This first edition was written for Lua 5.0. While still largely relevant for later versions, there are some differences.
The fourth edition targets Lua 5.3 and is available at Amazon and other bookstores.
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14 – The Environment

Lua keeps all its global variables in a regular table, called the environment. (To be more precise, Lua keeps its "global" variables in several environments, but we will ignore this multiplicity for a while.) One advantage of this structure is that it simplifies the internal implementation of Lua, because there is no need for a different data structure for global variables. The other (actually the main) advantage is that we can manipulate this table as any other table. To facilitate such manipulations, Lua stores the environment itself in a global variable _G. (Yes, _G._G is equal to _G.) For instance, the following code prints the names of all global variables defined in the current environment:

    for n in pairs(_G) do print(n) end

In this chapter, we will see several useful techniques to manipulate the environment.