What is Lua?
Lua is a powerful, efficient, lightweight, embeddable scripting language.
It supports procedural programming, object-oriented programming, functional
programming, data-driven programming, and data description.
Lua combines simple procedural syntax with powerful data description constructs
based on associative arrays and extensible semantics. Lua is dynamically typed,
runs by interpreting bytecode with a register-based virtual machine, and has
automatic memory management with incremental garbage collection, making it
ideal for configuration, scripting, and rapid prototyping.
Where does Lua come from?
Lua is designed, implemented, and maintained by a team at PUC-Rio, the
Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Lua was born
and raised in Tecgraf, formerly the Computer Graphics Technology Group of
PUC-Rio. Lua is now housed at LabLua, a laboratory of the Department of
Computer Science of PUC-Rio.
What's in a name?
"Lua" (pronounced LOO-ah) means "Moon" in Portuguese. As such, it is neither
an acronym nor an abbreviation, but a noun. More specifically, "Lua" is a name,
the name of the Earth's moon and the name of the language. Like most names,
it should be written in lower case with an initial capital, that is, "Lua".
Please do not write it as "LUA", which is both ugly and confusing, because
then it becomes an acronym with different meanings for different people.
So, please, write "Lua" right!
Joining the community
There are several meeting places for the Lua community where you can go to
learn and help others and contribute in other ways. One of the focal points
is the mailing list, which is very active and friendly.
You can meet part of the Lua community in person by attending a Lua Workshop.
You can help to support the Lua project by buying a book published by Lua.org
and by making a donation.
You can also help to spread the word about Lua by buying Lua products at
Lua.org is an Amazon Associate and we get commissions for qualifying purchases
made through links in this site.
Why choose Lua?
Lua is a proven, robust language
Lua has been used in many industrial applications (e.g., Adobe's Photoshop
Lightroom), with an emphasis on embedded systems (e.g., the Ginga middleware
for digital TV in Brazil) and games (e.g., World of Warcraft and Angry Birds).
Lua is currently the leading scripting language in games. Lua has a solid
reference manual and there are several books about it. Several versions of
Lua have been released and used in real applications since its creation in
1993. Lua featured in HOPL III, the Third ACM SIGPLAN History of Programming
Languages Conference, in 2007. Lua won the Front Line Award 2011 from the
Game Developers Magazine.
Lua is fast
Lua has a deserved reputation for performance. To claim to be "as fast as Lua"
is an aspiration of other scripting languages. Several benchmarks show Lua as
the fastest language in the realm of interpreted scripting languages. Lua is
fast not only in fine-tuned benchmark programs, but in real life too.
Substantial fractions of large applications have been written in Lua.
If you need even more speed, try LuaJIT, an independent implementation of Lua
using a just-in-time compiler.
Lua is portable
Lua is distributed in a small package and builds out-of-the-box in all
platforms that have a standard C compiler. Lua runs on all flavors of Unix and
Windows, on mobile devices (running Android, iOS, BREW, Symbian, Windows
Phone), on embedded microprocessors (such as ARM and Rabbit, for applications
like Lego MindStorms), on IBM mainframes, etc.
For specific reasons why Lua is a good choice also for constrained devices,
read this summary by Mike Pall. See also a poster created by Timm MÃ¼ller.
Lua is embeddable
Lua is a fast language engine with small footprint that you can embed easily
into your application. Lua has a simple and well documented API that allows
strong integration with code written in other languages. It is easy to extend
Lua with libraries written in other languages. It is also easy to extend
programs written in other languages with Lua. Lua has been used to extend
programs written not only in C and C++, but also in Java, C#, Smalltalk,
Fortran, Ada, Erlang, and even in other scripting languages, such as Perl
Lua is powerful (but simple)
A fundamental concept in the design of Lua is to provide meta-mechanisms for
implementing features, instead of providing a host of features directly in the
language. For example, although Lua is not a pure object-oriented language, it
does provide meta-mechanisms for implementing classes and inheritance. Lua's
meta-mechanisms bring an economy of concepts and keep the language small,
while allowing the semantics to be extended in unconventional ways.
Lua is small
Adding Lua to an application does not bloat it. The tarball for Lua 5.4.6,
which contains source code and documentation, takes 355K compressed and 1.4M
uncompressed. The source contains around 30000 lines of C. Under 64-bit Linux,
the Lua interpreter built with all standard Lua libraries takes 282K and the
Lua library takes 470K.
Lua is free
Lua is free open-source software, distributed under a very liberal license
(the well-known MIT license). It may be used for any purpose, including
commercial purposes, at absolutely no cost. Just download it and use it.