Building Lua In Windows For Newbies

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Introduction

This is a step-by-step tutorial to get up and running with Lua on Microsoft Windows systems by downloading and compiling the sources using only free tools or tools already present on any Windows installation. Very little programming experience is required from the user. This tutorial may also be of some interest to expert Linux users having little knowledge of Windows platforms.

If you are an experienced programmer and find this tutorial too easy or limited, please consult the page BuildingLua, which is far more technical and detailed.


Overview and Prerequisites

Assumptions about the reader:

Many of the assumptions above are not strict requirements, because in the following some procedures will be explained in detail, but the reader should not expect too much hand-holding on such subjects.

The tutorial is organized in sequential steps that can be outlined as follows:

Important Note: we recommend that you read this page in its entirety before actually beginning with the procedure. Make sure to have understood everything in advance: this could save you some time and troubles later. This procedure is rather foolproof (we hope), but you never know! ;-)

Note: the procedure has been tested, using an account with administrative privileges, on an x86 32 bit machine running Windows XP professional with Service Pack 3 (SP3) installed (Intel Mobile Core 2 Duo T7500 - 2GB RAM). The compiler used is TDM GCC 4.9.2 (32 bit version).

Note: as time goes by some of the links here contained could well become outdated. That's why below we give not only the direct links to packages but also the link to the main pages for the applications involved. This should allow the motivated reader to adapt to the obvious changes (e.g. compensate for future version numbers in the links) browsing the websites by himself, should this page not be updated.


Step by Step Tutorial

Step 1: Download the Compiler (TDM-GCC)

We will use the Windows port of the open source GCC compiler by TDM. The download page is found at [2], while the following is the direct link for the package we need: [3]. Click on the previous link, follow the instructions and wait for the download to complete. The downloaded file should be tdm-gcc-4.9.2.exe. It is a ~30MB download, so be sure to have a fast enough Internet connection.

To avoid possible problems, make sure that the downloaded package lies in a directory (folder) whose complete path doesn't contain spaces. If this is not the case, copy or move it in a directory which meets this requirement. All the packages that we'll download should end up in this directory (we will use it as a temporary working directory for the whole tutorial).

For the purpose of this tutorial we will assume you created the following folder as a working directory:

        C:\gcc-lua-install

Copy (or move) the installation package you just downloaded in the working directory, if you didn't download it there in the first place. Now our working directory should have the following content:

        C:\gcc-lua-install\tdm-gcc-4.9.2.exe

Step 2: Download Lua Sources

Lua sources download page is [4]. This is the direct dowload link to the latest version at the time of this writing: [5]. Click on the previous link, follow the instructions and wait for the download to complete. Make sure that the file you download lies in the C:\gcc-lua-install directory (or copy/move it there after the download - we won't restate this).

Now we have two files in our working directory:

        C:\gcc-lua-install\tdm-gcc-4.9.2.exe
        C:\gcc-lua-install\lua-5.3.0.tar.gz

Step 3: Download a Decompressor (7-Zip) for Lua Sources

Lua sources are packaged in an archive format very common on Linux platforms, but which is unusual on Windows: the TAR-GZ format, as hinted by the .tar.gz double extension of the file. Windows OSes cannot decompress this format natively, so we need a program that can do that. A very good and versatile free compression/decompression program for Windows that can handle TAR-GZ files (and many other compressed formats) is [7-zip].

Since we want to keep the process as simple as possible we won't use the original 7-zip installation package, because this latter modifies the system when it is installed. Instead we will use an alternative "distribution" packaged by [PortableApps.com] and available from the page: [6]. Click on the download link, follow the instructions and wait for the download to complete. Make sure that also this file lies in our working directory.

Now we have three files in our working directory:

        C:\gcc-lua-install\tdm-gcc-4.9.2.exe
        C:\gcc-lua-install\lua-5.3.0.tar.gz
        C:\gcc-lua-install\7-ZipPortable_9.20_Rev_3.paf.exe

Step 4: Install the Compiler

Now browse with Windows Explorer, Windows' graphical file manager (this is NOT Internet Explorer!), into our working directory and execute the compiler's installer by double-clicking on tdm-gcc-4.9.2.exe. A dialog should appear.

The current content of our working directory now should be:

        C:\gcc-lua-install\tdm-gcc-4.9.2.exe
        C:\gcc-lua-install\lua-5.3.0.tar.gz
        C:\gcc-lua-install\7-ZipPortable_9.20_Rev_3.paf.exe
        C:\gcc-lua-install\tdm-gcc

with the last item being the subdirectory where the compiler is now installed (note that in Windows Explorer these items will probably be displayed in a different order).

Step 5: Install the Decompressor

Now run the 7-zip portable installer by double-clicking on the file 7-ZipPortable_9.20_Rev_2.paf.exe inside our working directory. A dialog should appear.

The current content of our working directory now should be:

        C:\gcc-lua-install\tdm-gcc-4.9.2.exe
        C:\gcc-lua-install\lua-5.3.0.tar.gz
        C:\gcc-lua-install\7-ZipPortable_9.20_Rev_3.paf.exe
        C:\gcc-lua-install\tdm-gcc
        C:\gcc-lua-install\7zip

with the last item being the subdirectory where 7-zip is now installed.

Step 6: Unpack Lua Sources using 7-Zip

Now browse into our working directory and check it: a new subdirectory named lua-5.3.0 should be present.

The current content of our working directory now should be:

        C:\gcc-lua-install\tdm-gcc-4.9.2.exe
        C:\gcc-lua-install\lua-5.3.0.tar.gz
        C:\gcc-lua-install\7-ZipPortable_9.20_Rev_3.paf.exe
        C:\gcc-lua-install\tdm-gcc
        C:\gcc-lua-install\7zip
        C:\gcc-lua-install\lua-5.3.0

with the last item being the subdirectory where Lua sources have been unpacked.

Step 6: Create a Windows Shell Script to Drive the Build

The reader should create a text file named build.cmd in our working directory then copy and paste the following text inside it.

        @echo off
        :: ========================
        :: file build.cmd
        :: ========================
        setlocal
        :: you may change the following variable's value
        :: to suit the downloaded version
        set lua_version=5.3.0

        set work_dir=%~dp0
        :: Removes trailing backslash
        :: to enhance readability in the following steps
        set work_dir=%work_dir:~0,-1%
        set lua_install_dir=%work_dir%\lua
        set compiler_bin_dir=%work_dir%\tdm-gcc\bin
        set lua_build_dir=%work_dir%\lua-%lua_version%
        set path=%compiler_bin_dir%;%path%

        cd /D %lua_build_dir%
        mingw32-make PLAT=mingw

        echo.
        echo **** COMPILATION TERMINATED ****
        echo.
        echo **** BUILDING BINARY DISTRIBUTION ****
        echo.

        :: create a clean "binary" installation
        mkdir %lua_install_dir%
        mkdir %lua_install_dir%\doc
        mkdir %lua_install_dir%\bin
        mkdir %lua_install_dir%\include

        copy %lua_build_dir%\doc\*.* %lua_install_dir%\doc\*.*
        copy %lua_build_dir%\src\*.exe %lua_install_dir%\bin\*.*
        copy %lua_build_dir%\src\*.dll %lua_install_dir%\bin\*.*
        copy %lua_build_dir%\src\luaconf.h %lua_install_dir%\include\*.*
        copy %lua_build_dir%\src\lua.h %lua_install_dir%\include\*.*
        copy %lua_build_dir%\src\lualib.h %lua_install_dir%\include\*.*
        copy %lua_build_dir%\src\lauxlib.h %lua_install_dir%\include\*.*
        copy %lua_build_dir%\src\lua.hpp %lua_install_dir%\include\*.*

        echo.
        echo **** BINARY DISTRIBUTION BUILT ****
        echo.

        %lua_install_dir%\bin\lua.exe -e"print [[Hello!]];print[[Simple Lua test successful!!!]]"

        echo.

        pause
        

The current content of our working directory now should be:

        C:\gcc-lua-install\tdm-gcc-4.9.2.exe
        C:\gcc-lua-install\lua-5.3.0.tar.gz
        C:\gcc-lua-install\7-ZipPortable_9.20_Rev_3.paf.exe
        C:\gcc-lua-install\tdm-gcc
        C:\gcc-lua-install\7zip
        C:\gcc-lua-install\lua-5.3.0
        C:\gcc-lua-install\build.cmd

Now run the shell script by double-clicking on build.cmd, a window with a black background should appear. Inside it you should see the messages produced by the script as it works (most of them are from GCC during the compilation of Lua sources).

This can take a while, but it heavily depends on the performance of your PC. With our test system it took about a minute, but that was a rather old system. After the compilation has finished, the script will also create a "clean" binary distribution (i.e. without unnecessary source files) in our working directory and will perform a simple test that will print a welcome message before terminating. You should see that self-explanatory message at the end of the output in the black window. You can now close the black window.

The current content of our working directory now should be:

        C:\gcc-lua-install\tdm-gcc-4.9.2.exe
        C:\gcc-lua-install\lua-5.3.0.tar.gz
        C:\gcc-lua-install\7-ZipPortable_9.20_Rev_3.paf.exe
        C:\gcc-lua-install\tdm-gcc
        C:\gcc-lua-install\7zip
        C:\gcc-lua-install\lua-5.3.0
        C:\gcc-lua-install\build.cmd
        C:\gcc-lua-install\lua

Step 7: Copy the Lua Binary Installation in a Suitable Location

The directory C:\gcc-lua-install\lua now contains everything is needed to run a Lua script. You can copy this directory with its content wherever you may find convenient (even on a USB pen drive!). The internal structure of lua binary installation directory should be the following:

        lua-----+--bin
                |
                +--doc
                |
                +--include

In the bin subdirectory you will find lua.exe, the Lua interpreter (if you double-click on it it will run in interactive mode), whereas in the doc subdirectory you will find the Lua reference manual.

Step 8: Configure the System to Run Lua Files

If you want to be able to type:

        lua myscript.lua

to run myscript.lua from the command line you must put the Lua bin subdirectory on the Windows search path.


Concluding Remarks

After you have copied the lua subdirectory in its final location, you could completely delete the working directory with all its content.

However, you can salvage many useful things easily:

Have Fun with Lua!!!


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Last edited August 17, 2016 5:17 pm GMT (diff)