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Posted 7 Aug 2003


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LuaDotNet: a thin wrapper around Lua and Luabind for .NET

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7 Aug 20034 min read
Add the Lua scripting engine to your .NET applications.

Sample Image - luanetwrapper.gif


This article presents a thin wrapper around Lua, see [1], and Luabind, see [2], for .NET: with it you can embed a scripting engine with a C, C++ backbone into your .NET applications.

If you are not familiar with Lua and Luabind, a small introductory example is also given below.

Lua, an embeddable C scripting language

Here are some quotes extracted from the Lua "about" page:

"Lua is a powerful light-weight programming language designed for extending C, C++ applications."
"Lua is a language engine that you can embed into your application. This means that, besides syntax and semantics, Lua has an API that allows the application to exchange data with Lua programs and also to extend Lua with C functions. In this sense, Lua can be regarded as a language framework for building domain-specific languages."

Usually, using Lua in an application is done with the following steps:

  1. Create a Lua state:
  2. Bind methods to Lua
  3. Execute Lua scripts
  4. Clean and deallocate state

Create a Lua state

"The Lua library is fully reentrant: it has no global variables. The whole state of the Lua interpreter (global variables, stack, etc.) is stored in a dynamically allocated structure of type lua_State. A pointer to this state must be passed as the first argument to every function in the library, except to lua_open, which creates a Lua state from scratch."

As mentioned above, lua_open is used to allocate a Lua state:

lua_State* L = lua_open();

Bind methods to Lua

Suppose that the following method need to bound:

void my_print( const char* str )
    printf( str );

First, we need to make a function wrapper for my_print that receives a Lua state and returns an integer, the number of values it wants to return to Lua:

int my_print_lua(lua_State *L)
   /* get the number of arguments (n) and
    check that the stack contains at least 1*/
   int n = lua_gettop(L);
   if (n<1)
       lua_pushstring(L, "not enough arguments");

   /* try to cast argument to string and call my_print,
    - remember that Lua is dynamically typed
    - we take the first element in the stack
   my_print( lua_checkedstring( L, 1) );

   /* my_print does not return values */   
   return 0;

At last, the method is registered in Lua using:

lua_register(L, "pr", my_print_lua);

Remark: Handling the Lua stack can become tedious and error-prone. Hopefully, Luabind is here to simplify (a lot) the wrapping task.

Executing Lua scripts

Consider the following script:

s = 'this is a test';
pr( s );

As one can see, Lua syntax is quite straightforward. In the script, we see that the method we bound (pr) is called. To execute this script in C, lua_dostring is used:

const char* str = "s = 'this is a test';pr( s );";
lua_dostring(L, str);

The program will output:

this is a test

Clean and deallocate state

When you are finished, do not forget to call lua_close to deallocate the Lua state:


Luabind, simplifying things

As mentioned before, handling the Lua state is a tedious work that we would like to avoid. Luabind uses template meta-programming to simplify things for us.

Using Luabind, the previous steps become:

  1. Create a state:
    using namespace luabind; // luabind namespace
    lua_State* L =lua_open(L);
    luabind::open(L); // init luabind
  2. Bind method:
        def("pr", &my_print);


  • We did need to write my_print_lua wrapper, Luabind does this for us.
  • Luabind can also bind classes.
  • Check the Luabind page for more information as their documentation is really well done.

LuaNET, the wrapper

So what about executing Lua script in .NET applications? This should not be a major problem, just the matter of writing a managed C++ wrapper.


  • A detailed class documentation can be built by running the Documentation tool on the LuaNET project.
  • All the classes live in the Lua namespace.

State, wrapping lua_State

The managed class State wraps up the lua_State structure. It handles the calls to lua_open and lua_close.

Here's a small example that creates a state, sets some variables and executes a script:

  • C#:
    Lua.State L = new Lua.State(); // creating a lua state
    L.set_Global("a",1);          // equivalent to a=1 in Lua
    L.DoString("b=a * 2;")        // executing a Lua script
    Double b = L.get_Global("b").ToDouble(); // retreive the value of b

Note that get_Global returns a LuaObject which is then cast to a double using ToDouble.

LuaObject, wrapping luabind::object

LuaObject enables you to set and retrieve values from Lua. Supported values are:

  • string
  • double, int
  • bool
  • table

Since Lua is dynamically typed, you need to check the type of the LuaObject before casting it. Otherwise, if cast fails, exceptions will be raised:

L.DoString("print('s: ' .. tostring(s));");

LuaObject s=state.get_Global("s");
s.ToString(); // ok
s.ToDouble(); // fails, s is a string

If the object is a table, LuaObject implements the IDictionnary interface on the table and TableEnumerator implements the IDictionnaryEnumerator interface:

LuaObject t=L.get_Global("t");

System.Collections.IDictionaryEnumerator te = t.GetEnumerator();
while( te.MoveNext() )
    System.Console.WriteLine("t...(" + te.Key + "," + te.Value +")");

Loading libraries

Lua comes with a set of default APIs to handle strings, table, IO, files etc...To load these APIs, use DefaultLibrary.Load:

Lua.Libraries.DefaultLibrary.Load( L );

Luabind is loaded using LuabindLibrary.Load:

Lua.Libraries.LuabindLibrary.Load( L );

You can wrap up your API and load them in .NET using the same method as DefaultLibrary or LuabindLibrary.

Using the demo

The demo features Lua 5.0 and Luabind. You need to recompile all the projects and launch LuaNetTest.


  • 8/8/2004: Initial release



This article has no explicit license attached to it but may contain usage terms in the article text or the download files themselves. If in doubt please contact the author via the discussion board below.

A list of licenses authors might use can be found here

Written By
United States United States
Jonathan de Halleux is Civil Engineer in Applied Mathematics. He finished his PhD in 2004 in the rainy country of Belgium. After 2 years in the Common Language Runtime (i.e. .net), he is now working at Microsoft Research on Pex (

Comments and Discussions

GeneralFinally got it to compile, but... Pin
J. Dunlap2-Oct-03 13:37
MemberJ. Dunlap2-Oct-03 13:37 
GeneralRe: Finally got it to compile, but... Pin
Jonathan de Halleux2-Oct-03 21:27
MemberJonathan de Halleux2-Oct-03 21:27 
GeneralRe: Finally got it to compile, but... Pin
J. Dunlap2-Oct-03 21:51
MemberJ. Dunlap2-Oct-03 21:51 
QuestionCould You Please Post the Binaries? Pin
J. Dunlap19-Sep-03 20:12
MemberJ. Dunlap19-Sep-03 20:12 
AnswerRe: Could You Please Post the Binaries? Pin
krigh20-Sep-03 0:44
Memberkrigh20-Sep-03 0:44 
GeneralRe: Could You Please Post the Binaries? Pin
Jonathan de Halleux28-Sep-03 21:47
MemberJonathan de Halleux28-Sep-03 21:47 
GeneralMissing Whole Directory! Pin
J. Dunlap17-Sep-03 12:04
MemberJ. Dunlap17-Sep-03 12:04 
GeneralRe: Missing Whole Directory! Pin
Anonymous17-Sep-03 12:10
MemberAnonymous17-Sep-03 12:10 
GeneralRe: Missing Whole Directory! Pin
J. Dunlap17-Sep-03 12:39
MemberJ. Dunlap17-Sep-03 12:39 
GeneralRe: Missing Whole Directory! Pin
The_Mega_ZZTer16-Nov-06 7:43
MemberThe_Mega_ZZTer16-Nov-06 7:43 
QuestionIs that possible to embed Lua to a C# project? Pin
vertex__27-Aug-03 21:18
Membervertex__27-Aug-03 21:18 
AnswerRe: Is that possible to embed Lua to a C# project? Pin
Jonathan de Halleux28-Aug-03 0:27
MemberJonathan de Halleux28-Aug-03 0:27 
GeneralRe: Is that possible to embed Lua to a C# project? Pin
krigh16-Sep-03 9:45
Memberkrigh16-Sep-03 9:45 
GeneralRe: Is that possible to embed Lua to a C# project? Pin
Jonathan de Halleux17-Sep-03 1:16
MemberJonathan de Halleux17-Sep-03 1:16 
GeneralRe: Is that possible to embed Lua to a C# project? Pin
krigh18-Sep-03 11:54
Memberkrigh18-Sep-03 11:54 
GeneralRe: Is that possible to embed Lua to a C# project? Pin
krigh18-Sep-03 20:37
Memberkrigh18-Sep-03 20:37 
GeneralGood article Pin
Anthony_Yio8-Aug-03 18:16
MemberAnthony_Yio8-Aug-03 18:16 
GeneralRe: Good article Pin
Jonathan de Halleux8-Aug-03 22:01
MemberJonathan de Halleux8-Aug-03 22:01 
GeneralRe: Good article Pin
Per Hejndorf19-Feb-04 20:46
MemberPer Hejndorf19-Feb-04 20:46 

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