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Derek D.
Derek D.

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Get Going With Go


This article is meant to be a quick introduction to installing the Go programming language, running your first script, and building a binary that can be executed on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. I've included links to resources from Google and Digital Ocean that go into much greater detail on these topics but if you are just looking for a quick 5-minute introduction this is the article for you.

Downloading Go

Google provides an installer for the major operating systems (Windows, macOS X, and Linux). You can also download a tarball of binaries and install directly from source code, but that's out of scope for this article. For this step download and run the installer for your OS, following the prompts.

You've probably heard or seen articles about the GOPATH before. This was a top-level directory where all of your go projects had to be located. Fortunately, it's no longer needed. At least not on Mac OS X. At this point, a little code is needed to test the installation.

Go Say Hello

Unfortunately, Go doesn't have a REPL (Read Evaluate Print Loop) so you'll be saving and running code from a file.

Copy the code below and save it as greeting.go. Golang requires the .go extension but the rest of the filename could be anything you want. Without covering Go syntax to much this simple script when executed, prompts for a name and says hello to whatever name was entered.

package main

import (

func main() {
    reader := bufio.NewReader(os.Stdin)
    fmt.Print("What is your name? ")
    text, _ := reader.ReadString('\n')
    fmt.Println("Hello ", text)

There are 2 important structural parts to the sample code. The first is package main which identifies this file contains the entrypoint to your code. The second is func main() which is the actual entrypoint. If either of these is missing or is not named main the code will not execute.

Go Run V Go Build

There are 2 ways to run the sample script. During development, you'll mostly use go run which compiles the code and executes it in one step. When it comes time to deploy the code you should use go build which creates a binary that can be executed by calling directly from the terminal.

Go Run

Go Run is pretty simple and has one required argument, a package name. In this case, you will use the filename. Here is an example of the greeting.go package. go run greeting.go.

Go Build

Go build is a little more complex. The simplest form is go build <package-name>. This creates a binary named the same as the package name, minus the .go extension. So go build greeting.go would create a binary named greeting. The new binary can be executed with ./greeting.

The more advanced form is using the -o flag which allows you to name the binary produced by go build. Rebuilding the greeting.go package using the -o flag would look like this go build -o hello.exe greeting.go which would produce a binary file named hello.exe.


  • Use go run <package-name> when testing code in development.
  • Use go build <package-name> when preparing to ship code.
  • The file with package main at the top of the file, must contain the func main() function which is the entrypoint to the app.
  • Your Go code no longer has to go under the GOPATH.

Additional Resources

Official Getting Started

How To Build And Install Go Programs by Digital Ocean

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