Debugging Golang App

Debugging is an essential part of software development. Coming from a dynamic world of Ruby like myself where one can just drop in binding.pry or byebug and play around with context, debuging in Golang is a bit ... daunting. So today I would like share a bit of what I found useful during my time of working with Golang.

1. fmt Package

The most basic tool for printing value of variable in golang is fmt package. This package offers quite a few functions to work with printing and formating output and what we are interested in here are printing related functions Print, Println and Printf. Print and Println write the value to standard output using default formats or its operands while Printf let us specify fotmated string we wanted to use, this quite useful because we can put in various format along with custom message to get a verbose output when debugging. Below is a table of special format character that we can used.

1.1 Interface

Example: []int{10,20}

Format Output Description
%v [10 20] Default format used in Print and Println
%#v []int{10,20} Go-syntax format
%T []int Type of the value

1.2 String or Byte Slice

Example: "Hello"

Format Output Description
%s Hello Plain string
%10s ␣␣Hello 10 width, right justify
%-10s Hello␣␣ 10 width, left justify
%x 48656c6c6f Hex dump of byte value

1.3 Integer

Example: 10

Format Output Description
%d 10 Plain integer
%10d ␣␣10 10 width padded with space, right justify
%-10d 10␣␣ 10 width padded with space, left justify
%05d 00010 5 width padded with zero
%b 1010 Binary value of 10
%o 12 Octal value of 10
%x a Hexadecimal value of 10

1.4 Float

Example: 15.5

Format Output Description
%f 15.500000 Plain float
%.2f 15.50 Default width, precision 2
%e 1.550000e+01 Scientific notation

Use %p for pointer value

2. log Package

Development is not the only time you want to debug something, infact it is quite common to debug in other environment as well such as staging or production, so printing to the standard output is not a viable options, we want to log the debug info to a file so that we can digest that file later on to find out what's going on. There many opinions and disscusions about what is the stadard format for logging out there so I won't go into details here.

What we want to at least include in the log is date & time along with logging info. Fortunately log package has just what we need to do this. Below is how to create a logger instance.

f, err := os.Create("/path/to/file.log")
if err != nil {
info := log.New(f, "INFO: ", log.LstdFlags)

The first argument to New is any type that implement an io.Writer interface, the second argument is the prefix string and the last one is the output flag

2.1 Logger Flag

Below table show what each flag can used to include more information into each log.

Flag Output
Ldate 2019/03/24
Ltime 10:23:51
Lmicroseconds 10:23:51.123123
Llongfile /a/b/c/d.go:23
Lshortfile d.go:23
LUTC UTC rather than the local time zone when using with Ldate or Ltime
LstdFlags Ldate|Ltime

And here we can use a newly created instance to log info to file

// INFO: 2019/03/24 10:23:51 something

Beside Print[f,ln] family, log.Logger also has Fatal[f,ln], Panic[f,ln] family methods along with Output.

2.2 Encapsulate logger struct

log.Looger provided us with basic logging functionalities, but in real world application we need something more that just a basic. We need to a separate logging level like debug, info, error and so on. To get this we need our own custom logger type. Here is the minimal implementation to get what we need.

type Logger struct {
    log *log.Logger
    m   *sync.Mutex

func New(out io.Writer, flags int) *Logger {
    return &Logger{
        log: log.New(out, "", flags),
        m:   &sync.Mutex{},

func (l *Logger) Info(v ...interface{}) {
    l.logInfo("INFO: ", v...)

func (l *Logger) Error(v ...interface{}) {
    l.logInfo("ERROR: ", v...)

func (l *Logger) Debug(v ...interface{}) {
    l.logInfo("DEBUG: ", v...)

func (l *Logger) logInfo(prefix string, v ...interface{}) {
    defer l.m.Unlock()


Mutex is used to protected SetPrefix from multiple goroutines

3. Conclusion

Debuggin in Golang might not be as fun as in Ruby or other languages, but with the right tool we can still get what we want. In the next post I will talk about some error handling techinique I found useful as well as take a look at Golang debugger where you can set a break point and have some fun.

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