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How to Learn Lua

Karen Schwarze - November 13, 2022

Lua is a scripting language commonly used in game development because it allows you to make changes to a program without affecting its infrastructure. The language is known for its fast execution and short learning curve. If you are wondering how to learn Lua, you have come to the right place.

This article will list all the best courses, books, and online resources that can help you learn how to code Lua quickly. If you are interested in working in game development or making changes to web pages, you should seriously consider learning Lua.

What Is Lua?

Lua is a scripting language designed primarily for embedded use in applications and not meant to be used as a stand-alone language. Lua was designed in 1993 as a language for extending software applications to meet the increasing demand for customization at the time.

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A scripting language like Lua, Python, or JavaScript can automate the execution of common tasks. Lua is cross-platform, which means that it can run on Windows, Mac, Linux, and iOS/Android operating systems.

Lua script is often used for making games with the Love 2D Game Engine. Lua is used in popular games such as Roblox, World of Warcraft, Angry Birds, and Civilization. Lua has also been widely used by editors to make changes to Wikipedia pages.

What Is Lua Used for?

Lua is used for game development. For example, in World of Warcraft, you can use Lua to customize the game’s interface. Lua is also used in conjunction with game engines such as Love 2D and Corona. Outside of game development, Lua is used in the Apache HTTP Server, Celestia, MySQL Workbench, Torch, and many other cases where an embeddable scripting language is needed

In 2013, Wikipedia announced that anyone can use Lua to build material on Wikipedia, Wikiquote, and Wiktionary. It created Scribunto, a MediaWiki extension to allow editors to embed Lua scripts to use with their templates. Templates include common elements like the infoboxes on many Wikipedia pages that include biographical information about a page’s subject

Lua is lighter and smaller than other scripting languages like Python, which makes Lua attractive to developers. Being “light” and “small” refers to how much memory something takes up in your application. Generally, Lua adds less than 100 kilobytes to your application. Rather than working as a stand-alone language, Lua can be embedded into applications.

How Long Does It Take to Learn Lua?

It takes two to three days to learn the basics of Lua, and three to four weeks to know enough to use it professionally. Lua’s syntax is simple and fairly easy to learn. Lua is “strongly typed”, which means that it is consistent and predictable. How long it takes to learn Lua will also depend on your learning method and level of previous experience with programming.

Lua has its own libraries (a library is a collection of pre-built code), and you can extend Lua with libraries from other languages, such as C. This makes it easier for beginners to start using Lua in practical scenarios.

How to Learn Lua: Step-by-Step

A man learning how to code on his own on a computer.
Before diving in to learn Lua, research the programming language to better understand its use.

Below, we will provide some of the best courses, books, and online resources available to anyone interested in learning Lua coding. There are different approaches you can take when learning any new technology. Before you get started, here are some steps we recommend if you are wondering how to learn Lua:

  1. Discover how Lua is used . Research some of the companies and industries where Lua is used, such as game development. This can give you an idea of whether it is the right language for your needs.
  2. Read about Lua. There are books available to help you learn this scripting language, such as the free Programming in Lua , written by Lua’s creators. This book is available on the official Lua website, and is a great place to start if you want to learn to code Lua.
  3. Try out the Lua Demo . Before you decide whether you want to install Lua on your computer, you can see what the syntax looks like with the free demo.
  4. Install Lua. When you’re ready to download Lua on your computer, you can do so on the official Lua website. You can use an IDE (integrated development environment) such as ZeroBrane Studio to code with Lua.
  5. Practice your skills. Check out free tutorials such as “Getting Started with Lua” from Game Dev Geek. Tutorials provide step-by-step instructions to help you learn Lua basics.
  6. Get involved in the Lua community . On the official Lua website, you can learn about the Lua community’s Discord room, forum, and StackOverflow tag. As you learn how to code Lua, you will inevitably come across roadblocks. These resources are a great place to ask questions and get advice.

Lua Courses

Lua courses can help you understand this programming language through lectures, hands-on exercises, and projects. Most Lua classes are self-paced and more comprehensive and structured than a short online Lua tutorial.

Intro to Programming in Lua | Class Central

Cost: free

If you are wondering where to learn Lua for free, this class is a great option. This short self-paced course includes a collection of YouTube videos that cover everything from how to install Lua on your computer to intermediate topics. You can complete the course in under three hours.

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CS50’s Introduction to Game Development | edX and Harvard University

Cost: free

This 12-week course covers a wide range of skills you will need to create 2D and 3D games. Unlike most Lua coding classes, it is recommended that you have some basic coding experience before enrolling. Through a mix of hands-on projects and lectures, you’ll practice using essential technologies like Lua and C#.

Udemy: Lua Programming and Game Development with LOVE | Udemy

Cost: $49.99

In this beginner-friendly course, you will learn how to use Lua to develop games with the Love 2D Game Engine. You’ll understand Lua programming concepts such as variables, for loops, and functions, and create three games: Shooting Gallery, Top-Down Shooter, and Platformer.

This Lua class also includes lessons on mobile game development, covering topics like adapting your games to screen size and publishing your game app. This course includes 8.5 hours of video content, two articles, and a certificate of completion.

Lua Scripting – Master Complete Lua Programming from Scratch | Udemy

Cost: $84.99

To get started with this Lua course, all you need to know is how to work with files and the basics of how to work with your command line. You’ll be guided through installing Lua, embedding Lua within the C programming language, and using Lua with Roblox Studio. You will get 14 hours of video content, 19 articles, and 20 downloadable resources.

Complete Roblox Lua – Start Making Games with Roblox Studio | Udemy

Cost: $19.99

With this course, you will learn the basics of the Lua programming language, the basics of Roblox game development, and how to create and publish your own games. Even if you’re completely new to programming, you will still be able to understand all of the content. Course content includes eight hours of on-demand video, six articles, six downloadable resources, and a certificate of completion.

Lua Books

Books can be a great resource as you are learning how to code in Lua because they are extremely comprehensive and you can always refer back to the text when questions or problems come up. Check out these books to learn Lua.

Programming in Lua, Roberto Ierusalimschy

This is one of the best Lua books because it was written by Lua creator Roberto Ierusalimschy and the first edition is available online for free. You’ll get a detailed introduction to how to get started with Lua, along with knowledge of programming concepts like types and variables, expressions, statements, and functions. This book also dives into how to use the standard Lua libraries and using Lua with C.

Lua Quick Start Guide, Gabor Szauer

You won’t go wrong with this beginner-friendly Lua book. Learn how to use the Lua standard libraries, debug Lua code, and embed Lua into applications. This book will teach you how to write Lua code that can interact with an operating system, automate tasks, and make games. Further, you’ll understand concepts like how to manipulate string data with Lua and how to use tables (a data structure in Lua).

Beginning Lua with World of Warcraft Add-ons, Paul Emmerich

World of Warcraft is a popular video game. With Lua and XML (a markup language similar to HTML), you can learn how to build modifications to transform your Warcraft experience. This book features exciting code examples that you can run right away.

With additional information about Lua concepts like debugging, error handling, and tables, this is a fantastic option for you if you’re new to Lua and interested in how to use it in Warcraft.

Online Lua Resources

Online resources and tutorials are a great way to practice your new Lua skills and discover new techniques without having to pay any tuition fees. Here are our top picks for great resources to help you learn Lua.

Lua Official Website

The website offers a variety of resources to help you learn this programming language. These resources include a Getting Started guide, Live Demo, and tips and tools for learning Lua. Plus, there are press releases so you can learn about the history and applications of Lua.

TutorialsPoint Lua Tutorial

This free tutorial is a great option for getting started with Lua. While this is a tutorial for beginners, you will get the most from this course if you have a basic understanding of working with a code editor and command line.

You’ll learn how to set up your coding environment, how to use basic Lua syntax, and debugging strategies. The tutorial also covers how to use Lua for game development and features of Lua libraries.

Love 2D Game Engine

Love 2D is a framework for making 2D games with Lua. Love 2D is a free, open-source framework that you can download for Windows, MacOS, or Linux. There’s a Wiki, Forum, community links, Lua code examples, and documentation available to help new coders learn Lua.

Is Lua a Good Language to Learn?

Yes, Lua is a good language to learn if you want to be a game developer. Lua can also be used as a scripting language in other applications. Lua has powered projects such as Wikipedia and Adobe Lightroom, and you can master the basics in just a few days of practice. There are many affordable and free resources available to anyone wondering how to learn Lua.

Lua’s lightweight and embeddable structure has earned it a place in tech stacks at companies like Dailymotion and Venmo. Paired with other programming languages like C++, C#, Java, and Python, Lua can help you transition into a career as a game developer.

How to Learn Lua FAQ

Is Lua hard to learn?

No, Lua is not hard to learn, especially if you have some previous knowledge of programming. Lua is easy to learn because it is simple to debug, easy to maintain, and has a syntax similar to the English language.

How can you learn Lua for Roblox?

You can learn Lua for Roblox by enrolling in online classes or using online tutorials. Massive open online course providers like Udemy offer short and affordable classes designed to help newcomers learn how to code Lua for Roblox.

Can you learn Lua for free?

Yes, you can learn Lua for free using tutorials on YouTube, by enrolling in free online courses, or by reading free Lua books. For example, the official Lua website includes several resources aimed at helping newcomers learn for free.

What are loops used for in Lua?

In Lua, loops are used to allow the coder to execute a statement or a collection of statements multiple times. Loops are a control structure and a very common feature in all programming languages.

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Karen Schwarze

About the author: A former educator and edtech marketer, Karen is passionate about computer science education. She’s particularly fascinated by the connections between coding languages and English language/literature structures. This led her to build an edtech app where users create Python programs by manipulating literary devices like similes and metaphors. When she’s not writing, Karen enjoys watching comedy and reading books about history.

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