Go wrapper for the efsw file monitoring library
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Go wrapper for efsw.

efsw is a cross-platform file system watcher and notifier with a broad range of platform support available under the MIT license. For more information, please see the efsw Bitbucket page1.

1: At the moment, the primary efsw distribution doesn't generate a pkg-config configuration file, which is necessary for cgo integration, so you'll have to install from [this fork](https://bitbucket.org/havoc-io/efsw) using the CMake build system. I'll try to extend the pkg-config support to the Premake build system and get it merged upstream at some point in the future.


The module is currently supported (though not tested) on all platforms that efsw supports. If you run into trouble, please file an issue. There are no tests at the momemnt, mostly because the nature of file system notifications across platforms is highly variable. There is, however, an example program available in the example/ subdirectory.


efsw does not have any third-party dependencies, and go-efsw automatically picks up any system dependencies from efsw, so things should work out of the box. Please file an issue if not.


go-efsw provides a simplified (but still fully functional) subset of the efsw interface, and is designed to follow Go's idioms.

efsw generally supports multiple watchers, each with multiple watches. Each watcher runs its own OS-level thread. However, because the cgo interface does not provide a nice interface for managing GC-driven deletion of C++ objects, go-efsw simply uses a single global watcher/thread. This is mostly just an implementation detail - the API still allows you to create as many file/folder watches as you like, supports recursive and non-recursive watches, is completely thread-safe, and more than performant enough to handle whatever the OS throws at it. This design has the advantage of simplicity and low resource usage.

There is no need to initialize the global watcher. It will be automatically initialized the first time any watch is created.

To create a new watch object, simply do:

path := "/Some/folder/to/watch"
recursive := true
buffer := 10
watch, err := efsw.NewWatch(path, recursive, buffer)
if err != nil {
	// Handle error

Note that path needs to be a valid UTF-8 encoded string. Additionally, it may not contain null bytes. The efsw.NewWatch function will validate this. All efsw.Event members will be UTF-8 encoded strings.

The watch object will contain a member named Events, which is of type chan efsw.Event. The channel will be given a buffer size as specified in the third argument of efsw.NewWatch. Events that cannot be written to the channel without blocking will be discarded. This means that you need to digest events on the channel regularly, otherwise new ones will be discarded until the channel has space to accomodate them. Given that Go's scheduling algorithm might schedule threads in such a way that a channel listener might not be polling the channel exactly when the event is delivered, it's advised that you use a non-0 buffer size (though you don't need a 1000-event buffer).

You can monitor events by doing something like:

for e := range watch.Events {
		"%s for %s (formerly %s) in %s\n",

You can stop a watch by doing:


The efsw.DeleteWatch function will close the event channel, so it provides an ideal mechanism to stop any Go routines that are polling for events with range or similar.

If you don't call the efsw.DeleteWatch function, the watch will continue, dropping events if they aren't pulled off the event channel. This won't hurt anything, but it will consume resources, so it's best to stop the watch when it's no longer needed.


The standard caveats for any file system monitoring library apply:

  • The events generated are highly dependent on the platform (e.g. some platforms and monitoring mechanisms don't support move, only add(copy)/delete)
  • The events generated are highly dependent on the program causing the changes (e.g. some programs will save files to a temporary location and then atomically rename them)
  • The features supported are highly dependent on the platform (e.g. some platforms only support directory monitoring, but won't give you an error if you try to monitor a file)
  • Notification rates and times may vary, even on the same platform
  • Some notifications may be dropped by the OS

Fortunately, efsw does a pretty good job of normalizing things, and it supports recursive directory monitoring on all platforms.

Your best bet, however, is to use go-efsw as a mechanism to indicate that you should do some more precise inspection of the state of a given path. Don't rely on file system notifications for fine grain tracking. They are more like the hoard of people running in a given direction with Cthulhu in pursuit - i.e. you should follow them and be aware of the situation, but don't rely on them for your survival.


  • It might be nicer if watch event buffers dropped older events first, but such a "ring channel" is a bit complicated to implement in Go. In practice, events should be serviced regularly, so this shouldn't be a problem, but perhaps it would be nice to have an option to control this behavior.