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What are closures in Lua?

When you're writing a sort routine, passing in "a" and "b" to be compared, how do you access other data that's needed in association with a and b? If - for example - a and b are keys to a hash or dictionary or associative array, and you want to sort based on the values in that array? You could make your hash global (or rely on the global default in Perl or Lua) but that is a poor solution - messy and unmaintainable.

Lua uses the concept of a closure - in Lua, variables that are local to a function are also available in functions that are defined within that function i.e. within nested definitions, or 'within the outer closure'.

Here's an example:

function postman(thistable)
  function psord(a,b)
    if thistable[a] < thistable[b] then
      return true
      end
    return false
    end
  local keys = {}
  for k,_ in pairs(thistable) do
    keys[#keys+1] = k
    end
  table.sort(keys,psord)
  rs = ""
  for k,v in ipairs(keys) do
    rs = rs .. k .. " " .. v .. " at no. ".. thistable[v].."\n"
    end
  return rs
end
 
deliveries = {John = 4, Jim = 10, Jean = 7, Joanna = 3, Jo = 9}
hegoes = postman(deliveries)
io.write (hegoes)


You'll notice that "thistable" is a local (parameter) to postman, but never the less can be accessed from within psord ... which is a pleasant surprise if you're converting from other languages.

Running the code, I get

1 Joanna at no. 3
2 John at no. 4
3 Jean at no. 7
4 Jo at no. 9
5 Jim at no. 10


Source of the example here



(written 2009-07-31)

 
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articles
U106 - Lua - Functions.
  [3695] Functions are first class variables in Lua and Python - (2012-04-13)
  [2949] Lua - variable function arguments and select - (2010-09-08)
  [2723] Returning multiple values from a function - Lua - (2010-04-15)
  [2455] Lua examples - coroutines, error handling, objects, etc - (2009-10-15)
  [2356] Passing multiple results back from a function - Lua, Python, etc - (2009-08-13)
  [2347] Dot, dot, dot in Lua - variable length parameter lists - (2009-08-11)
  [1847] Lua - IAQ (Infrequently Answered Questions) - (2008-10-18)
  [1744] Lua examples, Lua Courses - (2008-08-08)
  [1743] First class functions in Lua lead to powerful OO facilities - (2008-08-07)
  [1699] If you are learning Lua, here are some more examples - (2008-07-06)
  [1697] Sorting in lua - specifying your own sort routine - (2008-07-05)
  [1685] Short circuit evaluation (lazy operator) in Lua - (2008-06-22)


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