An Intro to Go Dep

Elliot Forbes Elliot Forbes ⏰ 4 Minutes 📅 Feb 18, 2018

In this tutorial, we are going to look at how you can use the Dep tool in go to manage your Go’s project dependencies.

Why dep?

The dep tool is the “official experiment” dependency management tool for the go programming language. It helps you to manage the ever-growing list of dependencies your project needs to maintain without a lot of overhead and it can pin you to specific versions of dependencies to ensure stability in your systems.

Without a dependency management tool, you may find yourself in a lot of pain when it comes to developing multiple different Go programs on the same machine. You may find that updating a particular dependency that is used by 6 projects on your machine ends up breaking 3 of said projects due to a small API change.


Installation of the dep tool can be done using homebrew, like so:

$ brew install dep
$ brew upgrade dep

Once these 2 commands have been run, you should have the dep CLI available to you within your terminal.

dep init

When getting started with the dep tool, the first thing you will typically have to run is the dep init command. This command does a lot of things and can be run on existing Go projects as well as newer ones.

When you call dep init, the tool does a few things:

  1. It identifies the dependencies of your current project
  2. It validates whether or not these dependencies use the dep tool
  3. It picks the highest compatible version for each of these dependencies

Creating a New Project

When it comes to creating a new project that relies upon dep you have a few options. The first and possibly best option is to create your project within your $GOPATH, much like you normally would, cd into that directory and then call dep init:

$ mkdir -p $GOPATH/src/
$ cd $GOPATH/src/
$ dep init
$ ls
Gopkg.toml Gopkg.lock vendor/


The Gopkg.toml file is where you specify your dependencies and the particular versions of these dependencies that you wish your project to use. Think of this as your package.json if you are coming from a NodeJS background, or your pom.xml if you are coming from a Java background.


The Gopkg.lock file is a transitively complete snapshot of your project’s dependency graph that is expressed as a series of [[project]] stanzas.

In layman’s terms this is a list of every dependency and the particular revision of that dependency.

The vendor/ Directory

The vendor/ directory is where your dependencies are stored. It’s the equivalent to the node_modules/ directory in your NodeJS projects.

Helpful Commands

The dep command features 5 commands in total:

  • init - Sets up a new Go project
  • status - Reports the status of a project’s dependencies
  • ensure - Ensures a dependency is safely vendored in the project
  • prune - Prunes your dependencies, this is also done automatically by ensure
  • version - Shows the dep version information

You’ll typically only work with the first 3 commands so I’ll just be covering these in more detail.

dep ensure

The dep ensure command is quite possibly the most important command you will need to come to grips with when it comes to working with the dep dependency management tool.

Adding Dependencies

If you want to add new dependencies to your project you can do so by calling the dep ensure -add command and specifying the source for the project.

$ dep ensure -add ...

Updating Dependencies

Should you wish to update some of the dependencies within your project you can do that using the -update flag when calling dep ensure:

// dry run testing an update
$ dep ensure -update -n
// non-dry run
$ dep ensure -update
// updates a specific package
$ dep ensure -update
// updates to a specific version
$ dep ensure -update

dep status

The dep status command reports the status of a project’s dependencies:

$ dep status
// output


Hopefully, this tutorial has shown you everything you need to get started with the dep tool. If you require any further assistance then please do not hesitate to let me know in the comments section below!

Note - If you want to keep track of when new Go articles are posted to the site, then please feel free to follow me on twitter for all the latest news: @Elliot_F.