Developing with Lua


The programming language used to create filters and shortcodes is Lua, a lightweight, high-level scripting language designed primarily for embedded use in applications. Lua is the extension language for Pandoc (which includes an embedded Lua interpreter). This means that Quarto extensions have no additional runtime dependencies or requirements.

This article will start by providing an orientation to learning Lua for those new to the language. Then, we’ll provide a reference to the built in Lua functions provided by Quarto to assist in developing extensions.

Learning Lua

Lua is a scripting language similar to Python, R, Julia, and JavaScript. If you are familiar with one or more of those languages you won’t have trouble picking up Lua.

The best way to begin with Lua is to read the documentation on Pandoc Lua Filters. This has the benefit of demonstrating the use of Lua in concrete scenarios related to document publishing. Another excellent resources is the Learn Lua in 15 Minutes article which provides annotated examples of how to do things in Lua you might already be familiar with in other languages.

Once you’ve brushed up on the basics, a good next step is to examine the source code of the extensions published in the Quarto Extensions GitHub organization (these are extensions maintained by the Quarto core team). Once you are able to read and understand that code you are ready to start developing your own extensions!

When creating an extension, there are many built-in variables and functions provided directly by Pandoc — you can learn about these in the article on Pandoc Lua Filters. The remainder of this article describes some additional Lua functions provided by Quarto which you may also need when developing extensions.


Various utility functions are provided, the most of important of which is the quarto.utils.dump() function (indispensable for debugging).

Function Description
quarto.utils.dump(obj) Dump a text representation of the passed object to stdout.
quarto.utils.resolvePath(path) Compute the full path to a file that is installed alongside your extension’s Lua script. This is useful for internal resources that your filter needs but should not be visible to the user.

For example, you can dump an element passed to a filter function as follows:

function Div(el)

Format Detection

Extensions will often need to detect the current format to create custom content depending on the target output medium. The quarto.doc.isFormat() function

Function Description
quarto.doc.isFormat(name) Detect if the current format matches name.
quarto.doc.hasBootstrap() Query whether Bootstrap CSS is available within the current document (it is by default for standard html documents but this may have been overridden by e.g. theme: none).

The name parameter can match an exact Pandoc format name (e.g. docx, latex, etc. or can match based on an alias that groups commonly targeted formats together. The following values format aliases are handled specially by quarto.doc.isFormat():

Alias Formats
latex latex, pdf
pdf latex, pdf
epub epub*
html html*, epub*, revealjs
html:js html*, revealjs
markdown markdown*, commonmark*, gfm, markua

Note that the html:js alias indicates that the target format is capable of executing JavaScript (this maps to all HTML formats save for ePub).

For example, here we check for PDF and HTML output:

if quarto.doc.isFormat("pdf") then
  -- pdf specific output
elseif quarto.doc.isFormat("html") then
  -- html specific output
  -- output for other formats

For LaTeX output, you may need to additionally detect which citation utility and pdf engine are being used for the current render. You can use these functions to do that detection:

Function Description
quarto.doc.citeMethod() Returns a string (citeproc, natbib, or biblatex) indicating the cite method in use.
quarto.doc.pdfEngine() Returns a string (pdflatex, xelatex, lualatex, or tectonic) indicating the PDF engine being used to render the document.


Sometimes extensions need to inject content into the target document. There are three locations that content can be included (pass one of these locations as the first argument of the include functions):

Location Description
in-header In the header of the document (HTML <head> tag or LaTeX preamble)
before-body Before the document body
after-body After the document body

Note that the included content should use the raw target format (e.g. HTML or LaTeX) rather than markdown. You can use these functions to include text or the contents of a file:

Function Description
quarto.doc.includeText(location, text) Include text at the specified location (in-header, before-body, or after-body)
quarto.doc.includeFile(location, file) Include file at the specified location (in-header, before-body, or after-body). The path to the file should relative to the Lua script calling this function.

For example the following code includes an HTML file after the body in the rendered document:

quarto.doc.includeFile("after-body", "comments.html")


Extensions will sometimes want to add external dependencies (for example, a JavaScript library and related CSS, or the usage of a LaTeX package). This can be accomplished with the following functions:

Function Description
quarto.doc.addHtmlDependency(dep) Add an HTML dependency (additional resources and content) to a document. See docs on the HTML Dependencies below for additional details.
quarto.doc.useLatexPackage(pkg, opt) Adds a \usepackage statement to the LaTeX output (along an options string specified in opt)
quarto.doc.addFormatResource(path) Add a format resource to the document. Format resources will be copied into the directory next to the rendered output. This is useful, for example, if your format references a bst or cls file which must be copied into the LaTeX output directory.

For example, here we add a LaTeX package dependency:


HTML Dependencies

HTML Dependencies can bundle together JavaScript, CSS, and even arbitrary content to inject into the <head> of the document. These dependencies have a name and a version, which is used to ensure that the same dependency isn’t bundled into the document more than once.

The dep object passed to quarto.doc.addHtmlDependency() has the following fields:

Field Description
name Unique name. Required.
version Version number (as a string). Required.
scripts List of scripts to include (paths should be relative to the Lua file calling the function). Scripts can be either a simple path or a script object.
stylesheets List of CSS style-sheets to include (paths should be relative to the Lua file calling the function). Stylesheets can either be a simple path or a stylesheet object
links List of link tags to add to the document. Each tag should be a table with rel and ref (required) and optionally type
resources Additional files to copy to the input directory (each resource is an object with name (target file name in input directory) and path (source file name relative to Lua script).
meta Table of optional key = value meta tags to insert into the document <head>
head Arbitrary string to include in document <head>

For example, here we add a dependency to a JavaScript library:

  name = "glightbox",
  version = "3.2.0",
  scripts = {"glightbox.min.js"},
  stylesheets = {"glightbox.min.css"}

Script Object

The easiest way to specify scripts is with simple paths. However, in some cases you may need to add attributes to the <script> tag or specify that the script should go after the body. In those cases pass a script object:

Field Description
path Path to the script (relative to the calling Lua script)
attribs Table with key = value attributes to add to the <script> tag
afterBody Specify that the <script> tag should be inserted after the body

For example, here update the previous example to add an integrity attribute to the script:

  name = "glightbox",
  version = "3.2.0",
  scripts = {
    { path = "glightbox.min.js ", attribs = {integrity = "R9GqQ8K/uxy9rx"} }
  stylesheets = {"glightbox.min.css"}

Stylesheet Object

The easiest way to specify stylesheets is with simple paths. However, in some cases you may need to add attributes to the <link> tag generated for the stylesheet. In those cases pass a stylesheet object:

Field Description
path Path to the stylesheet (relative to the calling Lua script)
attribs Table with key = value attributes to add to the <link> tag

For example, here we update the previous example to add an integrity attribute to the stylesheet:

  name = "glightbox",
  version = "3.2.0",
  scripts = {
      path = "glightbox.min.js ", 
      attribs = {integrity = "R9GqQ8K/uxy9rx"} 
  stylesheets = {
      path = "glightbox.min.css ", 
      attribs = {integrity = "GYl1kPzQho1wx"} 

JSON Encoding

Quarto includes a copy of json.lua. a lightweight JSON library for Lua. You can access the JSON functions as follows:

Function Description
quarto.json.encode(input) Encode a Lua table into a JSON string.
quarto.json.decode(str) Parse a JSON string into a Lua table.

For example, here we encode and then decode a table:

local json = quarto.json.encode({foo = "bar"})
local obj = quarto.json.decode(json)