This first edition was written for Lua 5.0. While still largely relevant for later versions, there are some differences.
The third edition targets Lua 5.2 and is available at Amazon and other bookstores.
By buying the book, you also help to support the Lua project.


2 – Types and Values

Lua is a dynamically typed language. There are no type definitions in the language; each value carries its own type.

There are eight basic types in Lua: nil, boolean, number, string, userdata, function, thread, and table. The type function gives the type name of a given value:

    print(type("Hello world"))  --> string
    print(type(10.4*3))         --> number
    print(type(print))          --> function
    print(type(type))           --> function
    print(type(true))           --> boolean
    print(type(nil))            --> nil
    print(type(type(X)))        --> string
The last example will result in "string" no matter the value of X, because the result of type is always a string.

Variables have no predefined types; any variable may contain values of any type:

    print(type(a))   --> nil   (`a' is not initialized)
    a = 10
    print(type(a))   --> number
    a = "a string!!"
    print(type(a))   --> string
    a = print        -- yes, this is valid!
    a(type(a))       --> function
Notice the last two lines: Functions are first-class values in Lua; so, we can manipulate them like any other value. (More about that in Chapter 6.)

Usually, when you use a single variable for different types, the result is messy code. However, sometimes the judicious use of this facility is helpful, for instance in the use of nil to differentiate a normal return value from an exceptional condition.