Workspacing in Go with gb and wgo

Last week I was writing a small server application that I wanted to use as a playground for finally giving gb a real try. I’ve heard great things about it and given that my application was about to become a consumer of multiple libraries rather than a library itself it kind of sounded like a good idea.

I’ve used godep previously but didn’t like the idea of import path rewriting hence the check for alternatives.


gb makes quite a few things about working on projects extremely easy. Out of the box it will build the whole project and install the resulting binary into a clean bin folder when running gb build no matter where. When combined with the vendor plugin it also solves dependencies quite nicely.

Sadly, I also ran into a few problems when wanting to integrate it into go-mode for Emacs. At first I thought setting the GOPATH accordingly to reflect the distinction between the project’s source code and dependencies should do the trick:

$ export GOPATH=$PROJECTROOT:$PROJECTROOT/vendor

Or do the equivalent in Emacs:

(defun zerok/setup-gb-gopath ()
  (interactive)
  (make-local-variable 'process-environment)
  (let ((srcPath (_zerok/get-gb-src-folder buffer-file-name)))
    (when srcPath
      (let* ((projectPath (string-remove-suffix "/" (file-name-directory srcPath)))
             (vendorPath (string-remove-suffix "/" (concat projectPath "/vendor")))
             (gopath (concat vendorPath ":" projectPath)))
        (message "Updating GOPATH to %s" gopath)
        (setenv "GOPATH" gopath)))))
(add-hook 'go-mode-hook 'zerok/setup-gb-gopath)

(defun _zerok/get-gb-src-folder (path)
  (let ((parent (directory-file-name (file-name-directory path)))
        (basename (file-name-nondirectory path)))
    (cond ((equal "src" basename)
           (string-remove-suffix "/" path))
          ((equal "/" parent)
           nil)
          (t
           (_zerok/get-gb-src-folder parent)))))

This helped with basically everything I was using from go-mode (goimports, …) except for the autocompletion support that is built around gocode. After a lot of debugging while waiting for one or the other plane to take me home from Poznan I noticed the issue here being that gb places all dependency binaries not in $PROJECTROOT/vendor/pkg but in $PROJECTROOT/pkg. Something that seems to confuse either the go-tool or gocode itself quite a bit.

To get around this I wrote a little helper script (this repo also contains the elisp snippet from above) that I’d from then on use right after changing anything about my project’s dependencies. What it does is it copies the compiled binaries around into vendor that would make it look more like a GOPATH than it actually is. Admittedly quite a hackey approach but it seems to work.

While talking with a couple of folks in the Gophers community on Slack John Asmuth mentioned his own workspace tool for Go called wgo which surprisingly has a folder structure nearly identical to gb’s but treats the vendor folder as its own GOPATH segment. As it basically just wraps the go-tool, binaries will then be placed in vendor/pkg which solves my integration issue with gocode.

The downside is that wgo offers less convenience. For instance to build my little tool I had to do this:

$ cd src/cmd/myapp && wgo install

instead of just doing

$ gb build

On the other hand, gb doesn’t yet support an easy path for cross-platform compilation, which was also a big requirement for me here.

So right now wgo looks like the better fit for me. It lacks some of the comfort-features of gb, but it tries to keep everything as compatible to a multi-GOPATH-setup as possible. That, in turn, makes integrating it with other tools of the go-toolchain a lot easier 😊

That being said, I really hope that integration-story of gb improves, as it looks like a great tool and I’d really love to give it a try again in the future!

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