Documentation for contributors

This documentation augments the general documentation for contributing to the x/tools repository, described at the repository root.

Contributions are welcome, but since development is so active, we request that you file an issue and claim it before starting to work on something. Otherwise, it is likely that we might already be working on a fix for your issue.

Finding issues

All gopls issues are labeled as such (see the gopls label). Issues that are suitable for contributors are additionally tagged with the help-wanted label.

Before you begin working on an issue, please leave a comment that you are claiming it.

Getting started

Most of the gopls logic is in the directory. See [design/] for an overview of the code organization.


To build a version of gopls with your changes applied:

cd /path/to/tools/gopls
go install

To confirm that you are testing with the correct gopls version, check that your gopls version looks like this:

$ gopls version master

Getting help

The best way to contact the gopls team directly is via the #gopls-dev channel on the gophers slack. Please feel free to ask any questions about your contribution or about contributing in general.

Error handling

It is important for the user experience that, whenever practical, minor logic errors in a particular feature don't cause the server to crash.

The representation of a Go program is complex. The import graph of package metadata, the syntax trees of parsed files, and their associated type information together form a huge API surface area. Even when the input is valid, there are many edge cases to consider, and this grows by an order of magnitude when you consider missing imports, parse errors, and type errors.

What should you do when your logic must handle an error that you believe “can't happen”?

  • If it‘s possible to return an error, then use the bug.Errorf function to return an error to the user, but also record the bug in gopls’ cache so that it is less likely to be ignored.

  • If it's safe to proceed, you can call bug.Reportf to record the error and continue as normal.

  • If there‘s no way to proceed, call bug.Fatalf to record the error and then stop the program with log.Fatalf. You can also use bug.Panicf if there’s a chance that a recover handler might save the situation.

  • Only if you can prove locally that an error is impossible should you call log.Fatal. If the error may happen for some input, however unlikely, then you should use one of the approaches above. Also, if the proof of safety depends on invariants broadly distributed across the code base, then you should instead use bug.Panicf.

Note also that panicking is preferable to log.Fatal because it allows VS Code's crash reporting to recognize and capture the stack.

Bugs reported through bug.Errorf and friends are retrieved using the gopls bug command, which opens a GitHub Issue template and populates it with a summary of each bug and its frequency. The text of the bug is rather fastidiously printed to stdout to avoid sharing user names and error message strings (which could contain project identifiers) with GitHub. Users are invited to share it if they are willing.


The normal command you should use to run the tests after a change is:

gopls$ go test -short ./...

(The -short flag skips some slow-running ones. The trybot builders run the complete set, on a wide range of platforms.)

Gopls tests are a mix of two kinds.

  • Marker tests express each test scenario in a standalone text file that contains the target .go, go.mod, and files, in which special annotations embedded in comments drive the test. These tests are generally easy to write and fast to iterate, but have limitations on what they can express.

  • Integration tests are regular Go func Test(*testing.T) functions that make a series of calls to an API for a fake LSP-enabled client editor. The API allows you to open and edit a file, navigate to a definition, invoke other LSP operations, and assert properties about the state.

    Due to the asynchronous nature of the LSP, integration tests make assertions about states that the editor must achieve eventually, even when the program goes wrong quickly, it may take a while before the error is reported as a failure to achieve the desired state within several minutes. We recommend that you set GOPLS_INTEGRATION_TEST_TIMEOUT=10s to reduce the timeout for integration tests when debugging.

    When they fail, the integration tests print the log of the LSP session between client and server. Though verbose, they are very helpful for debugging once you know how to read them.

Don't hesitate to reach out to the gopls team if you need help.


When you mail your CL and you or a fellow contributor assigns the Run-TryBot=1 label in Gerrit, the TryBots will run tests in both the and modules, as described above.

Furthermore, an additional “gopls-CI” pass will be run by Kokoro, which is a Jenkins-like Google infrastructure for running Dockerized tests. This allows us to run gopls tests in various environments that would be difficult to add to the TryBots. Notably, Kokoro runs tests on older Go versions that are no longer supported by the TryBots. Per that that policy, support for these older Go versions is best-effort, and test failures may be skipped rather than fixed.

Kokoro runs are triggered by the Run-TryBot=1 label, just like TryBots, but unlike TryBots they do not automatically re-run if the “gopls-CI” result is removed in Gerrit. To force a re-run of the Kokoro CI on a CL containing the Run-TryBot=1 label, you can reply in Gerrit with the comment “kokoro rerun”.


The easiest way to debug your change is to run a single gopls test with a debugger.

See also Troubleshooting.