Python – Lua as a general-purpose scripting language


When I see Lua, the only thing I ever read is "great for embedding", "fast", "lightweight" and more often than anything else: "World of Warcraft" or in short "WoW".

Why is it limited to embedding the whole thing into another application? Why not write general-purpose scripts like you do with Python or Perl?

Lua seems to be doing great in aspects like speed and memory-usage (The fastest scripting language afaik) so why is it that I never see Lua being used as a "Desktop scripting-language" to automate tasks? For example:

  • Renaming a bunch of files
  • Download some files from the web
  • Webscraping

Is it the lack of the standard library?

Best Solution

Lua is a cool language, light-weight and extremely fast!

But the point is: Is performance so important for those tasks you mentioned?

  • Renaming a bunch of files
  • Download some files from the web
  • Webscraping

You write those programs once, and run them once, too maybe. Why do you care about performance so much for a run-once program?

For example:

  1. Cost 3 hours to write a C/C++ program, to handle data once, the program will take 1 hour to run.
  2. Cost 30 Minute to write a Python program to handle data once, the program will take 10 hours to run.

If you choose the first, you save the time to run the program, but you cost your time to develop the program.

On the other hand, if you choose the second, you waste time to run the program, but you can do other things when the program is running. How about play World of Warcraft, kill monsters with your warlock? Eat my D.O.T! :P

That's it! Although Lua is not so difficult to write, everything about Lua is designed to be efficient.And what's more, there are little modules for Lua, but there are so many modules for Python. You don't want to port a C library for Lua just for a run-once program, do you? Instead, choose Python and use those module to achieve your task easily might be a better idea.

FYI: Actually, I have tried to use Lua to do webscraping, but finally, I realized I do not have to care so much about language performance. The bottleneck of webscraping is not on the performance of the language. The bottleneck is on network I/O, HTML parsing and multitasking. All I have to do is make sure the program works and find the bottleneck. Finally, I chose Python rather than Lua. There is so many excellent Python modules; I have no reason to build my own.

According to my experience about webscraping, I chose Twisted for network I/O and lxml for html parsing as the backend of my webscraping program. I have wrote an article for an introduction to this technology.

The best choice to grab data from websites: Python + Twisted + lxml

Hope this is helpful.

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