Glide In The Sea of Go Package Managers

Out of the box, Go provides just enough package management to make for a fast and efficient compiler. While it's not opinionated enough to drive anyone away, Go package management doesn't have the features to meet the needs of many developers. Especially for developers coming from PHP, Ruby, and node.js.

To add features, a number of developers have built package managers that sit on top of the core functionality. Since I'm working on glide I thought I do a light comparison to the others in this space. This is both to highlight where I think glide is strong and to share what's happening in this space.

Glide

Glide is the brainchild of Matt Butcher. Glide handles both your workspace and dependent packages. To get into a shell with your GOPATH set properly for a project it's as simple as using the command glide in. This will start a shell setup for you.

To handle packages:

  1. Start with a glide.yaml file. Being a YAML file you can define everything in readable format that supports comments.
  2. Document each package with it's optional version. The version can be a branch, commit hash, or tag.
  3. Optionally, set an aliased repo. If you decide to fork a project but still need the include paths to work glide will take care of it for you.
  4. Run glide install to install the packages into a _vendor folder. The _vendor folder is your GOPATH.

This saves you from vendoring while enabling you to choose specific versions. There are a number of supporting commands to help with this process.

If you've worked with Composer, NPM, or bundler glide will be familiar to you.

GPM and GVP

GPM and GVP are a complimentary pair of bash scripts to help you manage your packages.

With these packages you use a Godeps file to specify the packages you want to use along with the version in the form of a hash or a tag.

There is a plugin system (glide has one too) that allows you to extend the base system. Interestingly, Matt Butcher (the creator of glide) wrote 3 of the 6 plugins currently available.

gom

gom is another package manager and it's configuration is stored in a Gomfile. A Gomfile has a simple custom format to specify packages and their version (tag, branch, or commit).

gom has a couple interesting features:

  1. Flags for development, test, and production. Some dependencies can only be installed in a particular environment.
  2. The ability to generate a .travis.yml file.

The packages are installed into a _vendor directory.

While gom does a nice job handling packages it doesn't help you with the GOPATH in your current shell. This is something I've found to be incredibly useful in practice.

Godep

Godep is the package manager I've seen used the most. That's in part because it's been around for a year and a half. That's an eternity in Go years.

With Godep the you can use the godep save command to save dependencies to the file Godeps/Godeps.json and the source to Godeps/_workspace. Using godep restore will install the packages specified in the Godeps/Godeps.json file to your GOPATH. The version information Godep saves is the commit hash that's currently in use. To add a dependency you use go get to get the dependency and then use godep save to update your stored configuration.

Conclusion

These are the package managers that caught my attention. If there's another one in wide use I'm happy to look at it and add it to this list.

Given everything I've seen, which may not be everything, I'm a fan of glide. It has the features I use and goes far beyond what Go provides natively. Yet, I find it to be a useful feature set.