Working With Forks in Go

This been written about before in the Go universe, but I felt it was worth reviewing as it has come up many times in the Go slack (invite link).

When developing on a separate remote from the original in Go, there is a common point of confusion when a developer forks on Github (for example) and then proceeds to go get the fork. This places the fork in the wrong spot in their $GOPATH and none of the imports work. This post will detail how to work with a fork, or really any repository where the working remote is different than the original, go getable remote.


Say I wanted to work on a pull request for the netns repository from Jessie Frazelle and I had imported a package of it into another project. If I download my fork with go get, the repository will be in the wrong place on my system at $GOPATH/src/ and not in the proper place at $GOPATH/src/


Follow the steps below to properly develop on a fork. The example uses the same repository as above, though it generally applies to any repository. This set of instructions is optimized for git workflow during development.

  1. Pull the original package from the canonical place with the standard go get command

    go get
  2. Fork the repository on Github or set up whatever other remote git repo you will be using. In this case, I would go to Github and fork the repository.

  3. Navigate to the top level of the repository on your computer. Note that this might not be the specific package you’re using.

    cd $GOPATH/src/
  4. Rename the current origin remote to upstream

    git remote rename origin upstream
  5. Add your fork as origin

    git remote add origin

At this point I’m ready to develop, branch, push, and everything else I would normally do with my code, but with the package names of the other repository. From here, the best approach would be to create a feature branch and work from there.

git checkout -t -b awesome-feature
// create awesome feature commits
git push origin awesome-feature

Don’t forget to pull the changes from upstream before sending in a PR. This helps avoid merge conflicts.

git fetch upstream
git merge upstream/master

Alternative Remote Names

If you are not as comfortable with using git commands directly on your go repo to pull in the latest upstream changes, you can instead add your fork as a remote named after your username:

git remote add ScottMansfield

Then you would work on branches on the username remote instead of origin. This preserves the behavior of go get but is a slightly more awkward git workflow. You would be working on a remote not called origin and the go get -u command might end up causing merge conflicts if you were developing on the master branch. This is why feature branches are so important.

Not so bad

This is a common pain point with new open source contributors who want to be able to start working on Go projects. Hopefully this helps with someone looking to get started with their first OSS contributions.

If this post was helpful, please leave a comment below or let me know @sgmansfield.

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