Some Tools For Go That You Might Not Know Yet

Year’s end is coming closer. Time to clean up repositories and polishing up the toolset. All the well-known tools have been installed already–is there anything else to add to the toolbox?

Here are a few useful tools that you might not have in your toolbox yet: interfacer, zb, realize, and binstale. They have nothing in common except that each of them solves a particular problem well.

interfacer: Should I rather use an interface here?

interfacer has a very specific purpose: It looks at the parameters of your functions and points out those that you could replace by an interface type.

Why this?

Maybe you have heard of the following advice: A function should expect an interface and return a specific type. I fail to remember where I came across that rule, and the precise wording might also be different, but the point is that if a function parameter is an interface then the function is much more versatile and can, for example, receive a mock type when used in a unit test.

So whenever you feel you have missed an opportunity to have one of your functions receive an interface rather then a struct, run interfacer and it will tell you if you did.

An example

Imagine that one day, you start writing a BBQ sensor library for controlling the temperature of your Thanksgiving turkey. The library contains an Alerter interface consisting of function Alerter, and a Sensor struct that implements Alerter.

type Alerter interface {

type Sensor struct{}

func (Sensor) Alert() {
	fmt.Println("Turkey is done!")

A couple hours and few thousand lines later (yes, you feel productive this day) you define a function sensorAlert that expects a Sensor struct and calls its Alert method.

func sensorAlert(s Sensor) {

You vaguely remember that Alert belongs to some interface but you can’t remember which one. You’re too lazy to search for it (and after all, it is already 11pm), so you run

$ interfacer bbq.go

and get this advice:

bbq.go:15:18: s can be Alerter

You quickly fix the sensorAlert function and go to bed, knowing that you now can easily pass some MockSensor struct to sensorAlert when you’ll write the tests tomorrow.

Interfacer on GitHub

zb: Take some shortcuts to the go toolchain

After you finished some work on your latest project, you run gometalinter. It takes some time to finish, and you discover that some of the lint tools have descended into the vendor directory, and now the output is cluttered with lots of useless messages.

Then you run go build, only to observe that some tests failed. Aw, forgot to run go generate.

While you fix this, you realize how time is passing, and you wish your tools were faster and a bit smarter.

zb to the rescue.

In contrast to the previous tool, zb is a little Swiss army knife. It provides a bunch of commands that shall speed up your write/build/test cycle. Some of its highlights:

  • It speeds up builds by running concurrent go install commands where possible.
  • It speeds up tests and lint tools by caching the results.
  • It remembers calling go generate in case you forgot.
  • It is aware of the vendor directory and keeps some operations out of vendor (like, for example, linting).

I cannot list all of the available commands here; otherwise I would just end up rephrasing the README file here. If you got curious, just head over to zb’s README and have a look.

Caveat: The author describes the tool as opinionated, and I would tend to agree. On the other hand, there is no obligation to use all of the available commands. Just pick the ones you find useful and that don’t get in the way of your workflow.

zb on GitHub

realize: Trigger your toolchain via Ctrl-S

The standard go tools - go build, go test, etc. are quick and uncomplicated, but as your projects get larger and more complex, you start wishing for some kind of automation that triggers all builds and tests each time you save a source file.

realize is your friend.

Activating go build, test, run, generate, fmt, etc. is just a matter of flipping some boolean switches in a config file (as opposed to specifying the complete command line).

Plus, you can add custom commands for pre- and post-processing, set paths to ignore, choose to save output, log, or error streams from the build, and more.

And besides a colorful shell output (where you can quickly tell successful builds from failed builds by the color), realize also has a Web UI to monitor all of your build processes in one browser window.

realize on GitHub

binstale: Are my binaries up to date?

Do you know if the binaries in your $GOPATH/bin directory are still up to date? go get happily installs binary after binary, but then they start collecting dust. And at one point you remember you once installed that nice tool that helped you doing xyz for you, and eventually you find it in $GOPATH/bin, but starting it fails with some incomprehensible error message.

You are pretty sure it worked without flaws back then, so maybe the binary got stale? You decide to try updating the source code.

You run a recursive search in $GOPATH/bin to find a repository of the same name as the binary. Eventually you find the repository and call go get on it. This fixes your binary, and you feel relieved…

…until you realize that there could be dozens, if not hundreds, of stale binaries in your $GOPATH/bin directory!

Meet binstale.

This little gem tells you in an instant whether a given go-gettable binary needs updating.

$ binstale realize
    STALE: (build ID mismatch)

And if you have a minute or two, it does the same for all of your binaries.

$ binstale
    STALE: (build ID mismatch)
    STALE: (build ID mismatch)
    STALE: (build ID mismatch)
    STALE: (build ID mismatch)
    STALE: (build ID mismatch)
    STALE: (build ID mismatch)
    STALE: (build ID mismatch)
    STALE: (build ID mismatch)
    STALE: (build ID mismatch)
    STALE: (build ID mismatch)
    STALE: (build ID mismatch)

You might have noticed that some binaries have more than one matching repository (aligncheck and benchcmp in the above sample output). For this reason, binstale currently does not auto-update any binaries. But updating is just a matter of copying and pasting the repository path to go get -u and you’re done.

binstale on GitHub.


These are only a few examples from a steadily growing base of useful command line tools written to make a developer’s life easier.

If you have an idea for a cool tool, don’t hesitate to sit down and write it. But first, be sure to check the public repositories - the tool you have in mind might already exist somewhere, thanks to a thriving Go community.

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