The programming language Go (also known as Golang) may not be the most popular programming language out there. It does, however, offer an evolving approach to development and an active community. Today, Golang is supported by most popular text editors and IDEs through the use of plugins. That said, there are also quite a few less-known Golang IDEs worth checking out.
Before we list the best and most efficient IDEs for developing and debugging Golang applications? It’s worth reviewing (briefly) what Golang actually is and who uses it.
What is Golang?
Developed in Google from 2007 and released in 2009, Golang is an open-source procedural programming language. It’s developers, Griesemer, Pike & Thompson, took inspiration from other languages like C, Oberon, Pascal, Newsqueak and Smalltalk to bring to life Go.
One of the main advantages of Golang is that it supports concurrent programming. This allows multiple processes to run concurrently through the use of channels and goroutines. Being a robust programming language, Golang was used to develop Docker and Kubernetes. On the consumer side, Go is the code behind Netflix and Dropbox.
Top 8 Golang IDEs for 2021
The first Golang IDE on our list is also perhaps the most Golang centric one that has been targeting Go developers since its inception in 2012. LiteIDE is a simple, open source, cross-platform Go IDE that highly resembles Visual Studio and GCC C++. If you’re feeling nostalgic, you’ll be right (back) at home with LiteIDE.
Since it was designed for Golang, LiteIDE has a number of useful features for developers right out of the box. These include configurable build commands, an advanced code editor, and (of course) extensive Golang support. Other features include code management, a gdb and Delve debugger, auto-completion and theming with WordApi, MIME type based system, and more.
As is to be expected with a FOSS solution, Lite IDE can run on Windows, MacOS and Linux operating systems. In addition, it is frequently updated and has a loyal community of users.
Developed by GitHub, Atom is a popular text editor that dubs itself “hackable”. Being that, Atom is a lightweight framework for various plugins that enable the majority of its functionality.
When it comes to using Atom to develop in Go, you will need the Go-Plus plugin. It adds to your Arom installation the tools, build flows, linters, vet, and coverage tools you need to develop in Golang. You can also use its features for autocomplete, formatting, testing, and documentation.
It’s worth noting that you will need to install dive with the go-debug package to allow for more in-depth debugging. In addition, it seems the latest release of the Go-Plug package was published on GitHub all the way back in 2019. Which means it may not be as well maintained as one would like.
Another popular code editor with extensive support for Golang is VSCode. Much like other extendable text editors, Visual Studio Code will demand you install a plugin to code, debug and perform other actions on Go code.
Using the Go extension for Visual Studio Code, you get language code navigation, symbol search, bracket matching, snippets, and many other features to help you write better Go code in your familiar VSCode environment.
The Go plugin for VSCode is developed and maintained by the Go team at Google, so upgrades and fixes are frequent.
Vim is a popular cross-platform open source text editor with a plethora of plugins offering support for most programming languages out there. Golang is no exception. The vim-go plugin is free, easy to install, and is well-maintained with frequent updates on Github.
Upon installation, vim-go will arm your VIM text editor with Go package compilation, folding and syntax highlighting, integrated delve support, and anything else you may need to write applications in Golang.
Since this is an open source project, you will need to turn to the community for support when you come across any trouble. That said, you will find most of what you need in the project documentation.
If Sublime is your choice of text editor, then the GoSublime plugin collection will give you (most of) what you need. GoSublime is an IDE-like plugin for Sublime Text 3 (mainly, but not limited to). According to its description, it provides integration for most of your Go/Golang development tools. Well-maintained and supported financially, the GoSublime plugin boasts 3.4k stars on GitHub alone.
It’s worth noting that you may need some additional plugins to make the most of Sublime as a Golang IDE. One such plugin is the Golang Build package, which is the official Sublime Text package for Go build system integration.
JetBrains is known for Intellij IDEA and its flavors made for specific languages. In this case, GoLand is the JetBrains solution for GoLang developers.
GoLand is a cross-platform IDE built specially for Go developers. It is a commercial IDE, and as such comes with a (modest) price-tag and a rich feature-set. It includes on-the-fly error detection with suggestions for fixes, refactorings with one-step undo, intelligent code completion, dead code detection, and documentation hints. In addition, it comes with powerful GoLang debugging capabilities, user-friendly GoLand code navigation and support for Git, GitHub, and Mercurial out-of-the-box.
For a personal license, you will need to pay US $89.00 for the first year (and less later on). For a business license, the annual cost starts at US $199.00 per user.
7. Zeus IDE
Zeus is a language neutral programmer’s IDE for the Windows platform that is known by few. Claiming to be “an IDE letting you code like Mozart rather than coding nursery rhymes”, Zeus has quite a bit to offer to Go developers.
Among others, Zeus IDE supports Go tools like gocode for auto-complete, documentation, code navigation, as well as tools like gofmt and goimports for automatic code formatting. There are also macros for Go Guru, fix, vet, gorename and gobuild. Last but not least, as of recently, Zeus also works with the Delve debugger.
You may be wondering why Eclipse and its Go plugin, Goclipse, are not included in the list of top 7 GoLang IDEs. Goclipse was abandoned by its developer in 2017 and so no updates have been made to the project since. The user community was also quick to follow, so support for Golang on Eclipse is limited at best.
Choosing the IDE for your next Golang project will usually be influenced by the usual criteria for IDE selection. If you’re already familiar with VSCode or can operate a JetBrains IDE in your sleep? There’s really no reason for you to seek out an alternative. All you need to do is install Golang on your machine and add a plugin to your IDE or text editor of choice. But if you are feeling adventurous? Go ahead take this opportunity to discover a new IDE (like LiteIDE or Zeus IDE) to add to your Goland development toolbelt.