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A Shiny Lua Dialect
Lua Makefile VimL C
branch: master

remove spurious timer import

latest commit 98a6059fd7
Richard Hundt authored

-- taken from a real world web app which talks to elasticsearch

import JSON        from "codec.json"
import Presenter   from ""
import HTTPStatic  from "swarm.static"

import ESClient, ESIndex from ""

-- this presenter is a singleton, so we use `module` here
module Features include Presenter

   local client  = ESClient('localhost', 9200)
   local storage = ESIndex(client, 'features')
   local static  = HTTPStatic("./public/admin")

   @self.route('GET', '/admin')
   admin(req, path, query)
      if #path == 0 then
         path[#path + 1] = 'index.html'
      return static.handler(req, path, query)

   @self.route('GET', '/features/feature/:id')
   fetch(req, args, query)
      resp = storage.lookup('feature', args['id'])
      hdrs = { }
      hdrs['Content-Type'] = 'application/json'
      if resp.exists then
         return { 200, hdrs, { JSON.encode(resp) } }
         return { 404, hdrs, { JSON.encode(resp) } }


Shine Reference

This document aims to be a fairly concise, but broad reference.

To help get you started, though, have a look at the wiki which has a growing collection of tutorials.


Shine is a general purpose, dynamic, multi-paradigm programming language which is based on, and extends, Lua with features geared more to programming in the large. For maximum performance it uses a modified version of the LuaJIT virtual machine, which is known for its small footprint and impressive performance which rivals that of C.

Most of the language features are those of the underlying LuaJIT VM, and the extensions are implemented in terms of lower level constructs already present in LuaJIT, so anyone familiar with Lua and LuaJIT should quickly feel right at home with Shine.

Moreover, vanilla Lua libraries can be loaded and run unmodified, and although compilation of Lua code is slower than with LuaJIT or PuC Lua, there is no additional runtime penalty, and since they share the same bytecode, this means that Shine users can leverage all of the existing Lua libraries out there without writing wrappers or additional bindings. You can, of course, call seamlessly into Shine code from Lua too, as long as Lua is running within the Shine runtime.

Another goal of Shine, is that the standard libraries which are included are focused on providing CSP style concurrency, so although the language itself has no concurrency primitives, the fibers, channels, threads, pipes and I/O libraries are all centered around building highly scalable, low-footprint, network oriented concurrent applications.


Shine strives for a pragmatic balance between safety and syntactic and semantic flexibility.

Summary of safety features:

  • Static local variable name resolution.
  • Default declaration scope is localized.
  • Function and method parameter guards.
  • Scoped variable guards.
  • Self-type assertions in methods.

Summary of flexibility features:

  • Operator meta-methods as in Lua with Shine specific extensions.
  • Deep introspection into nominal types.
  • Lambda expressions (short function syntax).
  • Optional parentheses.
  • Property getters and setters with fallback.
  • User-only operators.
  • Procedural Macros
  • Decorators

Additionally, all constructs can be nested. Classes can be declared inside other classes and even inside functions, which allows for run-time construction of classes, modules and grammars.

Other notable extensions to Lua:

  • Bitwise operators.
  • Standard libraries.
  • Tight LPeg integration.
  • Classes and modules .
  • continue statement.
  • try, catch, finally
  • Destructuring assignment.
  • Pattern matching.
  • Default function parameters.
  • Parameter and variable guards.
  • Richer type system.
  • Concurrency primitives
  • OS Threads

Getting Started

Shine ships with all its dependencies, so simply clone the git repository and run make && sudo make install:

$ git clone --recursive
$ make && sudo make install

Standard package.path and package.cpath values set up by virtual machine could be customized with passing TVMJIT_PREFIX and TVMJIT_MULTILIB parameters to make. It could be useful for accessing Lua libraries installed by standard Linux distro way. For example, on Debian following parameter values could be used:

$ make TVMJIT_PREFIX=/usr TVMJIT_MULTILIB="lib/$(gcc -print-multiarch)" && sudo make install

This will install two executables shinec and shine (along with standard library). The shinec executable is just the compiler and has the following usage:

usage: shinec [options]... input output.
Available options are:
  -t type   Output file format.
  -b        List formatted bytecode.
  -n name   Provide a chunk name.
  -g        Keep debug info.
  -p        Print the parse tree.
  -o        Print the opcode tree.

The main executable and runtime is shine, which includes all the functionality of shinec via the -c option and has the following usage:

usage: shine [options]... [script [args]...].
Available options are:
  -e chunk  Execute string 'chunk'.
  -c ...    Compile or list bytecode.
  -i        Enter interactive mode after executing 'script'.
  -v        Show version information.
  --        Stop handling options. 
  -         Execute stdin and stop handling options.

The script file argument extension is significant in that files with a .lua extension are passed to the built-in Lua compiler, whereas files with a .shn extension are compiled as Shine source.

Shine has been tested on Linux and Mac OS X, and support for Windows is in progress.

Language Basics

Shine is a line-oriented language. Statements are generally seperated by a line terminator. If several statements appear on the same line, they must be may be separated by a semicolon ;.

Long expressions with infix operators may be wrapped with the operator leading after the line break, however for function and method calls, the argument list must start on the same line as the callee:

a = 40
  + 2 -- OK

  .bar() -- OK

print "answer:", 42 -- OK [means: print("answer:", 42)]

  "answer:", 42 -- OK

  "answer:", 42 -- BAD [syntax error]

A bare word by itself is parsed as a function call:

if waiting then
   yield -- compiles as yield()


Comments come in 3 forms:

  • Lua-style line comments starting with --
  • Lua-style block comments of the form --[=*[ ... ]=*]
  • Shine block comments of the form --:<token>([^)]*)?: ... :<token>:

The last form is designed to allow Shine sources to be annotated for processing by external tools such as documentation generators:

-- a line comment

a familiar Lua-style
block comment

simple Shine block comment

perhaps this is extracted by a markdown processor


Identifiers must start with [a-zA-Z_$?] (alphabetical characters or _ or $ or ?) which may be followed by zero or more [a-zA-Z_$!?0-9] characters (alphanumeric or _ or $ or ! or ?).



Shine scoping rules are similar to Lua's with the addition of the concept of a default storage if local is not specified when introducing a new declaration.

The default storage for variables is always local. For other declarations, it depends on the enclosing scope:

  • If at the top level of a compilation unit, the default is package scoped for all non-variable declarations.
  • Inside class and module bodies, the default is scoped to the body environment.
  • Everwhere else (i.e. functions and blocks) it is local.

Declarations can always be lexically scoped by declaring them as local.

In short, what this means is that most of the time you can simply leave out the local keyword without worrying about creating globals or leaking out declarations to the surrounding environment.

There are cases where a local is useful for reusing a variable name in a nested scope when the inner scope should shadow the variable in the outer scope.

Builtin Types

Shine includes all of LuaJIT's builtin types:

  • nil
  • boolean
  • number
  • string
  • table
  • function
  • thread (coroutine)
  • userdata
  • cdata

All other extensions are built primarily using tables and cdata.

These include:

Primitive meta types:

  • Nil
  • Boolean
  • Number
  • String
  • Table
  • Function
  • Coroutine
  • UserData
  • CData

Additional builtins:

  • null (CData meta type)
  • Array
  • Range
  • Error

Nominal meta types:

  • Class
  • Module
  • Grammar

Pattern matching meta types:

  • Pattern
  • ArrayPattern
  • TablePattern
  • ApplyPattern

The meta meta type:

  • Meta


The constants true and false. The only values which are logically false are false and nil. Everything else evaluates to true in a boolean context.


The Shine parser recognizes LuaJIT cdata long integers as well as Lua numbers. This is extended with octals.

The following are represented as Lua number type:

  • 123
  • 123.45
  • 1.2e3
  • 0x42 - heximal
  • 0o644 - octal

These are LuaJIT extensions enabled by default in Shine:

  • 42LL - LuaJIT long integer cdata
  • 42ULL - LuaJIT unsigned long integer cdata

nil and null

The constant nil has exactly the same meaning as in Lua.

The constant null is exactly the cdata NULL value. It compares to nil as true, however, unlike in C, in a boolean context also evaluates to true. That is, although null == nil holds, if null then print 42 end will print "42".


As in Lua, strings are 8-bit clean, immutable and interned. The extensions added by Shine relate to delimiters, escape sequences and expression interpolation.

There are two types of strings:

  • Single quoted
  • Double quoted

Single quoted strings are verbatim strings. The only escape sequences which they recognise are \' and \\. All other bytes are passed through as is.

Double quoted strings allow the common C-style escape sequences, including unicode escapes. These are all valid strings:

"\x3A"      -- hexadecimal 8-bits character
"\u20AC"    -- unicode char UTF-8 encoded

Additionally, double quoted strings interpolate expressions inside %{ and } marks. When constructing strings programmatically it is encouraged to use this form as the fragments produced are concatenated in a single VM instruction without creating short-lived temporary strings.

"answer = %{40 + 2}" -- interpolated

Both types of strings can be delimited with single and triple delimiters. This is just a convenience to save escaping quotation marks:

"a quoted string"
"""a triple quoted string"""
'a verbatim string'
'''a triple quoted verbatim string'''
String Operations

Strings have a metatable with all the methods supported by Lua, namely: len, match, uppper, sub, char, rep, lower, dump, gmatch, reverse, byte, gsub, format and find.

Shine adds a split method with the following signature:

  • str.split(sep = '%s+', max = math::huge, raw = false)

Splits str on sep, which is interpreted as a Lua match pattern unless raw is true. The default value for sep is %s+. If max is given, then this is the maximum number of fragments returned. If the pattern is not found, the split returns the entire string. The split method is only available as a method, and is not defined in the string library.

Strings can additionally be subscripted with numbers and ranges. Both subscripts have the effect of calling string.sub() internally. If a number is passed then a single character is returned at that offset, otherwise the two extremes of the range are passed to string.sub. Negative offsets may be used.


Ranges are objects which represent numeric spans and are constructed with <expr> .. <expr>. They can be used for slicing strings, or for looping constructs.


Tables work just as in Lua with the addition that line-breaks serve as separators, in addition to , and ;

-- these are equivalent
t = { answer = 42, 1, 'b' }
t = {
    answer = 42


Arrays are zero-based, numerically indexed lists of values, based on Lua tables, with the difference being that they track their length, and so may contain nil values.

Arrays have a literal syntax delimited by [ and ] as in languages such as Perl, JavaScript or Ruby, but may also be constructed by calling Array(...).

a = [ 1, 'two', 33 ]
a = Array(1, 'two', 33) -- same thing

The array type defines the following methods:

  • join(sep = '')

  • push(val)

  • pop()

  • shift()

  • unshift(val)

  • slice(offset, count)

    Returns a new array with count elements, starting at offset.

  • reverse()

    Returns a new array with elements in reverse order.

  • sort(cmp = less, len = #self)

    Sorts the array in place using the comparison function cmp if given and limits the number of items sorted to len if provided.


Shine integrates Parsing Expression Grammars into the language as a first-class type, thanks to the excellent LPeg library.

Patterns are delimited by a starting and ending /, which borrows from commonly used regular expression quotation. However, Shine's patterns are very different and far more powerful than regular expressions.

Syntax borrows heavily from the re.lua module. Notable differences are that | replaces re's / as an alternation separator, %pos replaces {} as a position capture, and +> replaces => as a match-time capture. Fold captures are added using ~>.

Unlike the re.lua module, grammars aren't represented as strings, but are compiled to LPeg API calls directly, so production rules for ->, ~> and +> captures can be any term or postfix expression supported by the language itself.

Which means you can say rule <- %digit -> function(c) ... end with functions inlined directly in the grammar.

It also means that patterns can be composed using the standard Lua operators as with the LPeg library:

word = / { %alnum+ } /
patt = / %s+ / * word + function()
   error "d'oh!"


Expressions are much the same as in Lua, with a few changes and some additions, notable C-style bitwise operators.

String concatenation is done using ~ instead of .. as the latter is reserved for ranges. The ** operator replaces ^ as exponentiation (^ is bitwise xor instead).

Moreover, methods can be called directly on literals without the need to surround them in parentheses. So whereas in Lua one would say:

local quote = ("%q"):format(val)

in Shine it's simply:

local quote = "%q".format(val)


The following table lists Shine's operators in order of increasing precedence. Operators marked with a trailing _ are unary operators.

Operator Precedence Associativity Comment
..._ 1 right unpack
or 1 left logical or
and 2 left logical and
== 3 left equality
!= 3 left inequality
~~ 3 left matches
!~ 3 left does not match
is 4 left type equality
as 4 left type coercion
>= 5 left greater than or equal to
<= 5 left less than or equal to
> 5 left greater than
< 5 left less than
| 6 left bitwise or
^ 7 left bitwise exclusive or
& 8 left bitwise and
<< 9 left bitwise left shift
>> 9 left bitwise right shift
>>> 9 left bitwise arithmetic right shift
~ 10 left concatenation
+ 10 left addition
- 10 left subtraction
.. 10 right range
* 11 left multiplication
/ 11 left division
% 11 left remainder (modulo)
~_ 12 right bitwise not
!_ 12 right logical not
not_ 12 right logical not
** 13 right exponentiation
#_ 14 right length of

Many infix operators are also available in update, or assigment, form:

Operator Comment
+= add assign
-= subtract assign
~= concatenate assign
*= multiply assign
/= divide assign
%= modulo assign
**= exponentiation assign
and= logical and assign
or= logical or assign
&= bitwise and assign
|= bitwise or assign
^= bitwise xor assign
<<= bitwise left shift assign
>>= bitwise right shift assign
>>>= bitwise arithmetic right shift assign

The following operators are used in patterns:

Operator Precedence Associativity Comment
~> 1 left fold capture
-> 1 left production capture
+> 1 left match-time capture
| 2 left ordered choice
&_ 3 right lookahead assertion
!_ 3 right negative lookahead assertion
+ 3 left one or more repetitions
* 3 left zero or more repetitions
? 3 left zero or one
^+ 4 right at least N repetitions
^- 4 right at most N repetitions

Not listed above are the common ( and ) for grouping, and postcircumfix () and [] operators for function/method calls and subscripting respectively.

In addition to the built-in operators, Shine exposes a full suite of user-definable operators, which share precedence with their built-in counterparts, but have no intrinsic meaning to the language.

Shine will simply try to call the corresponding meta-method as with the built-in operators. The full listing is:

Operator Precedence Associativity Meta-Method
:! 3 left __ubang
:? 3 left __uques
:= 5 left __ueq
:> 5 left __ugt
:< 5 left __ult
:| 6 left __upipe
:^ 7 left __ucar
:& 8 left __uamp
:~ 10 left __utilde
:+ 10 left __uadd
:- 10 left __usub
:* 11 left __umul
:/ 11 left __udiv
:% 11 left __umod

Call Expressions

When calling a function, method, or other callable, parenthesis may be omitted provided there is either at least one argument. The following are all valid:

fido.move x, y          -- fido.move(x, y)

As a special case, if the callee is a single word as a statement on its own, then no parentheses or arguments are required:

yield                   -- OK yield()
fido.greet              -- BAD (not a word)
print yield             -- BAD (yield not a statement)

Member Expressions

Member expressions have three lexical forms:

  • method call
  • property call
  • property access

Shine deviates from Lua in that the . operator when followed by a call expression is a method call, whereas Lua uses :. To call a property without passing an implicit receiver, use :: instead:

s.format(...)          -- method call (self is implicit)
string::format(s, ...) -- property call

For property access, either :: or . may be used with identical semantics. By convention, one may prefer :: for indicating namespace access such as async::io::StreamReader, whereas . may be used to access instance members.


Assignment expressions are based on Lua allowing multiple left and right hand sides. If an identifier on the left is previously undefined, then a new local variable is automatically introduced the fist time it is assigned. This prevents global namespace pollution. Examples:

a, b = 1, 2             -- implicit locals a, b
o.x, y = y, o.x         -- implicit local y 
local o, p = f()        -- explicit
a[42] = 'answer'


Shine also supports destructuring of tables, arrays and application patterns. This can be used during assignment as well as pattern matching in given statements.

For tables and arrays, Shine knows how to extract values for you:

a = ['foo', { bar = 42 }, 'baz']
[x, { bar = y }, z] = a
print x, y, z           -- prints: foo  42  baz

However, with objects you have to implement an __unapply hook to make it work. The hook is expected to return an iterator which would be valid for use in a generic for loop. Here's an example:

class Point
   self(x = 0, y = 0)
      self.x = x
      self.y = y
   function self.__unapply(o)
      return ipairs{ o.x, o.y }

p = Point(42, 69)
Point(x, y) = p
print x, y              -- prints: 42   69

Patterns already implement the relevant hooks, so the following works as expected:

Split2 = / { [a-z]+ } %s+ { [a-z]+ } /
str = "two words"

Split2(a, b) = str

assert a == 'two' and b == 'words'


Comprehensions are an experimental feature only implemented for arrays currently. They are also not lazy generators. They should look familiar to Python programmers. Here are two examples:

a1 = [ i * 2 for i in 1..10 if i % 2 == 0 ]
a2 = [ i * j for i in 1..5 for j in 1..5 ]

Lambda Expressions

Shine has a syntactic short-hand form for creating functions:

(<param_list>)? => <func_body> <end>

The parameter list is optional.

-- these two are identical
f1 = (x) =>
   return x * 2
function f1(x)
    return x * 2

Additionally, if the function body contains a single expression and appears on one line, then an implicit return is inserted and the end token is omitted:

b = => x * 2)

-- shorter still
b = (x) => x * 2


b = =>
   return x * 2


Do Statement

do <chunk> end

Same as in Lua.

If Statement

if <expr> then <chunk> (elseif <expr> then <chunk>)* (else <chunk>)? end

Same as in Lua.

Given Statement

given <expr> (case <bind_expr> then <chunk>)* (else <chunk>)? end

This is analogous to C's switch statement, however, the discriminant is not simply compared for equality. Instead, Shine provides pattern and smart matching capabilities.

If <bind_expr> is not an extractor used for destructuring:

  • If the <bind_expr> evaluates to an object which implements a __match metamethod, then this is used to determine of the discriminant given by <expr> matches.

  • Otherwise the is operator is used for comparison.

If <bind_expr> is a destructuring expression, then the extractor is bound and evaluated.


function match(disc)
   given disc
      case "Hello World!" then
         print "a greeting"
      case String then
         print "a string"
      case { answer = A } then
         print "%{A} is the answer"
         print "something else"
match "Hello World!"    -- prints: "a greeting"
match "cheese"          -- prints: "a string"
match { answer = 42 }   -- prints: "42 is the answer"
match 42                -- prints: "something else"

While Statement

while <expr> do <chunk> end

Same as in Lua.

Repeat Statement

repeat <chunk> until <expr>

Same as in Lua.

Numeric For Loop

for <ident>=<init>,<limit>,<step> do <chunk> end

Same as in Lua.

Generic For Loop

for <name_list> in <expr_list> do <chunk> end

Generally works as in Lua, except that you don't need to use pairs as it is called implicitly (via a builtin called __each__), if the first argument in <expr_list> is not a function.

The builtin __each__ also calls a meta-method hook __each. This allows objects to differentiate pairs, ipairs iterators which return pairs, from the notion of a /default/ iterator, which may return an arbitrary number of values.

Try Statement

try <chunk> (catch <ident> (if <expr>)? then <chunk>)* (finally <chunk>)? end

Does an xpcall internally, however it ensures that the finally clause is run, even if return is used in the try block or one of the catch bodies.

function foo()
      throw Error("cheese")
      return 42
   catch e if e is Error then
      print("caught:", e)
      return 69
   catch e then
      print("something else")

print("GOT:", foo())


caught:  cheese
GOT:    69


Just bear in mind that this still creates up to three closures inline, so it's best to place loops inside the try block and not around it.

Import Statement

import macro? (<alias> = )? <symbol> (, (<alias> = )? <symbol>)* from <expr>

Calls require(expr) and then extracts and assigns the named symbols to local variables. May be used anywhere.

import macro ... doesn't assign the named symbols to local variables, but introduces them as macros in current scope. import macro .. is a compile time statement evaluated in translating phase.

Alternative syntaxes:

import macro? <module_path>.<symbol>
import macro? <module_path>.{(<alias> = )? <symbol> (, (<alias> = )? <symbol>)*}

import a.b.{x = m, y = n} is equivalent to import x = m, y = n from "a.b"

Export Statement

export <ident> (, <ident>)*

Copies the values refered to by the identifiers into a table which is returned by the compilation unit. By default, the _M table is visible along with all non-local declarations being available for import or public access. By using an explicit export, only the symbols declared are exported and the compilation unit's namespace is essentially sealed.

The export statement may not precede the declarations which are being exported.


Variables and function parameters can have guards associated with them. The Shine compiler inserts checks which are executed at runtime each time the variable is updated, or in the case of parameters, on function entry.

A variable guard is introduced by using the is keyword in a declaration:

local a is Number = 42

-- or simply
b is Number = 101

-- works for destructuring too:
{ x is Number = X, y is Number = Y } = point

The mechanics are simple: The right hand side of a guard expression can be any object which implements an __is hook. If the hook returns a non-true value, an error is raised.

The builtin types such as Number, as well as classes and modules already have the __is hook implemented, so these should "just work".

Guards are lexically bound, static entities. That is, the value of the variable does not carry around additional run-time meta-data with it, so passing it to a different scope (or returning it) does not guarantee that its type remains constrained:

function random()
   local x is Number = math::random()
   return x

x = random()
x = "cheese"        -- no error here

However, in practice, functions and methods can enforce a contract:

function addone(x is Number)
   return x + 1
addone "cheese"     -- Error: bad argument #1 to 'addone'...


Functions are closures with all the same semantics as in Lua, however Shine extends function declarations with default parameter expressions, parameter guards, and rest arguments.

Default parameter expressions can be any valid Shine expression and are scoped to the body of the function. That is, they are evaluate at the top of the function body.

function greet(whom = "World")
   print "Hello %{whom}!"
greet()             -- prints: "Hello World!"
greet("romix")      -- prints: "Hello romix!"

Since defaults can be any expression, they can be used to enforce a contract:

function addone(n = assert(type(n) == 'number') and n)
   return n + 1

However, this can be better achieved using parameter guards. Guards are checked against by using the is operator, and if they evaluate to false, an error is raised.

function addone(n is Number)
   return n + 1

addone(40)          -- OK
addone("cheese")    -- bad argument #1 to 'addone' (Number expected got String)

Like in Lua, functions can be declared on tables. However, the . notation defines a method with an implicit self, whereas the :: notation does not. Therefore the . is the equivalent of Lua's :, and :: is the equivalent of Lua's .. For example:

o = { }
function o.greet()
   print "Hi, I'm %{self}"      -- implicit self parameter
function o::greet()
   print self                   -- Error: self is undefined

Calling functions attached to tables follows the same conventions, with . passing the receiver, whereas :: does not.

Lastly, although the Lua-style ... notation may be used for "vararg" functions as the last parameter. Shine extends this by adding ...<ident> syntax. This has the effect of collecting the remaining arguments and packing them into an array:

-- the Lua way
function luaesque(...)
   for i=1, select('#', ...) do
      a = select(i, ...)
      print "arg: %{i} is %{a}"
   return ...

-- the Shine way
function shiny(...args)
   for i, v in args do
      print "arg: %{i} is %{v}"
   return ...args   -- unpack

Of course, the Lua way may often be preferred, especially for performance sensitive code which passes ... along to avoid allocating arrays at each invocation.


Generators are special functions which return a wrapped coroutine up invocation. Generators are declared as functions decorated with a *. The position of the asterisk depends on whether the generator is declared using long or short syntax.

The long syntax takes the form:

function* '(' <param_list> ')' <chunk> end


function* seq(x)
   -- inside the coroutine
   for i in 1..x do
      yield i       -- i.e. coroutine::yield(i)
gen = seq(3)

print gen()         -- prints: 1
print gen()         -- prints: 2
print gen()         -- prints: 3

The short syntax takes the form:

*'(' <param_list> ')' => (<nl> <chunk> end) | <expr>


seq = *(x) =>
   -- inside the coroutine
   for i in 1..x do
      yield i       -- i.e. coroutine::yield(i)
gen = seq(3)

print gen()         -- prints: 1
print gen()         -- prints: 2
print gen()         -- prints: 3

Generators can also be defined as class members


Classes are Lua tables used as constructors and metatables for their instances. A class is declared using the class keyword, which has the following form.

class <ident> (extends <expr>)? <chunk> end

Classes support single inheritance with implementation sharing via module mixins. Much like Ruby.

Class bodies are closures internally, so all the ordinary scoping rules for functions apply. Two parameters self and super are passed to the class body, where super either references the base class, or the builtin Object if no base class is specified.

The behaviour expressed by a class is contained in three special tables attached to the class as properties: __members__, __getters__ and __setters__.

Shine overloads the __index and __newindex metamethods to delegate to these tables - as well as two fallbacks: __getindex, and __setindex - according to the following rules:

  • if the access is a read access (__index hook)

    • if __getters__ contains the key, then call __getters__[key](obj)
    • otherwise if __members__ defines the key, return __members__[key]
    • otherwise if class.__getindex is defined, call __getindex(obj, key)
    • otherwise return nil
  • if the access is a write access (__newindex hook)

    • if __setters__ contains the key, then call __setters__[key](obj, val)
    • otherwise, if class.__setindex is defined, call __setindex(obj, key, val)
    • otherwise call rawset(obj, key, val)


Methods are shared by all instances, and attached to the class's __members__ property, keyed on their name, who's value is an ordinary function, with an implicit self parameter.

Methods are introduced with an identifier followed by the parameters and the body:

<ident> '( <param_list> ')' <chunk> end

The function keyword is omitted. This allows functions local to the class body to be distinguised from instance methods. Here is the canonical Point class in Shine, with comments to illustrate:

class Point
   -- constructor
   self(x = 0, y = 0)
      self.x = x    -- property 'x'
      self.y = y    -- property 'y'

   -- instance method
   move(dx, dy)
      self.x = delta(self.x, dx)
      self.y = delta(self.y, dy)

   -- class-scoped function
   function delta(v, dv)
      return v + dv

As a special case, generators may also be declared as methods, if they are prefixed with a *:

class Bomb
      while true do
         yield "tick"
b = Bomb()
g = b.ticker()
print g()       -- prints: "tick"


Properties are typically not part of the class model, and can be simply set inside the constructor, or externally as needed.

For cases where more control is needed, however, classes may also define /getters/ and /setters/, which are method declarations prefixed with get or set respectively. These special methods behave like properties in that they can be read from or assigned to as with ordinary properties by users of the objects, but they are invoked by the runtime as methods on the object. The following illustrates:

class Point
   set x(x)
      self._x = x
   get x()
      return self._x

   set y(v)
      self._y = y
   get y()
      return self._y

p = Point()
p.x = 42            -- means: Point::__setters__::x(p, 42)
print p.x           -- means: print(Point::__getters__::y(p, 42))

This allows for lazy construction of default property values, read-only or write-only properties, enforcing type constraints, or coercing to and from cdata values.


The constructor of a class is a an ordinary method called self. Classes overload the __apply hook, which is called from the Class metatype's __call metamethod, and so are callable directly. This is used to create instances of the class. Arguments are passed through to the constructor.

However, this is largely a convention. An instance can also be created by using Lua's setmetatable:

p = setmetatable({ x = 0, y = 0}, Point)

A more concise form is supported by Shine using as:

p = { x = 0, y = 0 } as Point

The default __apply implementation calls self on the class, passing in a table with the metatable already set to that of the receiving class. In some cases - especially when creating metatypes for FFI bindings - this is undesirable, since FFI bindings construct cdata types and not insances based on tables.

In this case a custom __apply method should be used. The following illustates:

import ffi from "sys.ffi"
class Buffer
   local ctype = ffi::typeof('struct { char* ptr; size_t len; };')
   function self.__apply(str)
      return ctype(str, #str)
   -- make this class the metatype
   ffi::metatype(ctype, self)

buf = Buffer("Hello World!")


Inheritance uses the extends <expr> clause. The following illustrates:

class Point3D extends Point
   self(x, y, z = 0)
      super(x, y)           -- super refers to Point::__members__
      self.z = z
   move(dx, dy, dz)
      super.move(dx, dy)    -- compiles to super::move(self, dx, dy)
      self.z += dz

The argument to extends can be any valid expression, so even literal tables, and call expressions are allowed, which can be powerful tools for constructing parameterized class hierarchies at runtime.

function DBRecord(table)
   dbh = DB.connection()
   class base
         dbh.with(table) (handle) =>
            -- do something
   return base
class DBUser extends DBRecord("user_table")
   -- whatever

The above also shows that all declarations - including class declarations - can be nested.


Shine's modules are not to be confused with Lua's modules.

In Shine modules are almost identical to classes in every way, except that they are without a constructor and don't inherit. Modules are often used as singletons, or namespaces to contain related pieces of code. Their real power, however, comes from the fact that they can be composed into classes and even other modules using include <expr_list>.

This example shows similarities with classes, and how modules may be used as namespaces:

module armory
   local ANSWER = 42

   -- they can have getters/setters
   get answer()
      return ANSWER
   set answer(v)
      ANSWER = v

   -- they can contain other classes
   class PlasmaRifle
         print "pew pew"

   class BootKnife
         print "snick"

gun = armory::PlasmaRifle()

The following shows composing a module into a class using the include statement:

module Explosive
      throw "BOOM!"

class Grenade
   include Explosive

g = Grenade()
g.ignite() -- crashes your program

Modules are also callable, which lets you parametrize them during mixin:

module Explosive
   message = ...
      throw message

class Grenade
   include Explosive "BOOM!"

g = Grenade()
g.ignite() -- also crashes your program


Shine grammars are a special kind of module which can contain patterns as well as module body declarations such as methods, properties and statements. Grammar bodies have a lexical scope, just as with classes and modules.

Grammars are composable via include statements.

Grammars override the __call metamethod for matching.

grammar Macro
   function fail(err)
      return (s, i) =>
         local msg = (#s < i + 20) and s.sub(i)
         msg = "error %{err} near '%s'".format(msg)
         error(msg, 2)

   function expect(tok)
      return / <{tok}> | <{fail("'%{tok}' expected")}> /

   text  <- {~ <item>* ~}
   item  <- <macro> | [^()] | '(' <item>* <{expect(')')}>
   arg   <- ' '* {~ (!',' <item>)* ~}
   args  <- '(' <arg> (',' <arg>)* ')'
   macro <- (
        ('apply' <args>) -> '%1(%2)'
      | ('add'   <args>) -> '%1 + %2'
      | ('mul'   <args>) -> '%1 * %2'

local s = "add(mul(a,b),apply(f,x))"


Decorators are annotations associated with class, module, grammar, function or local declarations.

class Foo

   @methdeco({ doc = "does something" }, 42)


function bar()

local a, b = 40, 2

The semantics are simple. A decorator is a function or other callable which is passed the decorated object as a first argument, followed by any remaining arguments declared in the annotation. The exception being local variable declarations, in which case the decorator function is passed the right-hand side of the assignment as a list.

A decorator is expected to return a value to be used as the value of the declaration. The transormation inserted by the compiler has the following pattern:

@deco2({ answer = 0 })
function greet()
   print "Hello World!"

local a, b = 1, 2


function greet()
   print "Hello World!"
greet = deco1(deco2(greet, { answer = 0 }), 42)

local a, b = deco3(1, 2, "cheese")

That's it. Simple.


Shine currently has experimental support for procedural macros. Macros are functions run at compile time, which receive the compiler context and abstract syntax tree (AST) nodes as arguments.

A macro is expected to transform the AST nodes into opcode tree fragments exactly as is done by the Shine translator. This is a powerful feature, but also allows one to produce invalid code, so not for the faint of heart.

The following macro does a compile-time string concatenation and inserts print "Hello World!".

-- file: hello.shn
macro hello!(ctx, expr)
   util = require("shine.lang.util")
   mesg = util::unquote(ctx.get(expr))
   return ctx.op{'!call', 'print', ctx.op"Hello %{mesg}"}


Running the above with shinec -o to print the opcode tree, yields:

$ shinec -o hello.shn 
;TvmJIT opcode tree:

(!line "@hello.shn" 1)(!define __magic__ (!index (!call1 require "core") "__magic__"))(!call (!index _G "module") !vararg (!index __magic__ "environ"))
(!line 2) 
(!line 8) (!call print "Hello World!")

The first line is the standard Shine prelude which loads the runtime environment. The interesting part comes next. We see the constant string passed to print is pre-computed as we expected.

Note that the macro itself is a compile-time entity and is not present in the output.

Of course, defining macros only within a given compilation unit limits their usefulness, so macro definitions have an alternative syntax:

macro <name> '=' <ident>

Where <ident> is either a locally declared function, or an imported symbol. The following illustrates:

-- file: macros.shn

function hello(ctx, expr)
   util = require("shine.lang.util")
   mesg = util::unquote(ctx.get(expr))
   return ctx.op{'!call', 'print', ctx.op"Hello %{mesg}"}

export hello
-- file: hello.shn
import hello from "macros"

macro hello! = hello


Running hello.shn with shinec -o now shows:

$ shinec -o hello.shn 
;TvmJIT opcode tree:

(!line "@hello.shn" 1)(!define __magic__ (!index (!call1 require "core") "__magic__"))(!call (!index _G "module") !vararg (!index __magic__ "environ"))
(!line 1) (!define (hello) ((!call import "macros" "hello")))
(!line 3) 
(!line 5) (!call print "Hello World!")

This comes with a couple of caveats. First, the compiler needs to load and evaluate the module at compile time, so if the module's code has side effects (such as sending an email), then this will happen when the code is compiled. This is the only case (along with import macro ... statement) where the compiler does any sort of early linking or binding.

Secondly, if the function to be used as the macro implementation is declared in the same compilation unit, then it must be declared in its canonical form: i.e. function <name> <params> <body> end. It cannot be a property or expression or any other computed form.

Lastly, macro functions are run early, so generally need to import what they need locally.

Some tips:

  • Macros could be imported with shorthand syntax:
-- file: hello.shn
import macro hello from "macros"

  • To implement macros, one needs to know the structure of the AST, so shinec -p will print it out.
  • The "shine.lang.util" module has a dump function which pretty prints AST nodes.
  • The best reference is the Shine translator itself.

Standard Libraries

See ./lib


The standard libraries have a strong focus on concurrency using scheduled coroutines, wrapped as the class Fiber, which cooperate with (but not scheduled by) an event loop.

This gives a clean linear flow to writing concurrent applications without the need for inverting everything using callbacks.

Here's the canonical TCP echo server example:

import async, yield from "async"
import TCPServer from ""

server = TCPServer()
server.bind("localhost", 1976)

async =>
   while true do
      client = server.accept()
      async =>
         while true do
            got =
            if got == nil then
            client.write("you said %{got}")



See ./lib/async/fiber.shn, ./lib/async/util.shn


See ./lib/sys/thread.shn and the czmq bindings.


See ./lib/codec/serializer.shn

Big TODO here.

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