Golang to C# Converter
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README.md

go2cs

Golang to C# Converter

Converts source code developed using the Go programming language (see Go Language Specification) to the C# programming language (see C# Language Specification).

· · · · · · Help Wanted! This is a work-in-progress -- see project status · · · · · ·

Why?

I'm pretty sure for many this was the first question asked when this project was discovered. Avoiding the cliché response of "because I could", the real answer is more innocuous. I've been programming in C# for many years, even so, I try to keep an eye on new / cool tech being developed, regardless of language -- one common choice for new applications these days is Go. Often the easiest way for me to experiment with new technology is to integrate it with some of my existing C# code, hence the desire for this project -- besides, I figured I might learn something about building apps in Go in the process.

Hopefully for those of you that code in Go all the time and have an occasion where you need to build a C# app, this conversion tool will provide you with a head start. You can pull in some of your existing code and even use the Go Standard Library functions that you are used to.

Elephant in the room

TL;DR: Do not expect converted C# code to run as fast as the original Go code.

The .NET runtime environment is very different from Go -- a compiled .NET application actually consists of human-readable byte-code called Common Intermediate Language (CIL). At runtime the CIL code is compiled to native machine code using a just-in-time compilation process. Compared to Go, which is compiled directly to native machine code, .NET incurs some compile based processing delays at startup. However, you can remove the just-in-time compilation startup delays for a .NET application by pre-compiling the application to native machine code using the Native Image Generation tool in .NET (ngen.exe).

For this project, the philosophy taken for converted code is to produce code that is very visually similar to the original Go code as well as being as behaviorally close as possible to Go at a purely "source code" level. The focus is to make converted code more usable and understandable to a Go programmer inside of a C# environment without being hyper-focused on optimizations. That doesn't mean your converted code is going to be super slow -- it should run as fast as other comparable .NET applications -- it just may not run as fast as the original Go code. However, because of the simplicity of Go's design, converted code may have a natural performance advantage over more traditionally developed C# applications just because of its static nature.

If you are looking for a more binary integration, you might consider using native compiled Go code directly within your .NET application. One option would be would be exporting Go functions as C code, including the C code exports in a DLL and then importing the functions in C#.

I was looking for C# to Go?

If you were looking to "go" in the other direction, a full code based conversion from C# to Go is currently not an option. Even for the most simple projects, automating the conversion would end up being a herculean task with so many restrictions that it would likely not be worth the effort. However, for using compiled .NET code from within your Go applications you have options:

  1. For newer .NET Core applications, I would suggest trying the following project from Matias Insaurralde: https://github.com/matiasinsaurralde/go-dotnet -- this codes uses the CLR Hosting API which allows you to directly use .NET based functions from within your Go applications.

  2. For traditional .NET applications, a similar option would be to use cgo to fully self-host Mono in your Go application, see: http://www.mono-project.com/docs/advanced/embedding/.

Project Status

Work is progressing briskly. Although much work remains, a majority of simple Go language constructs will now properly convert to C# code. Overall project level conversions are basically complete, but created project files still need to automatically reference required shared projects in order to properly compile (a manual step for now).

Strategies exist for most all Go functional constructs in C# (see QuickTest project and embedded resource templates). Remaining needed conversions:

  • Channel class
  • Map class
  • Switch "select" statement (related to channel)
  • For statement "range" construct (this will require ExpressionInfo detail, see below)

Another upcoming major step in conversion process will be to change the Expressions tree to hold an ExpressionInfo instance instead of a string, this way the "type" of the expression will be known during conversion - there are a few places where this would be handy to know (see TODO: markers in the code for more detail). This may get interesting as the type will need be inferred in many cases.

Several improvements have been made to the Golang ANTLR4 grammar. Even so, initial attempts to convert all the Go Standard Library code still finds that the grammar needs some more work. If you update the grammar file in this project, please kindly make a PR to update the original grammar on the ANTLR site as well.

A known large upcoming task will be to get the Go Standard Library operational by filling in behind code that normally compiles with Go's Assembler (all those platform specific .s files) with equivalent .NET implementations. Please note that the strategy is to keep the code managed if at all possible, this way there are no external dependencies introduced, see conversion strategies for more information.

The other item that is needed is a unit testing infrastructure. It is desirable to be able to create Go based behavioral tests then convert the tests to C# - this way the Go code could be ran along with the C# code to validate that the results are the same (somehow).

Currently the converted code targets traditional a .NET application, specifically version 4.7.1 and C# 7.3 to accommodate better return by-ref functionality for structures. However, a .NET Core version should be equally possible, preferably by command line option, e.g., -c for .NET Core.

A new command line option to prefer var over explicit types would be handy, e.g., specifying -x would request explicit type definitions otherwise defaulting to use var where possible.

Ideally as releases are made for an updated go2cs executable, this can also include an update to a pre-converted Go Standard Library for download so that users don't have to spend time converting this themselves.

It might be desirable to produce a NuGet package that contains the Go Standard Library as a .NET library that can be imported into C# apps as this might be handy for Go programmers playing around in C#, allowing them to use familiar packages.

The conversion code looks for files that contain a main function and converts them into a standard C# project. The conversion process automatically references needed shared projects for each encountered import statement recursively. It does this so that a single executable with no external dependencies can be created just like the original Go source code. If converted code ever gets updated where a new import is added, a command line option that would "rescan" the imports in a project and augment the project file to make sure all the needed imports are referenced would be ideal.

Installation

  1. Copy the go2cs.exe into the %GOBIN% or %GOPATH%\bin path. The only dependency is .NET (see prerequisites below).

  2. Optionally extract the pre-converted C# Go Standard Library source code into the desired target path, by default %GOPATH\src\go2cs\

Prerequisites

The go2cs program is a command line utility that requires .NET 4.7.1. You will need to make sure that .NET 4.7.1 or comparable version of Mono is already installed before executing the conversion utility.

Note that code converted from Go to C# will also target .NET 4.7.1 and compile using C# 7.3. Visual Studio 2017 is recommended in order to compile converted code, the free Community Edition should be fine. For non-Windows platforms, you can try Visual Studio Code.

Usage

  1. Make sure source application already compiles with Go (e.g., go build) before starting conversion. That means any needed dependencies should already be downloaded and available, e.g., with go get.

  2. Execute go2cs specifying the Go source path or specific file name to convert. For example:

  • Convert a single Go file: go2cs -l Main.go
  • Convert a Go project: go2cs MyProject
  • Convert Go Standard Library: go2cs -s -r C:\\Go\src\\

Command Line Options

Option Description
-l (Default: false) Set to only convert local files in source path. Default is to recursively convert all encountered "import" packages.
-o (Default: false) Set to overwrite, i.e., reconvert, any existing local converted files.
-i (Default: false) Set to overwrite, i.e., reconvert, any existing files from imported packages.
-t (Default: false) Set to show syntax tree of parsed source file.
-e (Default: $.^) Regular expression to exclude certain files from conversion, e.g., "^.+_test\.go$". Defaults to exclude none.
-s (Default: false) Set to convert needed packages from Go standard library files found in "%GOROOT%\src".
-r (Default: false) Set to recursively convert source files in subdirectories when a Go source path is specified.
-m (Default: false) Set to force update of pre-scan metadata.
-g (Default: %GOPATH%\src\go2cs) Target path for converted Go standard library source files.
--help Display this help screen.
--version Display version information.
value pos. 0 Required. Go source path or file name to convert.
value pos. 1 Target path for converted files. If not specified, all files (except for Go standard library files) will be converted to source path.

Conversion Strategies

  • Each Go package is converted into static C# partial classes, e.g.: public static partial class fmt_package. Using a static partial class allows all functions within separate files to be available with a single import, e.g.: using fmt = go.fmt_package;.

  • So that Go packages are more readily usable in C# applications, all converted code is in a root go namespace. Package paths are also converted to namespaces, so a Go import like import "unicode/utf8" becomes a C# using like using utf8 = go.unicode.utf8_package;.

  • All imported Go packages are converted into shared projects and added as a reference to the main project so that a single executable is created, i.e., packages are not compiled into external DLL dependencies.

  • Go projects that contain a main function are converted into a standard C# project. The conversion process will automatically reference the needed shared projects, per defined encountered import statements, recursively. In this manner a single executable with no external dependencies, besides .NET runtime, is created - just like its original Go counterpart.

  • Go types are converted to C# struct types and used on the stack to optimize memory use and reduce the need for garbage collection. The struct types can be wrapped by C# class types that reference the type so that heap-allocated instances of the type can exist as needed.

  • Conversion of pointer types will use the C# ref keyword where possible. When this strategy does not work, a heap allocated instance of the base type will be created (see Ref<T>) with an associated pointer to the heap allocated instance (see Ptr<T>, literally a reference to the reference).

C# pointers do not always work as a replacement for Go pointers since with C# (1) pointer types in structures cannot not refer to types that contain heap-allocated elements (e.g., arrays or slices that reference an array) as this would prevent pointer arithmetic for ambiguously sized elements, and (2) returning standard pointers to stack-allocated structures from a function is not allowed, instead you need to allocate the structure on the heap by creating a reference-type wrapper and then safely return a pointer to the reference.

  • Conversion of Go slices is based on the slice<T> structure defined in the goutils shared project. For example, the following Go code using slice operations:
package main

import (
    "fmt"
    "strings"
)

func main() {
    // Create a tic-tac-toe board.
    board := [][]string{
            []string{"_", "_", "_"},
            []string{"_", "_", "_"},
            []string{"_", "_", "_"},
    }

    // The players take turns.
    board[0][0] = "X"
    board[2][2] = "O"
    board[1][2] = "X"
    board[1][0] = "O"
    board[0][2] = "X"

    for i := 0; i < len(board); i++ {
        fmt.Printf("%s\n", strings.Join(board[i], " "))
    }
}

would be converted to C# as:

using fmt = go.fmt_package;
using strings = go.strings_package;

using static go.builtin;

namespace go
{
    public static partial class main_package
    {
        private static void Main()
        {
            // Create a tic-tac-toe board.
            var board = slice<slice<@string>>.From(new[]
            {
                slice<@string>.From(new[] {"_", "_", "_"}),
                slice<@string>.From(new[] {"_", "_", "_"}),
                slice<@string>.From(new[] {"_", "_", "_"})
            });

            // The players take turns.
            board[0][0] = "X";
            board[2][2] = "O";
            board[1][2] = "X";
            board[1][0] = "O";
            board[0][2] = "X";

            for (var i = 0; i < len(board); i++)
            {
                fmt.Printf("%s\n", strings.Join(board[i], " "));
            }
        }
    }
}
  • Conversion always tries to target managed code, this way code is more portable. If there is no possible way for managed code to accomplish a specific task, an option always exists to create a native interop library that works on multiple platforms, i.e., importing code from a .dll/.so/.dylib. Even so, the philosophy is to always attempt to use managed code, i.e., not to lean towards native code libraries, regardless of possible performance implications. Simple first.

Example excerpt of converted code from the Go fmt package:

using strconv = go.strconv_package;
using utf8 = go.unicode.utf8_package;

using static go.builtin;

namespace go
{
    public static partial class fmt_package
    {
        private const string ldigits = "0123456789abcdefx";
        private const string udigits = "0123456789ABCDEFX";

        private struct fmt {
            public Ptr<buffer> buf;

            public fmtFlags fmtFlags;

            public @int wid;  // width
            public @int prec; // precision

            // intbuf is large enough to store %b of an int64 with a sign and
            // avoids padding at the end of the struct on 32 bit architectures.
            public fixed @byte intbuf[68];
        }

        private static void clearFlags(ref this fmt _this)
        {
            f.fmtFlags = new fmtFlags();
        }
    }
}

Optimizations

Code conversions only create a Go function execution context for converted Go function that reference defer, panic, or recover. The function execution context is required in order to create a defer call stack and panic / recover exception handling. As an example, consider the following Go code:

package main

import "fmt"

func main() {
    f()
    fmt.Println("Returned normally from f.")
}

func f() {
    defer func() {
        if r := recover(); r != nil {
            fmt.Println("Recovered in f", r)
        }
    }()
    fmt.Println("Calling g.")
    g(0)
    fmt.Println("Returned normally from g.")
}

func g(i int) {
    if i > 3 {
        fmt.Println("Panicking!")
        panic(fmt.Sprintf("%v", i))
    }
    defer fmt.Println("Defer in g", i)
    fmt.Println("Printing in g", i)
    g(i + 1)
}

The Go code gets converted into C# code like the following:

using fmt = go.fmt_package;
using static go.builtin;


public static partial class main_package
{
    private static void Main()
    {
        f();
        fmt.Println("Returned normally from f.");
    }

    private static void f() => func((defer, _, recover) =>
    {
        defer(() =>
        {
            {
                var r = recover();

                if (r != nil)
                {
                    fmt.Println("Recovered in f", r);       
                }
            }
        });
        fmt.Println("Calling g.");
        g(0);
        fmt.Println("Returned normally from g.");
    });

    private static void g(int i) => func((defer, panic, _) => 
    {
        if (i > 3)
        {
            fmt.Println("Panicking!");
            panic(fmt.Sprintf("%v", i));
        }
        defer(() => fmt.Println("Defer in g", i));
        fmt.Println("Printing in g", i);
        g(i + 1);
    });
}

Certainly for functions that call defer, panic or recover, the Go function execution context is required. However, if the function does not directly call the functions, nor indirectly call the functions through a lambda, then you should be able to safely remove the wrapping function execution context. For example, in the converted C# code above the main function does not directly nor indirectly call defer, panic or recover so the function is safely simplified as follows:

private static void main()
{
    f();
    fmt.Println("Returned normally from f.");
}