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- Subject: Re: What makes Lua tick?
- From: Miles Bader <miles@...>
- Date: Mon, 09 Apr 2012 17:03:27 +0900
Emeka <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes:
> Hello All,
> I am a student at Nathan University, and I chose Lua as my language of
> interest. I would like to know what really make this language unique? What
> did it bring to the table of programming languages? Special features.
> Regards, \Emeka
> *Satajanus Nig. Ltd
Here's an answer I wrote on stackoverflow that gives some of the
reasons I like Lua (the actual question was "Lua vs. lisp", so the
answer is focused towards that).
1. Is very small, both source and binary, an order of magnitude or
more smaller than many more popular languages (Python etc). Because
the Lua source code is so small and simple, it's perfectly
reasonable to just include the entire Lua implementation in your
source tree, if you want to avoid adding an external dependency.
2. Is very fast. The Lua interpreter is much faster than most
scripting languages (again, an order of magnitude is not uncommon),
and LuaJIT2 is a very good JIT compiler for some popular CPU
architectures (x86, ppc). Using LuaJIT can often speed things up by
another order of magnitude, and in many cases, the result
approaches the speed of C. LuaJIT is also a "drop-in" replacement
for standard Lua: no application or user code changes are required
to use it.
3. Has LPEG. LPEG is a "Parsing Expression Grammar" library for Lua,
which allows very easy, powerful, and fast parsing, suitable for
both large and small tasks; it's a great replacement for
yacc/lex/hairy-regexps. [I wrote a parser using LPEG and LuaJIT,
which is much faster than the yacc/lex parser I was trying emulate,
and was very easy and straight-forward to create.] LPEG is an
add-on package for Lua, but is well-worth getting (it's one source
4. Has a great C-interface, which makes it a pleasure to call Lua from
C, or call C from Lua. For interfacing large/complex C++ libraries,
one can use SWIG, or any one of a number of interface generators
(one can also just use Lua's simple C interface with C++ of
5. Has liberal licensing ("BSD-like"), which means Lua can be embedded
in proprietary projects if you wish, and is GPL-compatible for FOSS
6. Is very, very elegant. It's not lisp, in that it's not based around
cons-cells, but it shows clear influences from languages like
scheme, with a straight-forward and attractive syntax. Like scheme
(at least in it's earlier incarnations), it tends towards "minimal"
but does a good job of balancing that with usability. For somebody
with a lisp background (like me!), a lot about Lua will seem
familiar, and "make sense", despite the differences.
7. Has a simple, attractive, and approachable syntax. This might not
be such an advantage over lisp for existing lisp users, but might
be relevant if you intend to have end-users write scripts.
8. Has a long history, and responsible and professional developers,
who have shown good judgment in how they've evolved the language
over the last 2 decades.
9. Has a vibrant and friendly user-community.
Youth, n. The Period of Possibility, when Archimedes finds a fulcrum,
Cassandra has a following and seven cities compete for the honor of endowing a