Home / Go Cookbook / Embedding build number in Go executable

So you’ve deployed your web application to production and it’s running on a server far, far away.

When debugging problems it’s good to know what version of the code is running.

If you’re using git, that would be sha1 of the revision used to build the program.

We can embed that version in the executable during build thanks Go linker’s -X option which allows to change any variable in the program.

In our Go program we would have:

package main

var (
	sha1ver   string // sha1 revision used to build the program
	buildTime string // when the executable was built

We can set that variable to sha1 of the git revision in our build script build.sh:


# notice how we avoid spaces in $now to avoid quotation hell in go build command
now=$(date +'%Y-%m-%d_%T')
go build -ldflags "-X main.sha1ver=`git rev-parse HEAD` -X main.buildTime=$now"

Full example: embed-build-number/build.sh

On Windows we would write powershell script build.ps1:

# notice how we avoid spaces in $now to avoid quotation hell in go build command
$now = Get-Date -UFormat "%Y-%m-%d_%T"
$sha1 = (git rev-parse HEAD).Trim()

go build -ldflags "-X main.sha1ver=$sha1 -X main.buildTime=$now"

Full example: embed-build-number/build.ps1

Let’s deconstruct:

  • git rev-parse HEAD returns sha1 of the current revision, e.g. e5ce06c1f604efb1de91d515d5de865e7e164d59
  • -X main.sha1ver=${foo} tells Go linker to set variable sha1ver in package main to ${foo}
  • -ldflags "${flags}" tells Go build tool to pass ${flags} to go linker

We also need an easy way to see that version. We can add -version cmd-line flag to print it out:

var (
	flgVersion bool

func parseCmdLineFlags() {
	flag.BoolVar(&flgVersion, "version", false, "if true, print version and exit")
	if flgVersion {
		fmt.Printf("Build on %s from sha1 %s\n", buildTime, sha1ver)

If this is a web application, we can additionally add a debug page that would show the version. I often do it like that:

func servePlainText(w http.ResponseWriter, s string) {
	w.Header().Set("Content-Type", "text/plain")
	w.Header().Set("Content-Length", strconv.Itoa(len(s)))

// /app/debug
func handleDebug(w http.ResponseWriter, r *http.Request) {
	s := fmt.Sprintf("url: %s %s", r.Method, r.RequestURI)
	a := []string{s}

	a = append(a, "Headers:")
	for k, v := range r.Header {
		if len(v) == 0 {
			a = append(a, k)
		} else if len(v) == 1 {
			s = fmt.Sprintf("  %s: %v", k, v[0])
			a = append(a, s)
		} else {
			a = append(a, "  "+k+":")
			for _, v2 := range v {
				a = append(a, "    "+v2)

	a = append(a, "")
	a = append(a, fmt.Sprintf("ver: https://github.com/kjk/go-cookbook/commit/%s", sha1ver))
	a = append(a, fmt.Sprintf("built on: %s", buildTime))

	s = strings.Join(a, "\n")
	servePlainText(w, s)

func makeHTTPServer() *http.Server {
	mux := &http.ServeMux{}

	mux.HandleFunc("/app/debug", handleDebug)

	return &http.Server{
		ReadTimeout:  5 * time.Second,
		WriteTimeout: 5 * time.Second,
		IdleTimeout:  120 * time.Second,
		Handler:      mux,

func startHTTPServer() {
	httpAddr := ""
	httpSrv := makeHTTPServer()
	httpSrv.Addr = httpAddr
	fmt.Printf("Visit http://%s/app/debug\n", httpAddr)
	err := httpSrv.ListenAndServe()
	if err != nil {
		log.Fatalf("httpSrv.ListendAndServe() failed with %s\n", err)

In addition to printing version of the code I also show HTTP headers. During debugging, the more information, the better.

Code for this chapter: https://github.com/kjk/go-cookbook/tree/master/embed-build-number

Part of Go Cookbook