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The FAQ predated the introduction of the rest of the documentation. If something in here conflicts with other guides or reference documents, it's probably here that it's wrong - please file a PR!




Best Practices


Does dep replace go get?

No. dep and go get serve mostly different purposes.

Here are some suggestions for when you could use dep or go get:

I would say that dep doesn't replace go get, but they both can do similar things. Here's how I use them:

go get: I want to download the source code for a go project so that I can work on it myself, or to install a tool. This clones the repo under GOPATH for all to use.

dep ensure: I have imported a new dependency in my code and want to download the dependency so I can start using it. My workflow is "add the import to the code, and then run dep ensure so that the manifest/lock/vendor are updated". This clones the repo under my project's vendor directory, and remembers the revision used so that everyone who works on my project is guaranteed to be using the same version of dependencies.

@carolynvs in #376

The long term vision is a sane, overall-consistent go tool. My general take is that go get is for people consuming Go code, and dep-family commands are for people developing it.

@sdboyer in #376

Why is it dep ensure instead of dep install?

Yeah, we went round and round on names. A lot.

The idea of "ensure" is roughly, "ensure that all my local states - code tree, manifest, lock, and vendor - are in sync with each other." When arguments are passed, it becomes "ensure this argument is satisfied, along with synchronization between all my local states."

We opted for this approach because we came to the conclusion that allowing the tool to perform partial work/exit in intermediate states ended up creating a tool that had more commands, had far more possible valid exit and input states, and was generally full of footguns. In this approach, the user has most of the same ultimate control, but exercises it differently (by modifying the code/manifest and re-running dep ensure).

@sdboyer in #371

What is a direct or transitive dependency?

  • Direct dependencies are dependencies that are imported directly by your project: they appear in at least one import statement from your project.
  • Transitive dependencies are the dependencies of your dependencies. Necessary to compile but are not directly used by your code.


What is the difference between Gopkg.toml (the "manifest") and Gopkg.lock (the "lock")?

The manifest describes user intent, and the lock describes computed outputs. There's flexibility in manifests that isn't present in locks..., as the "branch": "master" constraint will match whatever revision master HAPPENS to be at right now, whereas the lock is nailed down to a specific revision.

This flexibility is important because it allows us to provide easy commands (e.g. dep ensure -update) that can manage an update process for you, within the constraints you specify, AND because it allows your project, when imported by someone else, to collaboratively specify the constraints for your own dependencies.

@sdboyer in #281

How do I constrain a transitive dependency's version?

First, if you're wondering about this because you're trying to keep the version of the transitive dependency from changing, then you're working against dep's design. The lock file, Gopkg.lock, will keep the selected version of the transitive dependency stable, unless you explicitly request an upgrade or it's impossible to find a solution without changing that version.

If that isn't your use case and you still need to constrain a transitive dependency, you have a couple of options:

  1. Make the transitive dependency a direct one, either with a dummy import or an entry in the required list in Gopkg.toml.
  2. Use an override.

Overrides are a sledgehammer, and should only be used as a last resort. While constraints and overrides are declared in the same way in Gopkg.toml, they behave differently:

  • Constraints:
    1. Can be declared by any project's manifest, yours or a dependency
    2. Apply only to direct dependencies of the project declaring the constraint
    3. Must not conflict with the constraint entries declared in any other project's manifest
  • Overrides:
    1. Are only utilized from the current/your project's manifest
    2. Apply globally, to direct and transitive dependencies
    3. Supersede constraints declared in all manifests, yours or a dependency's

Overrides are also discussed with some visuals in the gps docs.

How do I change the version of a dependency

If you want to:

  • Change the allowed version/branch/revision
  • Switch to using a fork

for one or more dependencies, do the following:

  1. Manually edit your Gopkg.toml.

  2. Run

    $ dep ensure

Can I put the manifest and lock in the vendor directory?


Placing these files inside vendor/ would concretely bind us to vendor/ in the long term. We prefer to treat the vendor/ as an implementation detail.

@sdboyer on go package management list

How do I get dep to authenticate to a git repo?

dep currently uses the git command under the hood, so configuring the credentials for each repository you wish to authenticate to will allow dep to use an authenticated repository.

First, configure git to use the credentials option for the specific repository.

For example, if you use GitLab, and you wish to access, then you would want to use the following configuration:

$ git config --global credential. yourusername

In the example the hostname string seems incorrect, but it's actually the hostname plus the name of the repo you are accessing which is username. The trailing 'yourusername' is the username you would use for the actual authentication.

You also need to configure git with the authentication provider you wish to use. You can get a list of providers, with the command:

$ git help -a | grep credential-
  credential-cache          remote-fd
  credential-cache--daemon  remote-ftp
  credential-osxkeychain    remote-ftps
  credential-store          remote-http

You would then choose an appropriate provider. For example, to use the osxkeychain, you would use the following:

git config --global credential.helper osxkeychain

If you need to do this for a CI system, then you may want to use the "store" provider. Please see the documentation on how to configure that:

After configuring git, you may need to use git manually once to have it store the credentials. Once you've checked out the repo manually, it will then use the stored credentials. This at least appears to be the behavior for the osxkeychain provider.

How do I get dep to consume private git repos using a GitHub Token?

Another alternative to make dep work with private repos is to use a Personal GitHub Token and configure it inside the .netrc file as the following example:

    password [YOUR_GITHUB_TOKEN]

Once you have set that up, dep will automatically use that Token to authenticate to the repositories.

How do I get dep to authenticate via SSH to a git repo?

You can rewrite the repo url and use the git+ssh shema with follow example:

git config --global url."".insteadOf ""


How does dep decide what version of a dependency to use?

The full algorithm is complex, but the most important thing to understand is that dep tries versions in a certain order, checking to see a version is acceptable according to specified constraints.

  • All semver versions come first, and sort mostly according to the semver 2.0 spec, with one exception:
    • Semver versions with a prerelease are sorted after all non-prerelease semver. Within this subset they are sorted first by their numerical component, then lexicographically by their prerelease version.
  • The default branch(es) are next; the semantics of what "default branch" means are specific to the underlying source type, but this is generally what you'd get from a go get.
  • All other branches come next, sorted lexicographically.
  • All non-semver versions (tags) are next, sorted lexicographically.
  • Revisions, if any, are last, sorted lexicographically. Revisions do not typically appear in version lists, so the only invariant we maintain is determinism - deeper semantics, like chronology or topology, do not matter.

So, given a slice of the following versions:

  • Branch: master devel
  • Semver tags: v1.0.0 v1.1.0 v1.1.0-alpha1
  • Non-semver tags: footag
  • Revision: f6e74e8d

Sorting for upgrade will result in the following slice:

[v1.1.0 v1.0.0 v1.1.0-alpha1 master devel footag f6e74e8d]

There are a number of factors that can eliminate a version from consideration, the simplest of which is that it doesn't match a constraint. But if you're trying to figure out why dep is doing what it does, understanding that its basic action is to attempt versions in this order should help you to reason about what's going on.

What is the default dep ensure -update behavior for dependencies that are imported but not included as a [[Constraint]] in Gopkg.toml?

dep updates the dependency to the latest semver tag. If there are no semver tags, dep uses the tip of master.

What external tools are supported?

During dep init configuration from other dependency managers is detected and imported, unless -skip-tools is specified.

The following tools are supported: glide, godep, vndr, govend, gb, gvt, govendor and glock.

See #186 for how to add support for another tool.

Why is dep ignoring a version constraint in the manifest?

Only your project's directly imported dependencies are affected by a constraint entry in the manifest. Transitive dependencies are unaffected. See How do I constrain a transitive dependency's version?

Why did dep use a different revision for package X instead of the revision in the lock file?

Sometimes the revision specified in the lock file is no longer valid. There are a few ways this can occur:

  • When you generated the lock file, you had an unpushed commit in your local copy of package X's repository in your GOPATH. (This case will be going away soon)
  • After generating the lock file, new commits were force pushed to package X's repository, causing the commit revision in your lock file to no longer exist.

To troubleshoot, you can revert dep's changes to your lock, and then run dep ensure -v -n. This retries the command in dry-run mode with verbose logs enabled. Check the output for a warning like the one below, indicating that a commit in the lock is no longer valid.

Unable to update checked out version: fatal: reference is not a tree: 4dfc6a8a7e15229398c0a018b6d7a078cccae9c8

The lock file represents a set of precise, typically immutable versions for the entire transitive closure of dependencies for a project. But "the project" can be, and is, decomposed into just a bunch of arguments to an algorithm. When those inputs change, the lock may need to change as well.

Under most circumstances, if those arguments don't change, then the lock remains fine and correct. You've hit one of the few cases where that guarantee doesn't apply. The fact that you ran dep ensure and it DID a solve is a product of some arguments changing; that solving failed because this particular commit had become stale is a separate problem.

@sdboyer in #405

Why is dep slow?

There are two things that really slow dep down. One is unavoidable; for the other, we have a plan.

The unavoidable part is the initial clone. dep relies on a cache of local repositories (stored under $GOPATH/pkg/dep), which is populated on demand. Unfortunately, the first dep run, especially for a large project, may take a while, as all dependencies are cloned into the cache.

Fortunately, this is just an initial clone - pay it once, and you're done. The problem repeats itself a bit when you're running dep for the first time in a while and there's new changesets to fetch, but even then, these costs are only paid once per changeset.

The other part is the work of retrieving information about dependencies. There are three parts to this:

  1. Getting an up-to-date list of versions from the upstream source
  2. Reading the Gopkg.toml for a particular version out of the local cache
  3. Parsing the tree of packages for import statements at a particular version

The first requires one or more network calls; the second two usually mean something like a git checkout, and the third is a filesystem walk, plus loading and parsing .go files. All of these are expensive operations.

Fortunately, we can cache the second and third. And that cache can be permanent when keyed on an immutable identifier for the version - like a git commit SHA1 hash. The first is a bit trickier, but there are reasonable staleness tradeoffs we can consider to avoid the network entirely. There's an issue to implement persistent caching that's the gateway to all of these improvements.

There's another major performance issue that's much harder - the process of picking versions itself is an NP-complete problem in dep's current design. This is a much trickier problem 😜

How does dep handle symbolic links?

because we're not crazy people who delight in inviting chaos into our lives, we need to work within one GOPATH at a time. -@sdboyer in #247

Out of convenience, one might create a symlink to a directory within their GOPATH/src, e.g. ln -s ~/go/src/ ~/Code/awesome-project.

When dep is invoked with a project root that is a symlink, it will be resolved according to the following rules:

  • If the symlink is outside GOPATH and links to a directory within a GOPATH, or vice versa, then dep will choose whichever path is within GOPATH.
  • If the symlink is within a GOPATH and the resolved path is within a different GOPATH, then an error is thrown.
  • If both the symlink and the resolved path are in the same GOPATH, then an error is thrown.
  • If neither the symlink nor the resolved path are in a GOPATH, then an error is thrown.

This is the only symbolic link support that dep really intends to provide. In keeping with the general practices of the go tool, dep tends to either ignore symlinks (when walking) or copy the symlink itself, depending on the filesystem operation being performed.

Does dep support relative imports?


dep simply doesn't allow relative imports. this is one of the few places where we restrict a case that the toolchain itself allows. we disallow them only because:

  • the toolchain already frowns heavily on them
  • it's worse for our case, as we start venturing into dot dot hell territory when trying to prove that the import does not escape the tree of the project

@sdboyer in #899

For a refresher on Go's recommended workspace organization, see the "How To Write Go Code" article in the Go docs. Organizing your code this way gives you a unique import path for every package.

How do I make dep resolve dependencies from my GOPATH?

dep init provides an option to scan the GOPATH for dependencies by doing dep init -gopath, which falls back to network mode when the packages are not found in GOPATH. dep ensure doesn't work with projects in GOPATH.

Will dep let me use git submodules to store dependencies in vendor?

No, with just one tiny exception: dep preserves /vendor/.git, if it exists. This was added at cockroachdb's request, who rely on it to keep vendor from bloating their primary repository.

The reasons why git submodules will not be a part of dep are best expressed as a pro/con list:


  • git submodules provide a well-structured way of nesting repositories within repositories.


  • The nesting that git submodules perform is no more powerful or expressive than what dep already does, but dep does it both more generally (for bzr and hg) and more domain-specifically (e.g. elimination of nested vendor directories).
  • Incorporating git submodules in any way would new fork new paths in the logic to handle the submodule cases, meaning nontrivial complexity increases.
  • dep does not currently know or care if the project it operates on is under version control. Relying on submodules would entail that dep start paying attention to that. That it would only be conditionally does not make it better - again, more forking paths in the logic, more complexity.
  • Incorporating submodules in a way that is at all visible to the user (and why else would you do it?) makes dep's workflows both more complicated and less predictable: sometimes submodule-related actions are expected; sometimes submodule-derived workflows are sufficient.
  • Nesting one repository within another implies that changes could, potentially, be made directly in that subrepository. This is directly contrary to dep's foundational principle that vendor is dead code, and directly modifying anything in there is an error.

How does dep work without changing my packages imports?

dep doesn't require imports (or the $GOPATH) to be updated because go has native support for a vendor directory since version 1.5. You do not need to update import paths to be relative. For instance, import will be found in the project's /vendor/ before looking to $GOPATH/src/

Best Practices

Should I commit my vendor directory?

It's up to you:


  • It's the only way to get truly reproducible builds, as it guards against upstream renames, deletes and commit history overwrites.
  • You don't need an extra dep ensure step to sync vendor/ with Gopkg.lock after most operations, such as go get, cloning, getting latest, merging, etc.


  • Your repo will be bigger, potentially a lot bigger, though prune can help minimize this problem.
  • PR diffs will include changes for files under vendor/ when Gopkg.lock is modified, however files in vendor/ are hidden by default on GitHub.

How do I roll releases that dep will be able to use?

In short: make sure you've committed your Gopkg.toml and Gopkg.lock, then just create a tag in your version control system and push it to the canonical location. dep is designed to work automatically with this sort of metadata from git, bzr, and hg.

It's strongly preferred that you use semver-compliant tag names. We hope to develop documentation soon that describes this more precisely, but in the meantime, the npm docs match our patterns pretty well.

What semver version should I use?

This can be a nuanced question, and the community is going to have to work out some accepted standards for how semver should be applied to Go projects. At the highest level, though, these are the rules:

  • Below v1.0.0, anything goes. Use these releases to figure out what you want your API to be.
  • Above v1.0.0, the general Go best practices continue to apply - don't make backwards-incompatible changes - exported identifiers can be added to, but not changed or removed.
  • If you must make a backwards-incompatible change, then bump the major version.

It's important to note that having a v1.0.0 does not preclude you from having alpha/beta/etc releases. The semver spec allows for prerelease versions, and dep is careful to not allow such versions unless Gopkg.toml contains a range constraint that explicitly includes prereleases: if there exists a version v1.0.1-alpha4, then the constraint >=1.0.0 will not match it, but >=1.0.1-alpha1 will.

Some work has been done towards a tool to that will analyze and compare your code with the last release, and suggest the next version you should use.

Is it OK to make backwards-incompatible changes now?

Yes. But.

dep will make it possible for the Go ecosystem to handle backwards-incompatible changes more gracefully. However, dep is not some magical panacea. Version and dependency management is hard, and dependency hell is real. The longstanding community wisdom about avoiding breaking changes remains important. Any v1.0.0 release should be accompanied by a plan for how to avoid future breaking API changes.

One good strategy may be to add to your API instead of changing it, deprecating old versions as you progress. Then, when the time is right, you can roll a new major version and clean out a bunch of deprecated symbols all at once.

Note that providing an incremental migration path across breaking changes (i.e., shims) is tricky, and something we don't have a good answer for yet.

My dependers don't use dep yet. What should I do?

For the most part, you needn't do anything differently.

The only possible issue is if your project is ever consumed as a library. If so, then you may want to be wary about committing your vendor/ directory, as it can cause problems. If your dependers are using dep, this is not a concern, as dep takes care of stripping out nested vendor directories.

How do I configure a dependency that doesn't tag its releases?

Add a constraint to Gopkg.toml that specifies branch: "master" (or whichever branch you need) in the [[constraint]] for that dependency. dep ensure will determine the current revision of your dependency's master branch, and place it in Gopkg.lock for you. See also: What is the difference between Gopkg.toml and Gopkg.lock?

How do I use dep with Docker?

dep ensure -vendor-only creates the vendor folder from a valid Gopkg.toml and Gopkg.lock without checking for Go code. This is especially useful for builds inside docker utilizing cache layers.

Sample Dockerfile:

FROM golang:1.9 AS builder

RUN curl -fsSL -o /usr/local/bin/dep && chmod +x /usr/local/bin/dep

RUN mkdir -p /go/src/***
WORKDIR /go/src/***

COPY Gopkg.toml Gopkg.lock ./
# copies the Gopkg.toml and Gopkg.lock to WORKDIR

RUN dep ensure -vendor-only
# install the dependencies without checking for go code


How do I use dep in CI?

Since dep is expected to change until v1.0.0 is released, it is recommended to rely on a released version. You can find the latest binary from the releases page.

Sample configuration for Travis CI:

# ...


  # Download the binary to bin folder in $GOPATH
  - curl -L -s${DEP_VERSION}/dep-linux-amd64 -o $GOPATH/bin/dep
  # Make the binary executable
  - chmod +x $GOPATH/bin/dep

  - dep ensure

Caching can also be enabled but there are a couple of caveats you should be aware of:

Until recently, we have had intermittent cache corruption that would have been super annoying if it was breaking Travis build too.

Also according to, they don't recommend it for larger caches.

Note that this makes our cache not network-local, it's still bound to network bandwidth and DNS resolutions for S3. That impacts what you can and should store in the cache. If you store archives larger than a few hundred megabytes in the cache, it's unlikely that you'll see a big speed improvement.

@carolynvs in #1293

If you are sure you want to enable caching on Travis, it can be done by adding $GOPATH/pkg/dep, the default location for dep cache, to the cached directories:

# ...

    - $GOPATH/pkg/dep