Where Can I Learn Lua Coding Online?

By Jack SteinLast Updated September 3, 2020
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Learning to code is essential if you're looking for a job as a computer programmer or app developer, but it's also a fun hobby that can help you make your own games and learn problem-solving skills that'll come in handy in our digital world. Lua is one programming language that can help you in this quest no matter your learning level, whether you're new to coding or you're a programming polyglot. 

Lua, whose name means "moon" in Portuguese, was created nearly 30 years ago, but it's become so versatile that it finds use in plenty of applications, embedded content and other digital media even today. It's also relatively easy to learn, especially if you start your research and practice with certain tools. Want to get started today? There's a number of online resources you can utilize to learn basic (and even advanced) coding using the Lua programming language.

A Brief Look at Lua

There's a number of reasons why Lua is easy (and beneficial) to learn. As a programming language, Lua is lightweight and fast, which means it's not as complicated to learn to write as other languages can be. But despite its ease of use, it's also a powerful, cross-platform scripting language that's commonly embedded within a diverse range of applications. These applications include games, photo-editing tools (with Adobe Lightroom being one of the most notable), web browsers like Firefox, Facebook and a host of other standalone and extensible applications. The language is adaptable, meaning Lua lets its host applications modify it slightly so it can better meet that application's needs.

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Lua supports a number of programming syntaxes — the rules that determine what symbols you can use to write the code and the orders they can go in — including procedural, functional, object-oriented, data-driven and data description syntaxes, according to its reference manual. This means you can use it to program applications that complete a wide range of different tasks with ease. Apart from its flexibility and power, some Lua users point to its readability and lack of seemingly illogical syntax, which is a facet that makes other programming languages harder to grasp.

Learning via the Lua Website

Lua’s official website recommends the book Programming in Lua, which is available in both paperback and eBook formats. Written by one of Lua’s main designers, Roberto Ierusalimschy, the book lays a good foundation for those who want to learn the programming language. The website says that the book provides a detailed and authoritative introduction to everything a programmer wants to know about Lua.

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Programming in Lua covers all aspects of the program, from its basic coding patterns to its application programming interface (API) with the well-known, general-purpose language, C. The book includes extensive code samples to help first-time users understand and appreciate the flexibility, functionalities and power of Lua. While the book's intended audience is people who already have a bit of coding knowledge, it's also written in a way that even those without any understanding of programming can pick up on the concepts quickly.

The book is already in its fourth edition with updates for Lua version 5.3. Its first edition, which was written to address concepts in Lua 5.0, is freely available online and appears on Lua’s official website. Although there are a few differences between editions, the first edition remains largely relevant to later versions of Lua, with the changes and corrections in coding listed in the errata of the online version.

Navigating Lua With Roblox

As helpful as the book Programming in Lua is if you want to learn the programming language, it may not be the right place to start if you have very little or no coding knowledge at all. If you're a newbie to programming in general, or if you learn better when you get to work hands-on with a project that lets you apply the concepts you're studying, understanding the basics of Lua becomes easier with the help of Roblox — a popular, free-to-play 3D gaming website.

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More than just a gaming website, Roblox is also a game-creation platform that allows its users to make their own games using Lua. Although Roblox is a favorite among kids, using it can help you familiarize yourself with the way Lua works. The gaming platform has an ongoing educational program in which it offers a number of free resources to people who want to learn real coding skills, game design and even digital game entrepreneurship. These educational resources include different types of content from educators and game developers who use Roblox as their primary tool in teaching Lua. Keep in mind that the version of Lua that Roblox uses is a slightly modified version, so this avenue is best for learning about Lua in general and not getting into the nitty-gritty details.

Among the most notable online educational Roblox partners are Code Ninjas, Coddy and AlvinBlox. Because these online learning programs are designed for learners as young as 7 years old, the program serves as a simpler introduction to Lua basics that's helpful for people of all ages. Some of Roblox's other educational partners, such as iD Tech and Code Kingdoms, also offer courses in complex Lua coding for advanced students.

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