The Go Blog


19 March 2019

Introduction

Go 1.11 and 1.12 include preliminary support for modules, Go’s new dependency management system that makes dependency version information explicit and easier to manage. This blog post is a tutorial to introduction to the basic operations needed to get started using modules. A followup post will cover releasing modules for others to use.

A module is a collection of Go packages stored in a file tree with a go.mod file at its root. The go.mod file defines the module’s module path, which is also the import path used for the root directory, and its dependency requirements, which are the other modules needed for a successful build. Each dependency requirement is written as a module path and a specific semantic version.

As of Go 1.11, the go command enables the use of modules when the current directory or any parent directory has a go.mod, provided the directory is outside $GOPATH/src. (Inside $GOPATH/src, for compatibility, the go command still runs in the old GOPATH mode, even if a go.mod is found. See the go command documentation for details.) Starting in Go 1.13, module mode will be the default for all development.

This post walks through a sequence of common operations that arise when developing Go code with modules:

  • Creating a new module.
  • Adding a dependency.
  • Upgrading dependencies.
  • Adding a dependency on a new major version.
  • Upgrading a dependency to a new major version.
  • Removing unused dependencies.

Creating a new module

Let's create a new module.

Create a new, empty directory somewhere outside $GOPATH/src, cd into that directory, and then create a new source file, hello.go:

package hello func Hello() string { return "Hello, world."
}

Let's write a test, too, in hello_test.go:

package hello import "testing" func TestHello(t *testing.T) { want := "Hello, world." if got := Hello(); got != want { t.Errorf("Hello() = %q, want %q", got, want) }
}

At this point, the directory contains a package, but not a module, because there is no go.mod file. If we were working in /home/gopher/hello and ran go test now, we'd see:

$ go test
PASS
ok _/home/gopher/hello 0.020s
$

The last line summarizes the overall package test. Because we are working outside $GOPATH and also outside any module, the go command knows no import path for the current directory and makes up a fake one based on the directory name: _/home/gopher/hello.

Let's make the current directory the root of a module by using go mod init and then try go test again:

$ go mod init example.com/hello
go: creating new go.mod: module example.com/hello
$ go test
PASS
ok example.com/hello 0.020s
$

Congratulations! You’ve written and tested your first module.

The go mod init command wrote a go.mod file:

$ cat go.mod
module example.com/hello go 1.12
$

The go.mod file only appears in the root of the module. Packages in subdirectories have import paths consisting of the module path plus the path to the subdirectory. For example, if we created a subdirectory world, we would not need to (nor want to) run go mod init there. The package would automatically be recognized as part of the example.com/hello module, with import path example.com/hello/world.

Adding a dependency

The primary motivation for Go modules was to improve the experience of using (that is, adding a dependency on) code written by other developers.

Let's update our hello.go to import rsc.io/quote and use it to implement Hello:

package hello import "rsc.io/quote" func Hello() string { return quote.Hello()
}

Now let’s run the test again:

$ go test
go: finding rsc.io/quote v1.5.2
go: downloading rsc.io/quote v1.5.2
go: extracting rsc.io/quote v1.5.2
go: finding rsc.io/sampler v1.3.0
go: finding golang.org/x/text v0.0.0-20170915032832-14c0d48ead0c
go: downloading rsc.io/sampler v1.3.0
go: extracting rsc.io/sampler v1.3.0
go: downloading golang.org/x/text v0.0.0-20170915032832-14c0d48ead0c
go: extracting golang.org/x/text v0.0.0-20170915032832-14c0d48ead0c
PASS
ok example.com/hello 0.023s
$

The go command resolves imports by using the specific dependency module versions listed in go.mod. When it encounters an import of a package not provided by any module in go.mod, the go command automatically looks up the module containing that package and adds it to go.mod, using the latest version. (“Latest” is defined as the latest tagged stable (non-prerelease) version, or else the latest tagged prerelease version, or else the latest untagged version.) In our example, go test resolved the new import rsc.io/quote to the module rsc.io/quote v1.5.2. It also downloaded two dependencies used by rsc.io/quote, namely rsc.io/sampler and golang.org/x/text. Only direct dependencies are recorded in the go.mod file:

$ cat go.mod
module example.com/hello go 1.12 require rsc.io/quote v1.5.2
$

A second go test command will not repeat this work, since the go.mod is now up-to-date and the downloaded modules are cached locally (in $GOPATH/pkg/mod):

$ go test
PASS
ok example.com/hello 0.020s
$

Note that while the go command makes adding a new dependency quick and easy, it is not without cost. Your module now literally depends on the new dependency in critical areas such as correctness, security, and proper licensing, just to name a few. For more considerations, see Russ Cox's blog post, “Our Software Dependency Problem.”

As we saw above, adding one direct dependency often brings in other indirect dependencies too. The command go list -m all lists the current module and all its dependencies:

$ go list -m all
example.com/hello
golang.org/x/text v0.0.0-20170915032832-14c0d48ead0c
rsc.io/quote v1.5.2
rsc.io/sampler v1.3.0
$

In the go list output, the current module, also known as the main module, is always the first line, followed by dependencies sorted by module path.

The golang.org/x/text version v0.0.0-20170915032832-14c0d48ead0c is an example of a pseudo-version, which is the go command's version syntax for a specific untagged commit.

In addition to go.mod, the go command maintains a file named go.sum containing the expected cryptographic hashes of the content of specific module versions:

$ cat go.sum
golang.org/x/text v0.0.0-20170915032832-14c0d48ead0c h1:qgOY6WgZO...
golang.org/x/text v0.0.0-20170915032832-14c0d48ead0c/go.mod h1:Nq...
rsc.io/quote v1.5.2 h1:w5fcysjrx7yqtD/aO+QwRjYZOKnaM9Uh2b40tElTs3...
rsc.io/quote v1.5.2/go.mod h1:LzX7hefJvL54yjefDEDHNONDjII0t9xZLPX...
rsc.io/sampler v1.3.0 h1:7uVkIFmeBqHfdjD+gZwtXXI+RODJ2Wc4O7MPEh/Q...
rsc.io/sampler v1.3.0/go.mod h1:T1hPZKmBbMNahiBKFy5HrXp6adAjACjK9...
$

The go command uses the go.sum file to ensure that future downloads of these modules retrieve the same bits as the first download, to ensure the modules your project depends on do not change unexpectedly, whether for malicious, accidental, or other reasons. Both go.mod and go.sum should be checked into version control.

Upgrading dependencies

With Go modules, versions are referenced with semantic version tags. A semantic version has three parts: major, minor, and patch. For example, for v0.1.2, the major version is 0, the minor version is 1, and the patch version is 2. Let's walk through a couple minor version upgrades. In the next section, we’ll consider a major version upgrade.

From the output of go list -m all, we can see we're using an untagged version of golang.org/x/text. Let's upgrade to the latest tagged version and test that everything still works:

$ go get golang.org/x/text
go: finding golang.org/x/text v0.3.0
go: downloading golang.org/x/text v0.3.0
go: extracting golang.org/x/text v0.3.0
$ go test
PASS
ok example.com/hello 0.013s
$

Woohoo! Everything passes. Let's take another look at go list -m all and the go.mod file:

$ go list -m all
example.com/hello
golang.org/x/text v0.3.0
rsc.io/quote v1.5.2
rsc.io/sampler v1.3.0
$ cat go.mod
module example.com/hello go 1.12 require ( golang.org/x/text v0.3.0 // indirect rsc.io/quote v1.5.2
)
$

The golang.org/x/text package has been upgraded to the latest tagged version (v0.3.0). The go.mod file has been updated to specify v0.3.0 too. The indirect comment indicates a dependency is not used directly by this module, only indirectly by other module dependencies. See go help modules for details.

Now let's try upgrading the rsc.io/sampler minor version. Start the same way, by running go get and running tests:

$ go get rsc.io/sampler
go: finding rsc.io/sampler v1.99.99
go: downloading rsc.io/sampler v1.99.99
go: extracting rsc.io/sampler v1.99.99
$ go test
--- FAIL: TestHello (0.00s) hello_test.go:8: Hello() = "99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer, ...", want "Hello, world."
FAIL
exit status 1
FAIL example.com/hello 0.014s
$

Uh, oh! The test failure shows that the latest version of rsc.io/sampler is incompatible with our usage. Let's list the available tagged versions of that module:

$ go list -m -versions rsc.io/sampler
rsc.io/sampler v1.0.0 v1.2.0 v1.2.1 v1.3.0 v1.3.1 v1.99.99
$

We had been using v1.3.0; v1.99.99 is clearly no good. Maybe we can try using v1.3.1 instead:

$ go get rsc.io/sampler@v1.3.1
go: finding rsc.io/sampler v1.3.1
go: downloading rsc.io/sampler v1.3.1
go: extracting rsc.io/sampler v1.3.1
$ go test
PASS
ok example.com/hello 0.022s
$

Note the explicit @v1.3.1 in the go get argument. In general each argument passed to go get can take an explicit version; the default is @latest, which resolves to the latest version as defined earlier.

Adding a dependency on a new major version

Let's add a new function to our package: func Proverb returns a Go concurrency proverb, by calling quote.Concurrency, which is provided by the module rsc.io/quote/v3. First we update hello.go to add the new function:

package hello import ( "rsc.io/quote" quoteV3 "rsc.io/quote/v3"
) func Hello() string { return quote.Hello()
} func Proverb() string { return quoteV3.Concurrency()
}

Then we add a test to hello_test.go:

func TestProverb(t *testing.T) { want := "Concurrency is not parallelism." if got := Proverb(); got != want { t.Errorf("Proverb() = %q, want %q", got, want) }
}

Then we can test our code:

$ go test
go: finding rsc.io/quote/v3 v3.1.0
go: downloading rsc.io/quote/v3 v3.1.0
go: extracting rsc.io/quote/v3 v3.1.0
PASS
ok example.com/hello 0.024s
$

Note that our module now depends on both rsc.io/quote and rsc.io/quote/v3:

$ go list -m rsc.io/q...
rsc.io/quote v1.5.2
rsc.io/quote/v3 v3.1.0
$

Note that our module now depends on both rsc.io/quote and rsc.io/quote/v3:

$ go list -m rsc.io/q...
rsc.io/quote v1.5.2
rsc.io/quote/v3 v3.1.0
$

Each different major version (v1, v2, and so on) of a Go module uses a different module path: starting at v2, the path must end in the major version. In the example, v3 of rsc.io/quote is no longer rsc.io/quote: instead, it is identified by the module path rsc.io/quote/v3. This convention is called semantic import versioning, and it gives incompatible packages (those with different major versions) different names. In contrast, v1.6.0 of rsc.io/quote should be backwards-compatible with v1.5.2, so it reuses the name rsc.io/quote. (In the previous section, rsc.io/sampler v1.99.99 should have been backwards-compatible with rsc.io/sampler v1.3.0, but bugs or incorrect client assumptions about module behavior can both happen.)

The go command allows a build to include at most one version of any particular module path, meaning at most one of each major version: one rsc.io/quote, one rsc.io/quote/v2, one rsc.io/quote/v3, and so on. This gives module authors a clear rule about possible duplication of a single module path: it is impossible for a program to build with both rsc.io/quote v1.5.2 and rsc.io/quote v1.6.0. At the same time, allowing different major versions of a module (because they have different paths) gives module consumers the ability to upgrade to a new major version incrementally. In this example, we wanted to use quote.Concurrency from rsc/quote/v3 v3.1.0 but are not yet ready to migrate our uses of rsc.io/quote v1.5.2. The ability to migrate incrementally is especially important in a large program or codebase.

Upgrading a dependency to a new major version

Let's complete our conversion from using rsc.io/quote to using only rsc.io/quote/v3. Because of the major version change, we should expect that some APIs may have been removed, renamed, or otherwise changed in incompatible ways. Reading the docs, we can see that Hello has become HelloV3:

$ go doc rsc.io/quote/v3
package quote // import "rsc.io/quote" Package quote collects pithy sayings. func Concurrency() string
func GlassV3() string
func GoV3() string
func HelloV3() string
func OptV3() string
$

(There is also a known bug in the output; the displayed import path has incorrectly dropped the /v3.)

We can update our use of quote.Hello() in hello.go to use quoteV3.Hello():

package hello import quoteV3 "rsc.io/quote/v3" func Hello() string { return quoteV3.Hello()
} func Proverb() string { return quoteV3.Concurrency()
}

And then at this point, there's no need for the renamed import anymore, so we can undo that:

package hello import "rsc.io/quote/v3" func Hello() string { return quote.Hello()
} func Proverb() string { return quote.Concurrency()
}

Let's re-run the tests to make sure everything is working:

$ go test
PASS
ok example.com/hello 0.014s

Removing unused dependencies

We've removed all our uses of rsc.io/quote, but it still shows up in go list -m all and in our go.mod file:

$ go list -m all
example.com/hello
golang.org/x/text v0.3.0
rsc.io/quote v1.5.2
rsc.io/quote/v3 v3.1.0
rsc.io/sampler v1.3.1
$ cat go.mod
module example.com/hello go 1.12 require ( golang.org/x/text v0.3.0 // indirect rsc.io/quote v1.5.2 rsc.io/quote/v3 v3.0.0 rsc.io/sampler v1.3.1 // indirect
)
$

Why? Because building a single package, like with go build or go test, can easily tell when something is missing and needs to be added, but not when something can safely be removed. Removing a dependency can only be done after checking all packages in a module, and all possible build tag combinations for those packages. An ordinary build command does not load this information, and so it cannot safely remove dependencies.

The go mod tidy command cleans up these unused dependencies:

$ go mod tidy
$ go list -m all
example.com/hello
golang.org/x/text v0.3.0
rsc.io/quote/v3 v3.1.0
rsc.io/sampler v1.3.1
$ cat go.mod
module example.com/hello go 1.12 require ( golang.org/x/text v0.3.0 // indirect rsc.io/quote/v3 v3.1.0 rsc.io/sampler v1.3.1 // indirect
) $ go test
PASS
ok example.com/hello 0.020s
$

Conclusion

Go modules are the future of dependency management in Go. Module functionality is now available in all supported Go versions (that is, in Go 1.11 and Go 1.12).

This post introduced these workflows using Go modules:

  • go mod init creates a new module, initializing the go.mod file that describes it.
  • go build, go test, and other package-building commands add new dependencies to go.mod as needed.
  • go list -m all prints the current module’s dependencies.
  • go get changes the required version of a dependency (or adds a new dependency).
  • go mod tidy removes unused dependencies.

We encourage you to start using modules in your local development and to add go.mod and go.sum files to your projects. To provide feedback and help shape the future of dependency management in Go, please send us bug reports or experience reports.

Thanks for all your feedback and help improving modules.

By Tyler Bui-Palsulich and Eno Compton