A Beginner’s Guide to Lua Programming Language

Ankit Sahu
20 Feb 20246 mins read
Languages, frameworks, tools, and trends

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On this Brazil Independence day, we are discussing a technology that is indigenous to Brazil but making waves across the world – the Lua programming language. Keep reading to find out more.

Find answers to the following questions in this post: 

  • What is Lua programming language?
  • Where does Lua come from?
  • How does Lua work?
  • Lua’s real-life application
  • Lua’s advantages and disadvantages
  • How to Install Lua?

In addition, we will answer some of the most common questions asked on Google, such as the following: 

  • What is Lua programming language used for? 
  • Is Lua the same as Python? 
  • Is Lua a real coding language? 
  • Is Lua written in C++?

Let’s get started. 

What is Lua?

Lua is a powerful, effective, embeddable, portable scripting language. Lua supports procedural, data-driven, functional, data description, and object-oriented programming styles. 

Lua is perfect for configuration, scripting, and rapid prototyping because it features dynamic typing, operates by interpreting bytecode using a register-based virtual machine, and has automatic memory management with incremental garbage collection.

Where does Lua come from?

A team at PUC-Rio, the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, created and implemented Lua. Currently, LabLua, a facility run by the PUC-Rio Department of Computer Science, maintains the Lua programming language.

How does the Lua programming language work?

There are two main components of the Lua programming language. They are as follows:

  • The Lua interpreter
  • The Lua virtual machine (VM)

Unlike other most other in-demand programming languages, Lua is not directly interpreted through a Lua file. Instead, it converts a Lua file into bytecode using the Lua interpreter. Because it is written in ANSI C, the Lua interpreter is extremely portable and compatible with a wide range of hardware. 

Typically, compilation takes place during runtime. However, to increase load times, compilation can occasionally be done before the runtime. Then, the Lua virtual machine executes this compiled bytecode. 

The register-based design of the Lua virtual machine improves the program’s overall performance because it closely reflects real hardware architectures.

What are the real-life applications of the Lua programming language? 

With a focus on embedded systems, such as the Ginga middleware for digital TV in Brazil, Lua has been employed in numerous commercial applications, e.g., Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, and games, e.g., World of Warcraft and Angry Birds. 

Since its development in 1993, a number of versions of Lua have been made available and used in practical applications. The third ACM SIGPLAN History of Programming Languages Conference or HOPL III included Lua in 2007. 

What are the advantages of the Lua programming language? 

  • Speed: According to several benchmarks, Lua is the quickest interpreted scripting language.
  • Portability: All platforms with a common C compiler can build Lua right out of the box and distribute it in a compact package. All versions of Unix and Windows, mobile devices running Android, iOS, BREW, Symbian, and Windows Phone, embedded microprocessors like ARM and Rabbit, IBM mainframes, and other platforms support Lua. 
  • Embeddability: You can quickly integrate Lua into your application. A straightforward and well-documented API in Lua enables seamless connection with other programming languages. With libraries created in other languages, Lua can be easily expanded. 
  • Power: Lua has meta-mechanisms for implementing classes and inheritance. The meta-mechanisms of Lua allow many concepts, maintain the language’s compactness, and enable unorthodox semantic extensions.
  • Size: An application does not become bloated when Lua is added. The source code and documentation are contained in the tarball for Lua 5.4.4, which is 353K compressed and 1.3M uncompressed in size. There are about 30000 C lines in the source. The Lua interpreter compiled with all standard Lua libraries requires 281K on 64-bit Linux, whereas the Lua library requires 468K.

In addition, Lua is free, open-source software. It is entirely free to use for any purpose, including profitable ones.

Related tools: 7 Popular Open Source Tools to Checkout

What are the disadvantages of Lua programming language? 

  • Debugging: A Lua script’s debugging process can take longer if there is insufficient functionality for error handling. 
  • Scope: All variables are initially generated with a global scope, which results in mistakes.
  • Support: Limited support for pattern matching.

How to install Lua programming language? 

Running on the existing system

You’ll need a standalone Lua interpreter and perhaps some additional Lua libraries to run Lua programs on your machine. At LuaBinaries, you can get pre-compiled executables and libraries for Lua. Your preferred text editor should be used to create Lua programs.

Ensure that your applications are saved in plain text. Consider using ZeroBrane Studio if you need an IDE. Also, make sure to download the most recent version of Lua (currently 5.4.4).

Building from source

It’s quite simple to create and install Lua. Download it and adhere to the directions. Here is a terminal command that downloads the most recent Lua release and builds it on a Linux machine: 


You’ll need a Lua library to link your program and Lua headers to integrate Lua into your C or C++ program. You’ll probably need the development package as well if you’re purchasing a ready-made Lua package for your platform. 

When to use the Lua programming language?

Lua is often used in creating video games. Dark Souls, Fable II, Garry’s Mod, Wireshark, VLC, Apache, and Nginx Web Servers are a few examples of well-known Lua-using games, applications, and services.

However, you can use Lua for any application because it is a scripting language without many restrictions. Also, it can be used to add features without degrading overall efficiency and keeps everything distinct.

Programming for embedded systems, where size and performance are crucial considerations, is another area where Lua thrives. The functionality of common programs can be expanded, or new features and functions can be added using Lua.


Lua is a very capable scripting language that can add functionality to any software on numerous platforms to meet any use case. To explore more about Lua, visit the official Lua website.

And to explore fantastic remote software development job opportunities in top US companies, visit Turing. Turing is a deep jobs platform offering full-time and long-term work engagements in top US companies. 


1. What is Lua programming language used for?

You can use Lua for any application because it is a scripting language without many restrictions. Dark Souls, Fable II, Wireshark,  Garry’s Mod, VLC, Apache, and Nginx Web Servers are a few examples of well-known Lua-using games, applications, and services.

2. Is Lua the same as Python?

Although Lua is multi-paradigmatic in nature, it is essentially a scripting language. Python is also multi-paradigm-based but emphasizes object-oriented language features. 
3. Is Lua a real coding language?

The primary purpose of the lightweight, high-level, multi-paradigm programming language Lua is embedded application utilization.

4. Is Lua written in C++?

The Lua interpreter is written in ANSI C. 

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Ankit Sahu

Ankit is a writer and editor who has contributed his expertise to Govt of India, Reebok, Abbott, TimesPro, Chitale Bandhu, InsideAIML, Kolte Patil Dev., etc.

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