Gun Tactics II

Player's Manual

The Lua Language


This paper is provided as is without warranties of any kind.



Part I - The Lua Language

Excerpt from the

    Lua 5.1 Reference Manual

    by Roberto Ierusalimschy, Luiz Henrique de Figueiredo, Waldemar Celes

    Copyright 2006 TeCGraf, PUC-Rio. All rights reserved.

1 - Introduction

Lua is an extension programming language designed to support general procedural programming with data description facilities. It also offers good support for object-oriented programming, functional programming, and data-driven programming. Lua is intended to be used as a powerful, light-weight scripting language for any program that needs one. Lua is implemented as a library, written in clean C (that is, in the common subset of ANSI C and C++).

Being an extension language, Lua has no notion of a "main" program: it only works embedded in a host client, called the embedding program or simply the host. This host program can invoke functions to execute a piece of Lua code, can write and read Lua variables, and can register C functions to be called by Lua code. Through the use of C functions, Lua can be augmented to cope with a wide range of different domains, thus creating customized programming languages sharing a syntactical framework. The Lua distribution includes a sample host program called lua, which uses the Lua library to offer a complete, stand-alone Lua interpreter.

Lua is free software, and is provided as usual with no guarantees, as stated in its license. The implementation described in this manual is available at Lua's official web site,

Like any other reference manual, this document is dry in places. For a discussion of the decisions behind the design of Lua, see the technical papers available at Lua's web site. For a detailed introduction to programming in Lua, see Roberto's book, Programming in Lua.

2 - The Language

This section describes the lexis, the syntax, and the semantics of Lua. In other words, this section describes which tokens are valid, how they can be combined, and what their combinations mean.

The language constructs will be explained using the usual extended BNF notation, in which {a} means 0 or more a's, and [a] means an optional a. Non-terminals are shown like non-terminal, keywords are shown like kword, and other terminal symbols are shown like `=. The complete syntax of Lua can be found at the end of this manual.

2.1 - Lexical Conventions

Names (also called identifiers) in Lua can be any string of letters, digits, and underscores, not beginning with a digit. This coincides with the definition of names in most languages. (The definition of letter depends on the current locale: any character considered alphabetic by the current locale can be used in an identifier.) Identifiers are used to name variables and table fields.

The following keywords are reserved and cannot be used as names:

     and       break     do        else      elseif
     end       false     for       function  if
     in        local     nil       not       or
     repeat    return    then      true      until     while

Lua is a case-sensitive language: and is a reserved word, but And and AND are two different, valid names. As a convention, names starting with an underscore followed by uppercase letters (such as _VERSION) are reserved for internal global variables used by Lua.

The following strings denote other tokens:

     +     -     *     /     %     ^     #
     ==    ~=    <=    >=    <     >     =
     (     )     {     }     [     ]
     ;     :     ,     .     ..    ...

Literal strings can be delimited by matching single or double quotes, and can contain the following C-like escape sequences: '\a' (bell), '\b' (backspace), '\f' (form feed), '\n' (newline), '\r' (carriage return), '\t' (horizontal tab), '\v' (vertical tab), '\\' (backslash), '\"' (quotation mark [double quote]), and '\'' (apostrophe [single quote]). Moreover, a backslash followed by a real newline results in a newline in the string. A character in a string may also be specified by its numerical value using the escape sequence \ddd, where ddd is a sequence of up to three decimal digits. (Note that if a numerical escape is to be followed by a digit, it must be expressed using exactly three digits.) Strings in Lua may contain any 8-bit value, including embedded zeros, which can be specified as '\0'.

To put a double (single) quote, a newline, a backslash, or an embedded zero inside a literal string enclosed by double (single) quotes you must use an escape sequence. Any other character may be directly inserted into the literal. (Some control characters may cause problems for the file system, but Lua has no problem with them.)

Literal strings can also be defined using a long format enclosed by long brackets. We define an opening long bracket of level n as an opening square bracket followed by n equal signs followed by another opening square bracket. So, an opening long bracket of level 0 is written as [[, an opening long bracket of level 1 is written as [=[, and so on. A closing long bracket is defined similarly; for instance, a closing long bracket of level 4 is written as ]====]. A long string starts with an opening long bracket of any level and ends at the first closing long bracket of the same level. Literals in this bracketed form may run for several lines, do not interpret any escape sequences, and ignore long brackets of any other level. They may contain anything except a closing bracket of the proper level.

For convenience, when the opening long bracket is immediately followed by a newline, the newline is not included in the string. As an example, in a system using ASCII (in which 'a' is coded as 97, newline is coded as 10, and '1' is coded as 49), the five literals below denote the same string:

     a = 'alo\n123"'
     a = "alo\n123\""
     a = '\97lo\10\04923"'
     a = [[alo
     a = [==[

A numerical constant may be written with an optional decimal part and an optional decimal exponent. Lua also accepts integer hexadecimal constants, by prefixing them with 0x. Examples of valid numerical constants are

     3   3.0   3.1416   314.16e-2   0.31416E1   0xff   0x56

A comment starts with a double hyphen (--) anywhere outside a string. If the text immediately after -- is not an opening long bracket, the comment is a short comment, which runs until the end of the line. Otherwise, it is a long comment, which runs until the corresponding closing long bracket. Long comments are frequently used to disable code temporarily.

2.2 - Values and Types

Lua is a dynamically typed language. This means that variables do not have types; only values do. There are no type definitions in the language. All values carry their own type.

All values in Lua are first-class values. This means that all values can be stored in variables, passed as arguments to other functions, and returned as results.

There are eight basic types in Lua: nil, boolean, number, string, function, userdata, thread, and table. Nil is the type of the value nil, whose main property is to be different from any other value; it usually represents the absence of a useful value. Boolean is the type of the values false and true. Both nil and false make a condition false; any other value makes it true. Number represents real (double-precision floating-point) numbers. (It is easy to build Lua interpreters that use other internal representations for numbers, such as single-precision float or long integers; see file luaconf.h.) String represents arrays of characters. Lua is 8-bit clean: strings may contain any 8-bit character, including embedded zeros ('\0') (see 2.1).

Lua can call (and manipulate) functions written in Lua and functions written in C (see 2.5.8).

The type userdata is provided to allow arbitrary C data to be stored in Lua variables. This type corresponds to a block of raw memory and has no pre-defined operations in Lua, except assignment and identity test. However, by using metatables, the programmer can define operations for userdata values (see 2.8). Userdata values cannot be created or modified in Lua, only through the C API. This guarantees the integrity of data owned by the host program.

The type thread represents independent threads of execution and it is used to implement coroutines (see 2.11). Do not confuse Lua threads with operating-system threads. Lua supports coroutines on all systems, even those that do not support threads.

The type table implements associative arrays, that is, arrays that can be indexed not only with numbers, but with any value (except nil). Tables can be heterogeneous; that is, they can contain values of all types (except nil). Tables are the sole data structuring mechanism in Lua; they may be used to represent ordinary arrays, symbol tables, sets, records, graphs, trees, etc. To represent records, Lua uses the field name as an index. The language supports this representation by providing as syntactic sugar for a["name"]. There are several convenient ways to create tables in Lua (see 2.5.7).

Like indices, the value of a table field can be of any type (except nil). In particular, because functions are first-class values, table fields may contain functions. Thus tables may also carry methods (see 2.5.9).

Tables, functions, threads, and (full) userdata values are objects: variables do not actually contain these values, only references to them. Assignment, parameter passing, and function returns always manipulate references to such values; these operations do not imply any kind of copy.

The library function type returns a string describing the type of a given value.

2.2.1 - Coercion

Lua provides automatic conversion between string and number values at run time. Any arithmetic operation applied to a string tries to convert this string to a number, following the usual conversion rules. Conversely, whenever a number is used where a string is expected, the number is converted to a string, in a reasonable format. For complete control over how numbers are converted to strings, use the format function from the string library (see string.format).

2.3 - Variables

Variables are places that store values. There are three kinds of variables in Lua: global variables, local variables, and table fields.

A single name can denote a global variable or a local variable (or a function's formal parameter, which is a particular kind of local variable):

	var ::= Name

Name denotes identifiers, as defined in 2.1.

Variables are assumed to be global unless explicitly declared local (see 2.4.7). Local variables are lexically scoped: local variables can be freely accessed by functions defined inside their scope (see 2.6).

Before the first assignment to a variable, its value is nil.

Square brackets are used to index a table:

	var ::= prefixexp `[ exp `]

The meaning of accesses to global variables and table fields can be changed via metatables. An access to an indexed variable t[i] is equivalent to a call gettable_event(t,i). (See 2.8 for a complete description of the gettable_event function. This function is not defined or callable in Lua. We use it here only for explanatory purposes.)

The syntax var.Name is just syntactic sugar for var["Name"]:

	var ::= prefixexp `. Name

All global variables live as fields in ordinary Lua tables, called environment tables or simply environments (see 2.9). Each function has its own reference to an environment, so that all global variables in this function will refer to this environment table. When a function is created, it inherits the environment from the function that created it. To get the environment table of a Lua function, you call getfenv. To replace it, you call setfenv. (You can only manipulate the environment of C functions through the debug library; (see 5.9).)

An access to a global variable x is equivalent to _env.x, which in turn is equivalent to

     gettable_event(_env, "x")

where _env is the environment of the running function. (See 2.8 for a complete description of the gettable_event function. This function is not defined or callable in Lua. Similarly, the _env variable is not defined in Lua. We use them here only for explanatory purposes.)

2.4 - Statements

Lua supports an almost conventional set of statements, similar to those in Pascal or C. This set includes assignment, control structures, function calls, and variable declarations.

2.4.1 - Chunks

The unit of execution of Lua is called a chunk. A chunk is simply a sequence of statements, which are executed sequentially. Each statement can be optionally followed by a semicolon:

	chunk ::= {stat [`;]}

There are no empty statements and thus ';;' is not legal.

Lua handles a chunk as the body of an anonymous function with a variable number of arguments (see 2.5.9). As such, chunks can define local variables, receive arguments, and return values.

A chunk may be stored in a file or in a string inside the host program. When a chunk is executed, first it is pre-compiled into instructions for a virtual machine, and then the compiled code is executed by an interpreter for the virtual machine.

Chunks may also be pre-compiled into binary form; see program luac for details. Programs in source and compiled forms are interchangeable; Lua automatically detects the file type and acts accordingly.

2.4.2 - Blocks

A block is a list of statements; syntactically, a block is the same as a chunk:

	block ::= chunk

A block may be explicitly delimited to produce a single statement:

	stat ::= do block end

Explicit blocks are useful to control the scope of variable declarations. Explicit blocks are also sometimes used to add a return or break statement in the middle of another block (see 2.4.4).

2.4.3 - Assignment

Lua allows multiple assignment. Therefore, the syntax for assignment defines a list of variables on the left side and a list of expressions on the right side. The elements in both lists are separated by commas:

	stat ::= varlist1 `= explist1
	varlist1 ::= var {`, var}
	explist1 ::= exp {`, exp}

Expressions are discussed in 2.5.

Before the assignment, the list of values is adjusted to the length of the list of variables. If there are more values than needed, the excess values are thrown away. If there are fewer values than needed, the list is extended with as many nil's as needed. If the list of expressions ends with a function call, then all values returned by this call enter in the list of values, before the adjustment (except when the call is enclosed in parentheses; see 2.5).

The assignment statement first evaluates all its expressions and only then are the assignments performed. Thus the code

     i = 3
     i, a[i] = i+1, 20

sets a[3] to 20, without affecting a[4] because the i in a[i] is evaluated (to 3) before it is assigned 4. Similarly, the line

     x, y = y, x

exchanges the values of x and y.

The meaning of assignments to global variables and table fields can be changed via metatables. An assignment to an indexed variable t[i] = val is equivalent to settable_event(t,i,val). (See 2.8 for a complete description of the settable_event function. This function is not defined or callable in Lua. We use it here only for explanatory purposes.)

An assignment to a global variable x = val is equivalent to the assignment _env.x = val, which in turn is equivalent to

     settable_event(_env, "x", val)

where _env is the environment of the running function. (The _env variable is not defined in Lua. We use it here only for explanatory purposes.)

2.4.4 - Control Structures

The control structures if, while, and repeat have the usual meaning and familiar syntax:

	stat ::= while exp do block end
	stat ::= repeat block until exp
	stat ::= if exp then block {elseif exp then block} [else block] end

Lua also has a for statement, in two flavors (see 2.4.5).

The condition expression of a control structure may return any value. Both false and nil are considered false. All values different from nil and false are considered true (in particular, the number 0 and the empty string are also true).

In the repeatuntil loop, the inner block does not end at the until keyword, but only after the condition. So, the condition can refer to local variables declared inside the loop block.

The return statement is used to return values from a function or a chunk (which is just a function). Functions and chunks may return more than one value, so the syntax for the return statement is

	stat ::= return [explist1]

The break statement is used to terminate the execution of a while, repeat, or for loop, skipping to the next statement after the loop:

	stat ::= break

A break ends the innermost enclosing loop.

The return and break statements can only be written as the last statement of a block. If it is really necessary to return or break in the middle of a block, then an explicit inner block can be used, as in the idioms do return end and do break end, because now return and break are the last statements in their (inner) blocks.

2.4.5 - For Statement

The for statement has two forms: one numeric and one generic.

The numeric for loop repeats a block of code while a control variable runs through an arithmetic progression. It has the following syntax:

	stat ::= for Name `= exp `, exp [`, exp] do block end

The block is repeated for name starting at the value of the first exp, until it passes the second exp by steps of the third exp. More precisely, a for statement like

     for var = e1, e2, e3 do block end

is equivalent to the code:

       local _var, _limit, _step = tonumber(e1), tonumber(e2), tonumber(e3)
       if not (_var and _limit and _step) then error() end
       while (_step>0 and _var<=_limit) or (_step<=0 and _var>=_limit) do
         local var = _var
         _var = _var + _step

Note the following:

The generic for statement works over functions, called iterators. On each iteration, the iterator function is called to produce a new value, stopping when this new value is nil. The generic for loop has the following syntax:

	stat ::= for namelist in explist1 do block end
	namelist ::= Name {`, Name}

A for statement like

     for var_1, , var_n in explist do block end

is equivalent to the code:

       local _f, _s, _var = explist
       while true do
         local var_1, , var_n = _f(_s, _var)
         _var = var_1
         if _var == nil then break end

Note the following:

2.4.6 - Function Calls as Statements

To allow possible side-effects, function calls can be executed as statements:

	stat ::= functioncall

In this case, all returned values are thrown away. Function calls are explained in 2.5.8.

2.4.7 - Local Declarations

Local variables may be declared anywhere inside a block. The declaration may include an initial assignment:

	stat ::= local namelist [`= explist1]

If present, an initial assignment has the same semantics of a multiple assignment (see 2.4.3). Otherwise, all variables are initialized with nil.

A chunk is also a block (see 2.4.1), and so local variables can be declared in a chunk outside any explicit block. The scope of such local variables extends until the end of the chunk.

The visibility rules for local variables are explained in 2.6.

2.5 - Expressions

The basic expressions in Lua are the following:

	exp ::= prefixexp
	exp ::= nil | false | true
	exp ::= Number
	exp ::= String
	exp ::= function
	exp ::= tableconstructor
	exp ::= `...
	exp ::= exp binop exp
	exp ::= unop exp
	prefixexp ::= var | functioncall | `( exp `)

Numbers and literal strings are explained in 2.1; variables are explained in 2.3; function definitions are explained in 2.5.9; function calls are explained in 2.5.8; table constructors are explained in 2.5.7. Vararg expressions, denoted by three dots ('...'), can only be used inside vararg functions; they are explained in 2.5.9.

Binary operators comprise arithmetic operators (see 2.5.1), relational operators (see 2.5.2), logical operators (see 2.5.3), and the concatenation operator (see 2.5.4). Unary operators comprise the unary minus (see 2.5.1), the unary not (see 2.5.3), and the unary length operator (see 2.5.5).

Both function calls and vararg expressions may result in multiple values. If the expression is used as a statement (see 2.4.6) (only possible for function calls), then its return list is adjusted to zero elements, thus discarding all returned values. If the expression is used inside another expression or in the middle of a list of expressions, then its result list is adjusted to one element, thus discarding all values except the first one. If the expression is used as the last element of a list of expressions, then no adjustment is made, unless the call is enclosed in parentheses.

Here are some examples:

     f()                -- adjusted to 0 results
     g(f(), x)          -- f() is adjusted to 1 result
     g(x, f())          -- g gets x plus all values returned by f()
     a,b,c = f(), x     -- f() is adjusted to 1 result (c gets nil)
     a,b = ...          -- a gets the first vararg parameter, b gets
                        -- the second (both a and b may get nil if there is
                        -- no corresponding vararg parameter)
     a,b,c = x, f()     -- f() is adjusted to 2 results
     a,b,c = f()        -- f() is adjusted to 3 results
     return f()         -- returns all values returned by f()
     return ...         -- returns all received vararg parameters
     return x,y,f()     -- returns x, y, and all values returned by f()
     {f()}              -- creates a list with all values returned by f()
     {...}              -- creates a list with all vararg parameters
     {f(), nil}         -- f() is adjusted to 1 result

An expression enclosed in parentheses always results in only one value. Thus, (f(x,y,z)) is always a single value, even if f returns several values. (The value of (f(x,y,z)) is the first value returned by f or nil if f does not return any values.)

2.5.1 - Arithmetic Operators

Lua supports the usual arithmetic operators: the binary + (addition), - (subtraction), * (multiplication), / (division), % (modulo), and ^ (exponentiation); and unary - (negation). If the operands are numbers, or strings that can be converted to numbers (see 2.2.1), then all operations have the usual meaning. Exponentiation works for any exponent. For instance, x^(-0.5) computes the inverse of the square root of x. Modulo is defined as

     a % b == a - math.floor(a/b)*b

That is, it is the remainder of a division that rounds the quotient towards minus infinity.

2.5.2 - Relational Operators

The relational operators in Lua are

     ==    ~=    <     >     <=    >=

These operators always result in false or true.

Equality (==) first compares the type of its operands. If the types are different, then the result is false. Otherwise, the values of the operands are compared. Numbers and strings are compared in the usual way. Objects (tables, userdata, threads, and functions) are compared by reference: two objects are considered equal only if they are the same object. Every time you create a new object (a table, userdata, thread, or function), this new object is different from any previously existing object.

You can change the way that Lua compares tables and userdata by using the "eq" metamethod (see 2.8).

The conversion rules of 2.2.1 do not apply to equality comparisons. Thus, "0"==0 evaluates to false, and t[0] and t["0"] denote different entries in a table.

The operator ~= is exactly the negation of equality (==).

The order operators work as follows. If both arguments are numbers, then they are compared as such. Otherwise, if both arguments are strings, then their values are compared according to the current locale. Otherwise, Lua tries to call the "lt" or the "le" metamethod (see 2.8).

2.5.3 - Logical Operators

The logical operators in Lua are and, or, and not. Like the control structures (see 2.4.4), all logical operators consider both false and nil as false and anything else as true.

The negation operator not always returns false or true. The conjunction operator and returns its first argument if this value is false or nil; otherwise, and returns its second argument. The disjunction operator or returns its first argument if this value is different from nil and false; otherwise, or returns its second argument. Both and and or use short-cut evaluation; that is, the second operand is evaluated only if necessary. Here are some examples:

     10 or 20            --> 10
     10 or error()       --> 10
     nil or "a"          --> "a"
     nil and 10          --> nil
     false and error()   --> false
     false and nil       --> false
     false or nil        --> nil
     10 and 20           --> 20

(In this manual, --> indicates the result of the preceding expression.)

2.5.4 - Concatenation

The string concatenation operator in Lua is denoted by two dots ('..'). If both operands are strings or numbers, then they are converted to strings according to the rules mentioned in 2.2.1. Otherwise, the "concat" metamethod is called (see 2.8).

2.5.5 - The Length Operator

The length operator is denoted by the unary operator #. The length of a string is its number of bytes (that is, the usual meaning of string length when each character is one byte).

The length of a table t is defined to be any integer index n such that t[n] is not nil and t[n+1] is nil; moreover, if t[1] is nil, n may be zero. For a regular array, with non-nil values from 1 to a given n, its length is exactly that n, the index of its last value. If the array has "holes" (that is, nil values between other non-nil values), then #t may be any of the indices that directly precedes a nil value (that is, it may consider any such nil value as the end of the array).

2.5.6 - Precedence

Operator precedence in Lua follows the table below, from lower to higher priority:

     <     >     <=    >=    ~=    ==
     +     -
     *     /     %
     not   #     - (unary)

As usual, you can use parentheses to change the precedences of an expression. The concatenation ('..') and exponentiation ('^') operators are right associative. All other binary operators are left associative.

2.5.7 - Table Constructors

Table constructors are expressions that create tables. Every time a constructor is evaluated, a new table is created. Constructors can be used to create empty tables, or to create a table and initialize some of its fields. The general syntax for constructors is

	tableconstructor ::= `{ [fieldlist] `}
	fieldlist ::= field {fieldsep field} [fieldsep]
	field ::= `[ exp `] `= exp | Name `= exp | exp
	fieldsep ::= `, | `;

Each field of the form [exp1] = exp2 adds to the new table an entry with key exp1 and value exp2. A field of the form name = exp is equivalent to ["name"] = exp. Finally, fields of the form exp are equivalent to [i] = exp, where i are consecutive numerical integers, starting with 1. Fields in the other formats do not affect this counting. For example,

     a = { [f(1)] = g; "x", "y"; x = 1, f(x), [30] = 23; 45 }

is equivalent to

       local t = {}
       t[f(1)] = g
       t[1] = "x"         -- 1st exp
       t[2] = "y"         -- 2nd exp
       t.x = 1            -- t["x"] = 1
       t[3] = f(x)        -- 3rd exp
       t[30] = 23
       t[4] = 45          -- 4th exp
       a = t

If the last field in the list has the form exp and the expression is a function call or a vararg expression, then all values returned by this expression enter the list consecutively (see 2.5.8). To avoid this, enclose the function call (or the vararg expression) in parentheses (see 2.5).

The field list may have an optional trailing separator, as a convenience for machine-generated code.

2.5.8 - Function Calls

A function call in Lua has the following syntax:

	functioncall ::= prefixexp args

In a function call, first prefixexp and args are evaluated. If the value of prefixexp has type function, then this function is called with the given arguments. Otherwise, the prefixexp "call" metamethod is called, having as first parameter the value of prefixexp, followed by the original call arguments (see 2.8).

The form

	functioncall ::= prefixexp `: Name args

can be used to call "methods". A call v:name(args) is syntactic sugar for,args), except that v is evaluated only once.

Arguments have the following syntax:

	args ::= `( [explist1] `)
	args ::= tableconstructor
	args ::= String

All argument expressions are evaluated before the call. A call of the form f{fields} is syntactic sugar for f({fields}); that is, the argument list is a single new table. A call of the form f'string' (or f"string" or f[[string]]) is syntactic sugar for f('string'); that is, the argument list is a single literal string.

As an exception to the free-format syntax of Lua, you cannot put a line break before the '(' in a function call. This restriction avoids some ambiguities in the language. If you write

     a = f

Lua would see that as a single statement, a = f(g).x(a). So, if you want two statements, you must add a semi-colon between them. If you actually want to call f, you must remove the line break before (g).

A call of the form return functioncall is called a tail call. Lua implements proper tail calls (or proper tail recursion): in a tail call, the called function reuses the stack entry of the calling function. Therefore, there is no limit on the number of nested tail calls that a program can execute. However, a tail call erases any debug information about the calling function. Note that a tail call only happens with a particular syntax, where the return has one single function call as argument; this syntax makes the calling function return exactly the returns of the called function. So, none of the following examples are tail calls:

     return (f(x))        -- results adjusted to 1
     return 2 * f(x)
     return x, f(x)       -- additional results
     f(x); return         -- results discarded
     return x or f(x)     -- results adjusted to 1

2.5.9 - Function Definitions

The syntax for function definition is

	function ::= function funcbody
	funcbody ::= `( [parlist1] `) block end

The following syntactic sugar simplifies function definitions:

	stat ::= function funcname funcbody
	stat ::= local function Name funcbody
	funcname ::= Name {`. Name} [`: Name]

The statement

     function f () body end

translates to

     f = function () body end

The statement

     function t.a.b.c.f () body end

translates to

     t.a.b.c.f = function () body end

The statement

     local function f () body end

translates to

     local f; f = function () body end

not to

     local f = function () body end

(This only makes a difference when the body of the function contains references to f.)

A function definition is an executable expression, whose value has type function. When Lua pre-compiles a chunk, all its function bodies are pre-compiled too. Then, whenever Lua executes the function definition, the function is instantiated (or closed). This function instance (or closure) is the final value of the expression. Different instances of the same function may refer to different external local variables and may have different environment tables.

Parameters act as local variables that are initialized with the argument values:

	parlist1 ::= namelist [`, `...] | `...

When a function is called, the list of arguments is adjusted to the length of the list of parameters, unless the function is a variadic or vararg function, which is indicated by three dots ('...') at the end of its parameter list. A vararg function does not adjust its argument list; instead, it collects all extra arguments and supplies them to the function through a vararg expression, which is also written as three dots. The value of this expression is a list of all actual extra arguments, similar to a function with multiple results. If a vararg expression is used inside another expression or in the middle of a list of expressions, then its return list is adjusted to one element. If the expression is used as the last element of a list of expressions, then no adjustment is made (unless the call is enclosed in parentheses).

As an example, consider the following definitions:

     function f(a, b) end
     function g(a, b, ...) end
     function r() return 1,2,3 end

Then, we have the following mapping from arguments to parameters and to the vararg expression:

     CALL            PARAMETERS
     f(3)             a=3, b=nil
     f(3, 4)          a=3, b=4
     f(3, 4, 5)       a=3, b=4
     f(r(), 10)       a=1, b=10
     f(r())           a=1, b=2
     g(3)             a=3, b=nil, ... -->  (nothing)
     g(3, 4)          a=3, b=4,   ... -->  (nothing)
     g(3, 4, 5, 8)    a=3, b=4,   ... -->  5  8
     g(5, r())        a=5, b=1,   ... -->  2  3

Results are returned using the return statement (see 2.4.4). If control reaches the end of a function without encountering a return statement, then the function returns with no results.

The colon syntax is used for defining methods, that is, functions that have an implicit extra parameter self. Thus, the statement

     function t.a.b.c:f (params) body end

is syntactic sugar for

     t.a.b.c.f = function (self, params) body end

2.6 - Visibility Rules

Lua is a lexically scoped language. The scope of variables begins at the first statement after their declaration and lasts until the end of the innermost block that includes the declaration. Consider the following example:

     x = 10                -- global variable
     do                    -- new block
       local x = x         -- new 'x', with value 10
       print(x)            --> 10
       x = x+1
       do                  -- another block
         local x = x+1     -- another 'x'
         print(x)          --> 12
       print(x)            --> 11
     print(x)              --> 10  (the global one)

Notice that, in a declaration like local x = x, the new x being declared is not in scope yet, and so the second x refers to the outside variable.

Because of the lexical scoping rules, local variables can be freely accessed by functions defined inside their scope. A local variable used by an inner function is called an upvalue, or external local variable, inside the inner function.

Notice that each execution of a local statement defines new local variables. Consider the following example:

     a = {}
     local x = 20
     for i=1,10 do
       local y = 0
       a[i] = function () y=y+1; return x+y end

The loop creates ten closures (that is, ten instances of the anonymous function). Each of these closures uses a different y variable, while all of them share the same x.


Part II - The Lua API


5 - Standard Libraries

The standard Lua libraries provide useful functions that are implemented directly through the C API.

5.1 - Mathematical Functions

This library is an interface to the standard C math library. It provides all its functions inside the table math.


math.abs (x)

Returns the absolute value of x.


math.acos (x)

Returns the arc cosine of x (in radians).


math.asin (x)

Returns the arc sine of x (in radians).


math.atan (x)

Returns the arc tangent of x (in radians).


math.atan2 (x, y)

Returns the arc tangent of x/y (in radians), but uses the signs of both parameters to find the quadrant of the result. (It also handles correctly the case of y being zero.)


math.ceil (x)

Returns the smallest integer larger than or equal to x.


math.cos (x)

Returns the cosine of x (assumed to be in radians).


math.cosh (x)

Returns the hyperbolic cosine of x.


math.deg (x)

Returns the angle x (given in radians) in degrees.


math.exp (x)

Returns the the value ex.


math.floor (x)

Returns the largest integer smaller than or equal to x.


math.fmod (x, y)

Returns the remainder of the division of x by y.


math.frexp (x)

Returns m and e such that x = m2e, e is an integer and the absolute value of m is in the range [0.5, 1) (or zero when x is zero).



The value HUGE_VAL, a value larger than or equal to any other numerical value.


math.ldexp (m, e)

Returns m2e (e should be an integer).


math.log (x)

Returns the natural logarithm of x.


math.log10 (x)

Returns the base-10 logarithm of x.


math.max (x, )

Returns the maximum value among its arguments.


math.min (x, )

Returns the minimum value among its arguments.


math.modf (x)

Returns two numbers, the integral part of x and the fractional part of x.



The value PI.


math.pow (x, y)

Returns xy. (You can also use the expression x^y to compute this value.)


math.rad (x)

Returns the angle x (given in degrees) in radians.


math.random ()

This function is an interface to the simple pseudo-random generator function rand provided by ANSI C. (No guarantees can be given for its statistical properties.)

Returns a pseudo-random real number in the range [0,1].


math.sin (x)

Returns the sine of x (assumed to be in radians).


math.sinh (x)

Returns the hyperbolic sine of x.


math.sqrt (x)

Returns the square root of x. (You can also use the expression x^0.5 to compute this value.)


math.tan (x)

Returns the tangent of x (assumed to be in radians).


math.tanh (x)

Returns the hyperbolic tangent of x.


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