The Go Blog

go fmt your code

Andrew Gerrand
23 January 2013


Gofmt is a tool that automatically formats Go source code.

Gofmt’d code is:

  • easier to write: never worry about minor formatting concerns while hacking away,

  • easier to read: when all code looks the same you need not mentally convert others’ formatting style into something you can understand.

  • easier to maintain: mechanical changes to the source don’t cause unrelated changes to the file’s formatting; diffs show only the real changes.

  • uncontroversial: never have a debate about spacing or brace position ever again!

Format your code

We recently conducted a survey of Go packages in the wild and found that about 70% of them are formatted according to gofmt’s rules. This was more than expected - and thanks to everyone who uses gofmt - but it would be great to close the gap.

To format your code, you can use the gofmt tool directly:

gofmt -w yourcode.go

Or you can use the “go fmt” command:

go fmt path/to/your/package

To help keep your code in the canonical style, the Go repository contains hooks for editors and version control systems that make it easy to run gofmt on your code.

For Vim users, the Vim plugin for Go includes the :Fmt command that runs gofmt on the current buffer.

For emacs users, go-mode.el provides a gofmt-before-save hook that can be installed by adding this line to your .emacs file:

(add-hook 'before-save-hook #'gofmt-before-save)

For Eclipse or Sublime Text users, the GoClipse and GoSublime projects add a gofmt facility to those editors.

And for Git aficionados, the misc/git/pre-commit script is a pre-commit hook that prevents incorrectly-formatted Go code from being committed. If you use Mercurial, the hgstyle plugin provides a gofmt pre-commit hook.

Mechanical source transformation

One of the greatest virtues of machine-formatted code is that it can be transformed mechanically without generating unrelated formatting noise in the diffs. Mechanical transformation is invaluable when working with large code bases, as it is both more comprehensive and less error prone than making wide-sweeping changes by hand. Indeed, when working at scale (like we do at Google) it often isn’t practical to make these kinds of changes manually.

The easiest way to mechanically manipulate Go code is with gofmt’s -r flag. The flag specifies a rewrite rule of the form

pattern -> replacement

where both pattern and replacement are valid Go expressions. In the pattern, single-character lowercase identifiers serve as wildcards matching arbitrary sub-expressions, and those expressions are substituted for the same identifiers in the replacement.

For example, this recent change to the Go core rewrote some uses of bytes.Compare to use the more efficient bytes.Equal. The contributor made the change using just two gofmt invocations:

gofmt -r 'bytes.Compare(a, b) == 0 -> bytes.Equal(a, b)'
gofmt -r 'bytes.Compare(a, b) != 0 -> !bytes.Equal(a, b)'

Gofmt also enables gofix, which can make arbitrarily complex source transformations. Gofix was an invaluable tool during the early days when we regularly made breaking changes to the language and libraries. For example, before Go 1 the built-in error interface didn’t exist and the convention was to use the os.Error type. When we introduced error, we provided a gofix module that rewrote all references to os.Error and its associated helper functions to use error and the new errors package. It would have been daunting to attempt by hand, but with the code in a standard format it was relatively easy to prepare, execute, and review this change which touched almost all Go code in existence.

For more about gofix, see this article.

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