command module
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Published: Jan 9, 2016 License: MIT Imports: 1 Imported by: 0


godocgo GoDoc

An in-depth guide to writing godoc, written in godoc.

To read the docs in your browser right now, click on the godoc reference above to see the documentation, which will bring you to https://godoc.org/github.com/natefinch/godocgo

Or you can run godoc locally:

  go get golang.org/x/tools/cmd/godoc
  go get github.com/natefinch/godocgo
  godoc -http=:8080

(you can skip the first step if you already have godoc installed)

Then open http://localhost:8080/pkg/github.com/natefinch/godocgo to read the docs locally.



godocgo is a repo demonstrating effective Go documentation.


I started to write this as a blog post, intending to link to a repo with examples, and then realized that there was no reason I couldn't write the whole post as godoc on the repo, so here it is. This repo serves as a working example of "hey, how do I get something like that to show up in my godoc?" It also has tips on common conventions and idioms used in documenting Go code.

Please feel free to send me pull requests if you see errors or places where things could be improved.

To view this godoc on your own machine, just run

go get golang.org/x/tools/cmd/godoc
go get github.com/natefinch/godocgo
godoc -http=:8080

(if you already have godoc, you can skip the first step)

Then you can open a web browser and go to http://localhost:8080/pkg/github.com/natefinch/godocgo/

Alternatively, you can view this on the excellent godoc.org, by going to http://godoc.org/github.com/natefinch/godocgo (note that godoc.org has different styling than the godoc tool, but the content is the same).

Godoc is Awesome

One of my favorite things about the Go programming language is godoc, the auto-generated documentation for your code. If you're coming from javadoc or similar tools, you're probably thinking one of two things (possibly both):

  1. meh, we have that
  2. gah! no!

An understandable reaction, but let me show you why godoc is different, and how to leverage all its features.

First off, godoc comments are designed from the start to be read in the code. We all know that the code will be read a lot more often than some html documentation out on the web, so godoc makes sure to keep its documentation legible for the coder in their text editor. There is not a single angle bracket to be found. Simple conventions replace the html/xml tags you often see in other documentation standards.


Paragraphs are delineated by blank lines. Headings like the above are simply a single line without punctuation with paragraphs before and after it. If you're viewing this using godoc, it will be included in the table of contents at the top of the file. If you're viewing this on godoc.org, there is, sadly, no table of contents.

Below this is pre-formatted text. All that is required for it to be rendered in that way is that it be indented from the surrounding comments (you can use tabs or spaces, whatever you like). This is handy for showing code snippets that you don't want godoc to auto-wrap, the way it does normal text.

a := []string{"foo", "bar"}
for _, b := range a {

Html links will be auto linked without you having to do anything, like so: http://golang.org

That's it, that's all the formatting you get. But it's enough, and I think we can all be glad to focus on the content and not the formatting of our documentation.

Attaching Comments

In Go, any comment which immediately precedes Go code is considered a comment about that code. Only comments on exported names will be included in the documentation.

// Foo is a function that deserves a comment.  This comment becomes the
// godoc comment for Foo.
func Foo() {}

By corollary, any comment that is *not* on a line before a line of code, is not picked up as documentation. Note that this is important when writing things like build tags and copyright notices at the top of files. Always make sure you have a space between those comments and the package declaration.


Comments exist to tell developers what the code is for and how to use it. They should be concise and to the point. Comments should be full sentences that end with a period. This generally forces you to offer complete thoughts in your comments, rather than trying to make it into shorthand. It's also useful, because then no one has to wonder if you forgot to write the end of that sentence.

Comments in Go traditionally start with the name of the thing they're commenting about. Thus, if you're commenting on a type Foo, the comment would start "Foo is ...". This makes it clear that the comment is about that name, and can help connect the two if they get separated. Often times the first sentence of a comment is extracted as a short summary, so make it short and useful on its own.

Always comment every exported name in your program. You never know when a little extra information will help someone use your code. Also, it just makes your documentation look complete.

This Text

The text you are reading is documentation on the main package of a Go executable. It is simply a comment attached (immediately preceding) the package <foo> declaration (in this case package main, since this is the application package). It is traditional to put long form documentation in a file called doc.go, without other code in that file, but that is not necessary. A comment on the package declaration in any file will work, and if you have multiple comments, they'll be concatenated together.

The first sentence in this file (up to the first period) will be the label next to the link in godoc's index. This should be a short description of what the command does, and traditionally starts with "Command <name-of- command>".

Note that all the tips that apply to code in packages, as demonstrated in package sub below, also apply to commands, I just thought this page was long enough already, so I put everything else in the next package :)

To Read The Rest

To read more of the article, and explore more of what godoc has to offer, click on the link to the package named "sub" below.


Path Synopsis
Package sub contains the rest of the article.
Package sub contains the rest of the article.
Package subsub wraps up the article.
Package subsub wraps up the article.

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