functions are ok:
function adder(x)
-- The returned function is created when adder is
-- called, and remembers the value of x:
return function (y) return x + y end
end
a1 = adder(9)
a2 = adder(36)
print(a1(16)) --> 25
print(a2(64)) --> 100
-- Returns, func calls, and assignments all work
-- with lists that may be mismatched in length.
-- Unmatched receivers are nil;
-- unmatched senders are discarded.
x, y, z = 1, 2, 3, 4
-- Now x = 1, y = 2, z = 3, and 4 is thrown away.
function bar(a, b, c)
print(a, b, c)
return 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42
end
x, y = bar('zaphod') --> prints "zaphod nil nil"
-- Now x = 4, y = 8, values 15..42 are discarded.
-- Functions are first-class, may be local/global.
-- These are the same:
function f(x) return x * x end
f = function (x) return x * x end
-- And so are these:
local function g(x) return math.sin(x) end
local g; g = function (x) return math.sin(x) end
-- the 'local g' decl makes g-self-references ok.
-- Trig funcs work in radians, by the way.
-- Calls with one string param don't need parens:
print 'hello' -- Works fine.
----------------------------------------------------
-- 3. Tables.
----------------------------------------------------
-- Tables = Lua's only compound data structure;
-- they are associative arrays.
-- Similar to php arrays or js objects, they are
-- hash-lookup dicts that can also be used as lists.
-- Using tables as dictionaries / maps:
-- Dict literals have string keys by default:
t = {key1 = 'value1', key2 = false}
-- String keys can use js-like dot notation:
print(t.key1) -- Prints 'value1'.
t.newKey = {} -- Adds a new key/value pair.
t.key2 = nil -- Removes key2 from the table.
-- Literal notation for any (non-nil) value as key:
u = {['@!#'] = 'qbert', [{}] = 1729, [6.28] = 'tau'}
print(u[6.28]) -- prints "tau"
-- Key matching is basically by value for numbers
-- and strings, but by identity for tables.
a = u['@!#'] -- Now a = 'qbert'.
b = u[{}] -- We might expect 1729, but it's nil:
-- b = nil since the lookup fails. It fails
-- because the key we used is not the same object
-- as the one used to store the original value. So
-- strings & numbers are more portable keys.
-- A one-table-param function call needs no parens:
function h(x) print(x.key1) end
h{key1 = 'Sonmi~451'} -- Prints 'Sonmi~451'.
for key, val in pairs(u) do -- Table iteration.
print(key, val)
end
-- _G is a special table of all globals.
print(_G['_G'] == _G) -- Prints 'true'.
-- Using tables as lists / arrays:
-- List literals implicitly set up int keys:
v = {'value1', 'value2', 1.21, 'gigawatts'}
for i = 1, #v do -- #v is the size of v for lists.
print(v[i]) -- Indices start at 1 !! SO CRAZY!
end
-- A 'list' is not a real type. v is just a table
-- with consecutive integer keys, treated as a list.
----------------------------------------------------
-- 3.1 Metatables and metamethods.
----------------------------------------------------
-- A table can have a metatable that gives the table
-- operator-overloadish behavior. Later we'll see
-- how metatables support js-prototypey behavior.
f1 = {a = 1, b = 2} -- Represents the fraction a/b.
f2 = {a = 2, b = 3}
-- This would fail:
-- s = f1 + f2
metafraction = {}
function metafraction.__add(f1, f2)
sum = {}
sum.b = f1.b * f2.b
sum.a = f1.a * f2.b + f2.a * f1.b
return sum
end
setmetatable(f1, metafraction)
setmetatable(f2, metafraction)
s = f1 + f2 -- call __add(f1, f2) on f1's metatable
-- f1, f2 have no key for their metatable, unlike
-- prototypes in js, so you must retrieve it as in
-- getmetatable(f1). The metatable is a normal table
-- with keys that Lua knows about, like __add.
-- But the next line fails since s has no metatable:
-- t = s + s
-- Class-like patterns given below would fix this.
-- An __index on a metatable overloads dot lookups:
defaultFavs = {animal = 'gru', food = 'donuts'}
myFavs = {food = 'pizza'}
setmetatable(myFavs, {__index = defaultFavs})
eatenBy = myFavs.animal -- works! thanks, metatable
-- Direct table lookups that fail will retry using
-- the metatable's __index value, and this recurses.
-- An __index value can also be a function(tbl, key)
-- for more customized lookups.
-- Values of __index,add, .. are called metamethods.
-- Full list. Here a is a table with the metamethod.
-- __add(a, b) for a + b
-- __sub(a, b) for a - b
-- __mul(a, b) for a * b
-- __div(a, b) for a / b
-- __mod(a, b) for a % b
-- __pow(a, b) for a ^ b
-- __unm(a) for -a
-- __concat(a, b) for a .. b
-- __len(a) for #a
-- __eq(a, b) for a == b
-- __lt(a, b) for a < b
-- __le(a, b) for a <= b
-- __index(a, b) <fn or a table> for a.b
-- __newindex(a, b, c) for a.b = c
-- __call(a, ...) for a(...)
----------------------------------------------------
-- 3.2 Class-like tables and inheritance.
----------------------------------------------------
-- Classes aren't built in; there are different ways
-- to make them using tables and metatables.
-- Explanation for this example is below it.
Dog = {} -- 1.
function Dog:new() -- 2.
newObj = {sound = 'woof'} -- 3.
self.__index = self -- 4.
return setmetatable(newObj, self) -- 5.
end
function Dog:makeSound() -- 6.
print('I say ' .. self.sound)
end
mrDog = Dog:new() -- 7.
mrDog:makeSound() -- 'I say woof' -- 8.
-- 1. Dog acts like a class; it's really a table.
-- 2. function tablename:fn(...) is the same as
-- function tablename.fn(self, ...)
-- The : just adds a first arg called self.
-- Read 7 & 8 below for how self gets its value.
-- 3. newObj will be an instance of class Dog.
-- 4. self = the class being instantiated. Often
-- self = Dog, but inheritance can change it.
-- newObj gets self's functions when we set both
-- newObj's metatable and self's __index to self.
-- 5. Reminder: setmetatable returns its first arg.
-- 6. The : works as in 2, but this time we expect
-- self to be an instance instead of a class.
-- 7. Same as Dog.new(Dog), so self = Dog in new().
-- 8. Same as mrDog.makeSound(mrDog); self = mrDog.
----------------------------------------------------
-- Inheritance example:
LoudDog = Dog:new() -- 1.
function LoudDog:makeSound()
s = self.sound .. ' ' -- 2.
print(s .. s .. s)
end
seymour = LoudDog:new() -- 3.
seymour:makeSound() -- 'woof woof woof' -- 4.
-- 1. LoudDog gets Dog's methods and variables.
-- 2. self has a 'sound' key from new(), see 3.
-- 3. Same as LoudDog.new(LoudDog), and converted to
-- Dog.new(LoudDog) as LoudDog has no 'new' key,
-- but does have __index = Dog on its metatable.
-- Result: seymour's metatable is LoudDog, and
-- LoudDog.__index = LoudDog. So seymour.key will
-- = seymour.key, LoudDog.key, Dog.key, whichever
-- table is the first with the given key.
-- 4. The 'makeSound' key is found in LoudDog; this
-- is the same as LoudDog.makeSound(seymour).
-- If needed, a subclass's new() is like the base's:
function LoudDog:new()
newObj = {}
-- set up newObj
self.__index = self
return setmetatable(newObj, self)
end
----------------------------------------------------
-- 4. Modules.
----------------------------------------------------
--[[ I'm commenting out this section so the rest of
-- this script remains runnable.
-- Suppose the file mod.lua looks like this:
local M = {}
local function sayMyName()
print('Hrunkner')
end
function M.sayHello()
print('Why hello there')
sayMyName()
end
return M
-- Another file can use mod.lua's functionality:
local mod = require('mod') -- Run the file mod.lua.
-- require is the standard way to include modules.
-- require acts like: (if not cached; see below)
local mod = (function ()
<contents of mod.lua>
end)()
-- It's like mod.lua is a function body, so that
-- locals inside mod.lua are invisible outside it.
-- This works because mod here = M in mod.lua:
mod.sayHello() -- Says hello to Hrunkner.
-- This is wrong; sayMyName only exists in mod.lua:
mod.sayMyName() -- error
-- require's return values are cached so a file is
-- run at most once, even when require'd many times.
-- Suppose mod2.lua contains "print('Hi!')".
local a = require('mod2') -- Prints Hi!
local b = require('mod2') -- Doesn't print; a=b.
-- dofile is like require without caching:
dofile('mod2.lua') --> Hi!
dofile('mod2.lua') --> Hi! (runs it again)
-- loadfile loads a lua file but doesn't run it yet.
f = loadfile('mod2.lua') -- Call f() to run it.
-- loadstring is loadfile for strings.
g = loadstring('print(343)') -- Returns a function.
g() -- Prints out 343; nothing printed before now.
--]]
----------------------------------------------------
-- 5. References.
----------------------------------------------------
--[[
I was excited to learn Lua so I could make games
with the Löve 2D game engine. That's the why.
I started with BlackBulletIV's Lua for programmers.
Next I read the official Programming in Lua book.
That's the how.
It might be helpful to check out the Lua short
reference on lua-users.org.
The main topics not covered are standard libraries:
* string library
* table library
* math library
* io library
* os library
By the way, this entire file is valid Lua; save it
as learn.lua and run it with "lua learn.lua" !
This was first written for tylerneylon.com. It's
also available as a github gist. Tutorials for other
languages, in the same style as this one, are here:
http://learnxinyminutes.com/
Have fun with Lua!
--]]

Isn't there a problem with the ternary-like construct when the boolean is true and the 'return' value is falsy (false, nil)?

a = true and nil or 42 -- a == 42, should be nil if it was a 'real' ternary

(quickly checked here).

For future reference, the even prettier version of this gist can be found here: http://tylerneylon.com/a/learn-lua/

Owner

tylerneylon commented Jun 26, 2013

@Alexis-D yep, that's true. "a and b or c" is not a drop-in replacement for "a ? b : c", since (as you noticed) it gives the wrong result when a is truthy and b is falsy. If I were to invent a best practice I'd say it's an acceptable pattern if both b and c are guaranteed truthy. (Why both? It's an easier-to-remember and more elegant rule; harder to mess up in future code changes.) This is an easy condition to meet in Lua as all numbers, tables, and strings are always truthy.

I tried to hint that the patterns were not exactly equivalent with the phrase "is similar to" but I admit it's vague.

Started translating a fork of this to Ruby (just section one so far): https://gist.github.com/havenwood/5871558

Owner

tylerneylon commented Jun 28, 2013

@havenwood Awesome! Here's a good way to help share it when you're ready: https://github.com/adambard/learnxinyminutes-docs

Great introduction to Lua! The explanations are very clear. However, one sentence may be revised:
"Key matching is basically by value for numbers and strings, but by identity for tables."
A proper revision may look like this:
"Table keys are usually numbers or strings, whereas their value can contain anything except nil."

I found a few textual imperfections (space and case inconstancies) that I have corrected in my fork. I hope you do not hate me for correcting you ;) Thanks again for learning me Lua in 15 minutes.

mbosnjak commented Nov 5, 2015

great little intro! thanks a bunch!
one little change in Lua 5.2: loadstring is replaced by load

pgimeno commented Dec 25, 2016 edited

Lovely intro! 👍 ❤️

May I suggest, for best practices' sake, to make s local in function LoudDog.makeSound?
Edit: And sum in metafraction.__add.

Sign up for free to join this conversation on GitHub. Already have an account? Sign in to comment