When starting out in programming, it can be tough to know where to begin. With so many languages to choose from, it can be difficult to know which is the best for your needs.
That’s why we recommend trying the Go programming language. It’s simple, efficient, and versatile. Designed by Google in 2009, it has steadily gained popularity among developers for its straightforwardness and efficiency.
In this article, we'll take a look at the Go - what it is, how it works, and why you might want to start learning it over other languages. Keep reading for more!
About Go and Its Key Features
As mentioned in the opening section, the Go programming language first appeared in 2009. Robert Griesemer, Rob Pike, and Ken Thompson were the developers at Google that created this language, reportedly after getting fed up with the C++ programming language and seeking to create something simpler to understand.
One of the defining features of Go is its use of goroutines – lightweight threads which are multiplexed onto a single operating system thread. This allows for concurrent execution of code without the need for multi-threading.
Another reason this language gained such traction is its simplicity. Programming in Go is streamlined, and the syntax is easier to learn and read.
How Does Go Work?
Go programs are typically compiled into a single executable binary. This binary can be run on any system with a compatible operating system and architecture.
The Go compiler produces native binaries for all major platforms. The cross-platform nature of the Go programming language means that it is easy to develop and deploy applications on multiple systems with little or no modification needed.
One of the benefits of statically compiled languages is that they tend to be very fast compared to dynamic languages. The compiler produces code that is very close to the machine code for the target platform. This means that programs written in Go can execute quickly and with minimal overhead.
How To Install Go and Set Up a Development Environment
Installing Go is a simple process. You can download the latest version of the Go compiler and tools from the official Go website. The Go programming language license is open-source, so there’s no need to purchase anything.
Once you have downloaded and installed Go, you will need to set up your development environment. The first thing you need to do is choose a text editor or IDE. There are many excellent options available, but for this post, we will be using Visual Studio Code.
Once you have installed your text editor, the next step is to set up your workspace. Create a new folder and then open it in Visual Studio Code. Within this folder, create a subfolder called src. This is where you will store all of your Go source code files.
The final step is configuring your text editor to use the Go tools. In Visual Studio Code, this can be done by opening the Settings and then selecting Language > Go from the left-hand menu.
Basic Go Syntax and Programming Concepts
Now that your development environment is set up, it's time to start writing some code! In this section, we will take a look at some of the basic syntax and concepts in Go.
Go is a statically typed language, meaning all variables must have a specific type. The int type is used for whole numbers, float64 for floating-point numbers, and string for strings of text. You can also use the var keyword to declare a new variable and:= operator to declare and initialize a variable in one go.
A function is a block of code that takes one or more input parameters and returns one or more output values. Functions are declared using the func keyword. To call your Go functions, you simply use the function name followed by the input parameters enclosed in parentheses.
Arrays and Slices
An array is a fixed-size sequence of elements of the same type. The length of an array is part of its type, so arrays cannot be resized. You can initialize an array by utilizing a list of values enclosed in curly brackets or by using a quantity of elements.
Unlike arrays, slices are dynamically-sized sequences of elements of the same type. They can be resized and even created by using a make function, while the initialization is similar to arrays.
The programming language Go has two types of loops: for and range. The for loop is used to execute a block of code a specified number of times, while range iterates over arrays, slices, and maps.
Go also allows you to streamline complicated operations by using functions, effectively creating a proxy word. You then just type the name of the function followed by a list of arguments in parentheses to get the result.
It’s also possible to create anonymous functions. An anonymous function is a function that is not bound to an identifier. To create such a function, you use the func keyword followed by a list of parameters, the body of the function, and a return statement.
Maps, Structs, and Packages
Working with data structures is another essential part of your Go programming routine. Maps allow you to structure data with keys and values, struct is used for groups of related values, while packages help with organizing your code.
The latter is very handy when you’d like to reuse parts of your code in another program, while maps and struts help you organize everything within a single piece of code.
Lastly, you want to test your programs on the fly. To write a unit test, you create a file with a name that ends in _test.go and contains functions that begin with the word Test. It’s possible to run tests in a package or create benchmarks with strict definitions.
Use Cases for Go
We’ve seen some Go programming language examples and talked about the advantages of this language, but we’ve yet to answer one more question - what is Go best used for? While it is considered to be a general-purpose language, it works best for specific types of applications.
Since Go is a portable language, it’s ideal for writing web-based and cloud apps. It has excellent support for network programming and includes a standard library with packages for building robust and scalable web applications.
Most programs written in Go require no external data. This makes such apps ideal for distribution and, thus, easy deployment on servers, but also for making command-line tools and utilities.
One of the key features of Google’s Go programming language is concurrency. Unsurprisingly, that’s what makes developing distributed systems easier than before. Web developers use this language to create APIs, frameworks, and other web services.
Advantages of Go Over Other Programming Languages
When comparing Go to other programming languages, it pays to remember that Go was designed with different goals than many of them. The designers of Go wanted to create a language that would be:
Simple: Go is designed to be easy to learn and use. It has a limited syntax and a small standard library.
Fast: Go is designed to be fast. It compiles into native code and has very efficient garbage collection, making it great for web development.
Concurrent: The language makes it easy to write efficient software that can use all of the available CPUs.
Go is not the right language for every situation, but it excels at solving the types of problems it was designed to solve. If you are working on a project that falls into one of the categories above, then Go is definitely worth considering.
Resources for Learning Go
The best way to learn Go is to read the official documentation and try writing some code. The following Go programming language books, sites, and other resources can also be helpful:
A Tour of Go: This interactive tutorial from the official website is a great way to get started.
The Go Programming Language Specification: A good reference for understanding the details of syntax and semantics.
Effective Go: This document from the official website contains advice on how to write idiomatic Go code.
The Go Forum: The Go Forum is a place to ask questions and share ideas with other Go programmers.
The Go mailing list: Joining the Go mailing list is a great way to join the discussion and keep up-to-date with the language’s development.
Stack Overflow: Stack Overflow is a question-and-answer site for programmers. No matter what language you’re coding in, you’ll find the discussion boards and groups to get help with your code.
Reddit: Of course, the massive Reddit community has entire sections dedicated to Go and coding in Go. You can share code with other users, get help with debugging your apps or organize collaborations with others.
Go Programming Language Jobs
So, you’ve learned all about Go, set up your dev environment, and are ready to take up your first paid tasks. What now?
You can, of course, start your job hunt right here at Leftronic. Our job board is updated daily, and the variety of jobs coders can apply for varies from part-time app development to working in full-stack development for web-based solutions.
As for the expected salary, it’s on par with similar jobs. The national average for Go programmers is around $50 an hour, $100k a year. Of course, the final number will highly depend on whether you take up a full-time position and the type of project you end up working on.