Learning Lua Step-By-Step (Part 16)

This entry is part 15 of 24 in the series Learning Lua Step-By-Step

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Databases with SQLite and Lua

In this article, we’ll explore the world of databases and how to use them in Lua applications. We’ll start by introducing the concept of relational databases, and then dive into using SQLite, a lightweight and popular database solution, with Lua.

Understanding Relational Databases

Relational databases are a type of database management system that stores and organizes data in a structured way, using tables with rows and columns. These tables are related to each other through defined relationships, allowing for efficient data storage, retrieval, and manipulation.

The key components of a relational database are:

  1. Tables: The basic units of storage, where data is organized into rows and columns.
  2. Columns: The individual fields or attributes that define the structure of a table.
  3. Rows: The individual records or entries stored in a table.
  4. Relationships: The connections between tables, which can be one-to-one, one-to-many, or many-to-many.
  5. SQL: Structured Query Language, the standard language used to interact with relational databases.

Relational databases are widely used in a variety of applications, from small personal projects to large-scale enterprise systems, due to their flexibility, scalability, and ability to maintain data integrity.

Using SQLite with Lua

SQLite is a popular, lightweight, and self-contained relational database management system that is often used in Lua applications. It’s a great choice for small to medium-sized projects that don’t require the full capabilities of a larger database system.

To use SQLite with Lua, we’ll be utilizing the lsqlite3 module, which provides a Lua interface for working with SQLite databases.

Setting up the Development Environment

  1. Install the lsqlite3 module using LuaRocks:
   luarocks install lsqlite3
  1. Create a new Lua file, e.g., app.lua, and add the following code to set up the SQLite connection:
   local lsqlite3 = require "lsqlite3"
   local db = lsqlite3.open("example.db")

This code opens a connection to an SQLite database file named example.db. If the file doesn’t exist, it will be created.

Creating and Manipulating Tables

Now, let’s create a simple table and perform some basic operations:

-- Create a table
    name TEXT,
    email TEXT

-- Insert data
db:exec("INSERT INTO users (name, email) VALUES (?, ?)", { "John Doe", "john@example.com" })
db:exec("INSERT INTO users (name, email) VALUES (?, ?)", { "Jane Smith", "jane@example.com" })

-- Query data
local users = db:nrows("SELECT * FROM users")
for user in users do
  print(user.id, user.name, user.email)

-- Update data
db:exec("UPDATE users SET email = ? WHERE id = ?", { "newemail@example.com", 1 })

-- Delete data
db:exec("DELETE FROM users WHERE id = ?", { 2 })

This code demonstrates how to create a table, insert data, query data, update data, and delete data using the lsqlite3 module in Lua.

Handling Transactions

Transactions are a crucial feature of relational databases, as they ensure data integrity and consistency. Here’s an example of how to use transactions in Lua with SQLite:

-- Begin a transaction

-- Perform various operations
db:exec("INSERT INTO users (name, email) VALUES (?, ?)", { "Bob Johnson", "bob@example.com" })
db:exec("UPDATE users SET email = ? WHERE id = ?", { "newemail@example.com", 1 })

-- Commit the transaction

Transactions allow you to group multiple operations together, ensuring that either all operations succeed or none of them do, preventing partial updates and maintaining data integrity.


  1. Modify the example code to create a table for blog posts, with columns for the title, content, author, and publication date. Implement CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete) operations for the blog posts.
  2. Implement a function to retrieve the 10 most recent blog posts, ordered by publication date.
  3. Create a table for comments, with a foreign key relationship to the blog posts table. Implement the ability to add, retrieve, and delete comments for a specific blog post.
  4. Modify the application to use a configuration file to store the SQLite database filename, instead of hardcoding it.
  5. Implement a function to perform a simple search across the blog posts table, allowing users to search for posts by title or content.
  6. Search online for introductions to SQL (Structured Query Language), and learn at least the Basics of SQL. While there is some variance between SQL flavors used by different RDBMS’s they all are very similar. Two very popular RDMS’s are MySQL/MariaDB, and Postgres. These are both Open Source Software freely available, and these and SQLite are all popular with web applications that use RDBNSs.


In this article, we’ve explored the world of relational databases and how to use SQLite with Lua. We’ve learned about the key components of relational databases, such as tables, columns, rows, and relationships, and we’ve seen how to use the lsqlite3 module to interact with an SQLite database from within a Lua application.

By understanding how to work with databases in Lua, you’ll be able to build more robust and feature-rich applications that can store, retrieve, and manipulate data efficiently. Remember to practice the exercises and refer to the resources below to further your understanding of databases and Lua.


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