Antonin Carette

A journey into a wild pointer

`go mod`: manage all your dep as a single unit

Posted at — Nov 3, 2018

Generally, when you want to package your go app, you are creating different packages, inside the same project. The problem is, if you want to use a single internal package, you simply can’t, because you have to import the entire package in order to user a single and very simple feature inside.

But, sometimes, you don’t want to use a single extenal package. Indeed, you just want to use a certain number of packages to do a task, and all compatible between them. And this become more complex… Also, do not forget that, when importing a Go project using go get, it will not check the package dependencies, or the package versions… So, you need an external tool to define and save the package versions your Go app is using.

Since Go 1.11 (as a beta version), a new feature pointed to the end of his nose in order to help you in creating, and managing, easily a group of packages as a single unit: the Go modules. Also, vendoring will be “deprecated” soon to give way to Go modules soon.

Let’s talk about this feature.

The context

Go has a lot of external tools in order to manage dependencies: vendors, go dep… but those tools are not very efficient, and raised a lot of problems (and usability exception) since their public availability. The needs, for Gophers, was to build an internal command in order to fetch and install specific dependencies in order to build a Go package.

At this time, Go modules was born.

Go modules appeared in Go 1.11 as a beta feature, and has been released as a stable feature in Go 1.12.

In order to preserve the consistency and the maintanability of Go projects, go mod will check the Gopkg.lock, if it exists, in order to retrieve very fast the required libraries for your Go app.

The concept

In order to define the different “components” of the Go module, a go.mod file is listing other required modules, at the root of the defined module:


If main.go is using bar and foo specific Go packages, go.mod will list those packages in order to fetch, download, and build them.

For this example, in go.mod:

module // Define the package name

require ( v0.0.1 // I want the 0.0.1 version of bar... v0.0.3 // ...and the specific 0.0.3 of foo!

You can observe here that:

  1. the module is named as your Go package;
  2. go packages have been imported automatically (last version) in the require code block;
  3. indirect go packages are explicited (in order to verify the entier Go app later);
  4. the package version of each Go package is setted (and can be modified but you have to respect the consistancy of the dependencies versions).

So, if another user is trying to import/download/build your app, go mod will import the specific versions of your in-app packages. Very nice!

A simple example

To illustrate how to use go mod, we will make a very simple exercise.

Here, we want to create an HTTP server, that consumes a single route, /proverb, which returns a Go proverb as a string. In order To do that, we will import the following packages:

Ok, let’s create our Go package.

> mkdir -p /tmp/go_tests/httproverb
> cd /tmp/go_tests/httproverb

First, let’s initialize the go.mod file:

> go mod init
go: creating new go.mod: module

Using this command, go will create and initialize a go.mod file that contains only the name of the module, as we did not create our Go app.

Let’s create the main application, in httproverb.go:

package main

import (

func hello(w http.ResponseWriter, r *http.Request) {
  fmt.Fprintf(w, "<h1>Hello user</h1><p>Tip: Why don't you try /proverb ? :)</p>")

func proverbHandler(w http.ResponseWriter, r *http.Request) {
  goProverb := quote.Go()
  // Log the proverb (just to use color from fatih...)
  color.Green("This is my new proverb: ā€™%sā€™", goProverb)
  // Returned from the server
  fmt.Fprintf(w, goProverb)

func main() {
  http.HandleFunc("/", hello)
  http.HandleFunc("/proverb", proverbHandler)
  log.Fatal(http.ListenAndServe(":8080", nil))

The architecture of our project is very simple because it contains only two files: go.mod and httproverb.go.

Now we written the code of our Go app, let’s build it!

> go build
go: finding v1.7.0
go: downloading v1.7.0
package main
go: finding v0.0.4
go: finding v0.0.9
go: downloading v0.0.4
go: downloading v0.0.9

If you want to see where are stored those dependencies, you can list the files in the go mod cache, in $GOPATH/pkg/mod/, and are postfixed with the dep version. In you are wondering why go mod is using is own cache, you can check the answer from Ross Cox in this article from Dave Cheney.

After playing a bit with the Go app, check the go.mod app:


require ( v1.7.0 v0.0.9 // indirect v0.0.4 // indirect v1.5.2

Great! Go has successfully listed our dependencies into the go.mod file, without any help.

Go contains a lot of subcommands in order to manage easily and properly the dependencies, like:

To go further

If you want to take a look at a better/live example, please check a look at the httpstat package from Dave Cheney, a very famous Gopher. Otherwise, if you want to know more about Go modules, please to read the official proposal from the Go team.