[lua] How to dump a table to console?

I'm having trouble displaying the contents of a table which contains nested tables (n-deep). I'd like to just dump it to std out or the console via a print statement or something quick and dirty but I can't figure out how. I'm looking for the rough equivalent that I'd get when printing an NSDictionary using gdb.

This question is related to lua

The answer is


As previously mentioned, you have to write it. Here is my humble version: (super basic one)

function tprint (t, s)
    for k, v in pairs(t) do
        local kfmt = '["' .. tostring(k) ..'"]'
        if type(k) ~= 'string' then
            kfmt = '[' .. k .. ']'
        end
        local vfmt = '"'.. tostring(v) ..'"'
        if type(v) == 'table' then
            tprint(v, (s or '')..kfmt)
        else
            if type(v) ~= 'string' then
                vfmt = tostring(v)
            end
            print(type(t)..(s or '')..kfmt..' = '..vfmt)
        end
    end
end

example:

local mytbl = { ['1']="a", 2, 3, b="c", t={d=1} }
tprint(mytbl)

output (Lua 5.0):

table[1] = 2
table[2] = 3
table["1"] = "a"
table["t"]["d"] = 1
table["b"] = "c"

Format as JSON (you can "beautify" in IDE later):

local function format_any_value(obj, buffer)
    local _type = type(obj)
    if _type == "table" then
        buffer[#buffer + 1] = '{"'
        for key, value in next, obj, nil do
            buffer[#buffer + 1] = tostring(key) .. '":'
            format_any_value(value, buffer)
            buffer[#buffer + 1] = ',"'
        end
        buffer[#buffer] = '}' -- note the overwrite
    elseif _type == "string" then
        buffer[#buffer + 1] = '"' .. obj .. '"'
    elseif _type == "boolean" or _type == "number" then
        buffer[#buffer + 1] = tostring(obj)
    else
        buffer[#buffer + 1] = '"???' .. _type .. '???"'
    end
end

Usage:

local function format_as_json(obj)
    if obj == nil then return "null" else
        local buffer = {}
        format_any_value(obj, buffer)
        return table.concat(buffer)
    end
end

local function print_as_json(obj)
    print(_format_as_json(obj))
end

print_as_json {1, 2, 3}
print_as_json(nil)
print_as_json("string")
print_as_json {[1] = 1, [2] = 2, three = { { true } }, four = "four"}

BTW, I also wrote several other solutions: a very fast one, and one with special characters escaping: https://github.com/vn971/fast_json_encode


Most pure lua print table functions I've seen have a problem with deep recursion and tend to cause a stack overflow when going too deep. This print table function that I've written does not have this problem. It should also be capable of handling really large tables due to the way it handles concatenation. In my personal usage of this function, it outputted 63k lines to file in about a second.

The output also keeps lua syntax and the script can easily be modified for simple persistent storage by writing the output to file if modified to allow only number, boolean, string and table data types to be formatted.

function print_table(node)
    local cache, stack, output = {},{},{}
    local depth = 1
    local output_str = "{\n"

    while true do
        local size = 0
        for k,v in pairs(node) do
            size = size + 1
        end

        local cur_index = 1
        for k,v in pairs(node) do
            if (cache[node] == nil) or (cur_index >= cache[node]) then

                if (string.find(output_str,"}",output_str:len())) then
                    output_str = output_str .. ",\n"
                elseif not (string.find(output_str,"\n",output_str:len())) then
                    output_str = output_str .. "\n"
                end

                -- This is necessary for working with HUGE tables otherwise we run out of memory using concat on huge strings
                table.insert(output,output_str)
                output_str = ""

                local key
                if (type(k) == "number" or type(k) == "boolean") then
                    key = "["..tostring(k).."]"
                else
                    key = "['"..tostring(k).."']"
                end

                if (type(v) == "number" or type(v) == "boolean") then
                    output_str = output_str .. string.rep('\t',depth) .. key .. " = "..tostring(v)
                elseif (type(v) == "table") then
                    output_str = output_str .. string.rep('\t',depth) .. key .. " = {\n"
                    table.insert(stack,node)
                    table.insert(stack,v)
                    cache[node] = cur_index+1
                    break
                else
                    output_str = output_str .. string.rep('\t',depth) .. key .. " = '"..tostring(v).."'"
                end

                if (cur_index == size) then
                    output_str = output_str .. "\n" .. string.rep('\t',depth-1) .. "}"
                else
                    output_str = output_str .. ","
                end
            else
                -- close the table
                if (cur_index == size) then
                    output_str = output_str .. "\n" .. string.rep('\t',depth-1) .. "}"
                end
            end

            cur_index = cur_index + 1
        end

        if (size == 0) then
            output_str = output_str .. "\n" .. string.rep('\t',depth-1) .. "}"
        end

        if (#stack > 0) then
            node = stack[#stack]
            stack[#stack] = nil
            depth = cache[node] == nil and depth + 1 or depth - 1
        else
            break
        end
    end

    -- This is necessary for working with HUGE tables otherwise we run out of memory using concat on huge strings
    table.insert(output,output_str)
    output_str = table.concat(output)

    print(output_str)
end

Here is an example:

local t = {
    ["abe"] = {1,2,3,4,5},
    "string1",
    50,
    ["depth1"] = { ["depth2"] = { ["depth3"] = { ["depth4"] = { ["depth5"] = { ["depth6"] = { ["depth7"]= { ["depth8"] = { ["depth9"] = { ["depth10"] = {1000}, 900}, 800},700},600},500}, 400 }, 300}, 200}, 100},
    ["ted"] = {true,false,"some text"},
    "string2",
    [function() return end] = function() return end,
    75
}

print_table(t)

Output:

{
    [1] = 'string1',
    [2] = 50,
    [3] = 'string2',
    [4] = 75,
    ['abe'] = {
        [1] = 1,
        [2] = 2,
        [3] = 3,
        [4] = 4,
        [5] = 5
    },
    ['function: 06472B70'] = 'function: 06472A98',
    ['depth1'] = {
        [1] = 100,
        ['depth2'] = {
            [1] = 200,
            ['depth3'] = {
                [1] = 300,
                ['depth4'] = {
                    [1] = 400,
                    ['depth5'] = {
                        [1] = 500,
                        ['depth6'] = {
                            [1] = 600,
                            ['depth7'] = {
                                [1] = 700,
                                ['depth8'] = {
                                    [1] = 800,
                                    ['depth9'] = {
                                        [1] = 900,
                                        ['depth10'] = {
                                            [1] = 1000
                                        }
                                    }
                                }
                            }
                        }
                    }
                }
            }
        }
    },
    ['ted'] = {
        [1] = true,
        [2] = false,
        [3] = 'some text'
    }
}

I use my own function to print the contents of a table but not sure how well it translates to your environment:

---A helper function to print a table's contents.
---@param tbl table @The table to print.
---@param depth number @The depth of sub-tables to traverse through and print.
---@param n number @Do NOT manually set this. This controls formatting through recursion.
function PrintTable(tbl, depth, n)
  n = n or 0;
  depth = depth or 5;

  if (depth == 0) then
      print(string.rep(' ', n).."...");
      return;
  end

  if (n == 0) then
      print(" ");
  end

  for key, value in pairs(tbl) do
      if (key and type(key) == "number" or type(key) == "string") then
          key = string.format("[\"%s\"]", key);

          if (type(value) == "table") then
              if (next(value)) then
                  print(string.rep(' ', n)..key.." = {");
                  PrintTable(value, depth - 1, n + 4);
                  print(string.rep(' ', n).."},");
              else
                  print(string.rep(' ', n)..key.." = {},");
              end
          else
              if (type(value) == "string") then
                  value = string.format("\"%s\"", value);
              else
                  value = tostring(value);
              end

              print(string.rep(' ', n)..key.." = "..value..",");
          end
      end
  end

  if (n == 0) then
      print(" ");
  end
end

This is my version that supports excluding tables and userdata

-- Lua Table View by Elertan
table.print = function(t, exclusions)
    local nests = 0
    if not exclusions then exclusions = {} end
    local recurse = function(t, recurse, exclusions)
        indent = function()
            for i = 1, nests do
                io.write("    ")
            end
        end
        local excluded = function(key)
            for k,v in pairs(exclusions) do
                if v == key then
                    return true
                end
            end
            return false
        end
        local isFirst = true
        for k,v in pairs(t) do
            if isFirst then
                indent()
                print("|")
                isFirst = false
            end
            if type(v) == "table" and not excluded(k) then
                indent()
                print("|-> "..k..": "..type(v))
                nests = nests + 1
                recurse(v, recurse, exclusions)
            elseif excluded(k) then
                indent()
                print("|-> "..k..": "..type(v))
            elseif type(v) == "userdata" or type(v) == "function" then
                indent()
                print("|-> "..k..": "..type(v))
            elseif type(v) == "string" then
                indent()
                print("|-> "..k..": ".."\""..v.."\"")
            else
                indent()
                print("|-> "..k..": "..v)
            end
        end
        nests = nests - 1
    end

    nests = 0
    print("### START TABLE ###")
    for k,v in pairs(t) do
        print("root")
        if type(v) == "table" then
            print("|-> "..k..": "..type(v))
            nests = nests + 1
            recurse(v, recurse, exclusions)
        elseif type(v) == "userdata" or type(v) == "function" then
            print("|-> "..k..": "..type(v))
        elseif type(v) == "string" then
            print("|-> "..k..": ".."\""..v.."\"")
        else
            print("|-> "..k..": "..v)
        end
    end
    print("### END TABLE ###")
end

This is an example

t = {
    location = {
       x = 10,
       y = 20
    },
    size = {
      width = 100000000,
      height = 1000,
    },
    name = "Sidney",
    test = {
        hi = "lol",
    },
    anotherone = {
        1, 
        2, 
        3
    }
}

table.print(t, { "test" })

Prints:

   ### START TABLE ###
root
|-> size: table
    |
    |-> height: 1000
    |-> width: 100000000
root
|-> location: table
    |
    |-> y: 20
    |-> x: 10
root
|-> anotherone: table
    |
    |-> 1: 1
    |-> 2: 2
    |-> 3: 3
root
|-> test: table
    |
    |-> hi: "lol"
root
|-> name: "Sidney"
### END TABLE ###

Notice that the root doesn't remove exclusions


Adding another version. This one tries to iterate over userdata as well.

function inspect(o,indent)
    if indent == nil then indent = 0 end
    local indent_str = string.rep("    ", indent)
    local output_it = function(str)
        print(indent_str..str)
    end

    local length = 0

    local fu = function(k, v)
        length = length + 1
        if type(v) == "userdata" or type(v) == 'table' then
            output_it(indent_str.."["..k.."]")
            inspect(v, indent+1)
        else
            output_it(indent_str.."["..k.."] "..tostring(v))
        end
    end

    local loop_pairs = function()
        for k,v in pairs(o) do fu(k,v) end
    end

    local loop_metatable_pairs = function()
        for k,v in pairs(getmetatable(o)) do fu(k,v) end
    end

    if not pcall(loop_pairs) and not pcall(loop_metatable_pairs) then
        output_it(indent_str.."[[??]]")
    else
        if length == 0 then
            output_it(indent_str.."{}")
        end
    end
end

I have humbly modified a bit Alundaio code:

-- by Alundaio
-- KK modified 11/28/2019

function dump_table_to_string(node, tree, indentation)
    local cache, stack, output = {},{},{}
    local depth = 1


    if type(node) ~= "table" then
        return "only table type is supported, got " .. type(node)
    end

    if nil == indentation then indentation = 1 end

    local NEW_LINE = "\n"
    local TAB_CHAR = " "

    if nil == tree then
        NEW_LINE = "\n"
    elseif not tree then
        NEW_LINE = ""
        TAB_CHAR = ""
    end

    local output_str = "{" .. NEW_LINE

    while true do
        local size = 0
        for k,v in pairs(node) do
            size = size + 1
        end

        local cur_index = 1
        for k,v in pairs(node) do
            if (cache[node] == nil) or (cur_index >= cache[node]) then

                if (string.find(output_str,"}",output_str:len())) then
                    output_str = output_str .. "," .. NEW_LINE
                elseif not (string.find(output_str,NEW_LINE,output_str:len())) then
                    output_str = output_str .. NEW_LINE
                end

                -- This is necessary for working with HUGE tables otherwise we run out of memory using concat on huge strings
                table.insert(output,output_str)
                output_str = ""

                local key
                if (type(k) == "number" or type(k) == "boolean") then
                    key = "["..tostring(k).."]"
                else
                    key = "['"..tostring(k).."']"
                end

                if (type(v) == "number" or type(v) == "boolean") then
                    output_str = output_str .. string.rep(TAB_CHAR,depth*indentation) .. key .. " = "..tostring(v)
                elseif (type(v) == "table") then
                    output_str = output_str .. string.rep(TAB_CHAR,depth*indentation) .. key .. " = {" .. NEW_LINE
                    table.insert(stack,node)
                    table.insert(stack,v)
                    cache[node] = cur_index+1
                    break
                else
                    output_str = output_str .. string.rep(TAB_CHAR,depth*indentation) .. key .. " = '"..tostring(v).."'"
                end

                if (cur_index == size) then
                    output_str = output_str .. NEW_LINE .. string.rep(TAB_CHAR,(depth-1)*indentation) .. "}"
                else
                    output_str = output_str .. ","
                end
            else
                -- close the table
                if (cur_index == size) then
                    output_str = output_str .. NEW_LINE .. string.rep(TAB_CHAR,(depth-1)*indentation) .. "}"
                end
            end

            cur_index = cur_index + 1
        end

        if (size == 0) then
            output_str = output_str .. NEW_LINE .. string.rep(TAB_CHAR,(depth-1)*indentation) .. "}"
        end

        if (#stack > 0) then
            node = stack[#stack]
            stack[#stack] = nil
            depth = cache[node] == nil and depth + 1 or depth - 1
        else
            break
        end
    end

    -- This is necessary for working with HUGE tables otherwise we run out of memory using concat on huge strings
    table.insert(output,output_str)
    output_str = table.concat(output)

    return output_str

end

then:

print(dump_table_to_string("AA", true,3))

print(dump_table_to_string({"AA","BB"}, true,3))

print(dump_table_to_string({"AA","BB"}))

print(dump_table_to_string({"AA","BB"},false))

print(dump_table_to_string({"AA","BB",{22,33}},true,2))

gives:

only table type is supported, got string

{
   [1] = 'AA',
   [2] = 'BB'
}

{
 [1] = 'AA',
 [2] = 'BB'
}

{[1] = 'AA',[2] = 'BB'}

{
  [1] = 'AA',
  [2] = 'BB',
  [3] = {
    [1] = 22,
    [2] = 33
  }
}


--~ print a table
function printTable(list, i)

    local listString = ''
--~ begin of the list so write the {
    if not i then
        listString = listString .. '{'
    end

    i = i or 1
    local element = list[i]

--~ it may be the end of the list
    if not element then
        return listString .. '}'
    end
--~ if the element is a list too call it recursively
    if(type(element) == 'table') then
        listString = listString .. printTable(element)
    else
        listString = listString .. element
    end

    return listString .. ', ' .. printTable(list, i + 1)

end


local table = {1, 2, 3, 4, 5, {'a', 'b'}, {'G', 'F'}}
print(printTable(table))

Hi man, I wrote a siple code that do this in pure Lua, it has a bug (write a coma after the last element of the list) but how i wrote it quickly as a prototype I will let it to you adapt it to your needs.


I've found this one useful. Because if the recursion it can print nested tables too. It doesn't give the prettiest formatting in the output but for such a simple function it's hard to beat for debugging.

function dump(o)
   if type(o) == 'table' then
      local s = '{ '
      for k,v in pairs(o) do
         if type(k) ~= 'number' then k = '"'..k..'"' end
         s = s .. '['..k..'] = ' .. dump(v) .. ','
      end
      return s .. '} '
   else
      return tostring(o)
   end
end

e.g.

local people = {
   {
      name = "Fred",
      address = "16 Long Street",
      phone = "123456"
   },

   {
      name = "Wilma",
      address = "16 Long Street",
      phone = "123456"
   },

   {
      name = "Barney",
      address = "17 Long Street",
      phone = "123457"
   }

}

print("People:", dump(people))

Produces the following output:

People: { [1] = { ["address"] = 16 Long Street,["phone"] = 123456,["name"] = Fred,} ,[2] = { ["address"] = 16 Long Street,["phone"] = 123456,["name"] = Wilma,} ,[3] = { ["address"] = 17 Long Street,["phone"] = 123457,["name"] = Barney,} ,}


The simplest way, with circular reference handling and all:

function dump(t, indent, done)
    done = done or {}
    indent = indent or 0

    done[t] = true

    for key, value in pairs(t) do
        print(string.rep("\t", indent))

        if (type(value) == "table" and not done[value]) then
            done[value] = true
            print(key, ":\n")

            dump(value, indent + 2, done)
            done[value] = nil
        else
            print(key, "\t=\t", value, "\n")
        end
    end
end

I know this question has already been marked as answered, but let me plug my own library here. It's called inspect.lua, and you can find it here:

https://github.com/kikito/inspect.lua

It's just a single file that you can require from any other file. It returns a function that transforms any Lua value into a human-readable string:

local inspect = require('inspect')

print(inspect({1,2,3})) -- {1, 2, 3}
print(inspect({a=1,b=2})
-- {
--   a = 1
--   b = 2
-- }

It indents subtables properly, and handles "recursive tables" (tables that contain references to themselves) correctly, so it doesn't get into infinite loops. It sorts values in a sensible way. It also prints metatable information.

Regards!


You have to code it yourself I'm afraid. I wrote this, and it may be of some use to you

function printtable(table, indent)

  indent = indent or 0;

  local keys = {};

  for k in pairs(table) do
    keys[#keys+1] = k;
    table.sort(keys, function(a, b)
      local ta, tb = type(a), type(b);
      if (ta ~= tb) then
        return ta < tb;
      else
        return a < b;
      end
    end);
  end

  print(string.rep('  ', indent)..'{');
  indent = indent + 1;
  for k, v in pairs(table) do

    local key = k;
    if (type(key) == 'string') then
      if not (string.match(key, '^[A-Za-z_][0-9A-Za-z_]*$')) then
        key = "['"..key.."']";
      end
    elseif (type(key) == 'number') then
      key = "["..key.."]";
    end

    if (type(v) == 'table') then
      if (next(v)) then
        printf("%s%s =", string.rep('  ', indent), tostring(key));
        printtable(v, indent);
      else
        printf("%s%s = {},", string.rep('  ', indent), tostring(key));
      end 
    elseif (type(v) == 'string') then
      printf("%s%s = %s,", string.rep('  ', indent), tostring(key), "'"..v.."'");
    else
      printf("%s%s = %s,", string.rep('  ', indent), tostring(key), tostring(v));
    end
  end
  indent = indent - 1;
  print(string.rep('  ', indent)..'}');
end

found this:

-- Print contents of `tbl`, with indentation.
-- `indent` sets the initial level of indentation.
function tprint (tbl, indent)
  if not indent then indent = 0 end
  for k, v in pairs(tbl) do
    formatting = string.rep("  ", indent) .. k .. ": "
    if type(v) == "table" then
      print(formatting)
      tprint(v, indent+1)
    elseif type(v) == 'boolean' then
      print(formatting .. tostring(v))      
    else
      print(formatting .. v)
    end
  end
end

from here https://gist.github.com/ripter/4270799

works pretty good for me...


The table.tostring metehod of metalua is actually very complete. It deals with nested tables, the indentation level is changeable, ... See https://github.com/fab13n/metalua/blob/master/src/lib/metalua/table2.lua