Release Go modules automatically

Posted on 02 November 2020 - 2 min read

If you happen to have some awesome Golang codes, you probably want to share it with others. Once sharing it, you will need to turn it into a Go module and to version it. Therefore it can be managed easier and to be more friendly to users.

Well, releasing a Go module isn't so difficult but neither is it straightforward. Moreover, you're an engineer so you want to automate everything including this manual work.

Below is my experience when trying to automate the process of releasing Go modules via semantic-release and Github Actions. It wasn't so smooth but life is much easier after that.


Commit message format

Our commit messages format must follow a convention that is understood by semantic-release. By default, semantic-release uses Angular Commit Message Conventions but it can be changed by the configuration.

Here is an example of the release type that will be done based on commit messages:

Commit messageRelease type
fix(pencil): stop graphite breaking when too much pressure appliedPatch Release
feat(pencil): add 'graphiteWidth' optionMinor (Feature) Release
perf(pencil): remove graphiteWidth option

BREAKING CHANGE: The graphiteWidth option has been removed.
The default graphite width of 10mm is always used for performance reasons.
Major (Breaking) Release

Automated tests

We all want our modules to be released with its best in quality. The only way to achieve that is to take testing seriously. Since releasing is done automatically, so be testing. Therefore, I would assume the CI is already implemented with proper automated testing. And we will only trigger the release step if all test cases are passed.

Setup semantic-release


For Node modules, we can straightly use the default configuration. For Go modules, it requires some modifications as Golang doesn't use NPM repository. Thus, we will need to add .releaserc.json, which is semantic-release's configure file, to the root folder in our repository:

  "branches": [
      "name": "beta",
      "prerelease": true
  "plugins": [

There are a few things I would like to highlight here:

  • @semantic-release/npm is removed from the default plugins config because we don't need to publish our Go module to NPM repo. It's obvious, right?
  • main is used instead of master which is the release branch by default. For those who may not know, Github recently renames the default branch from master to main. Reference.
  • beta is used as a pre-release branch when we're in a heavy development phase with frequent breaking changes. To learn more about release workflow, you can look into semantic-release wiki. I'm really impressed by how well it's documented.

For generating changelog, we will need to include two more plugins:

I don't see scale well and we already have git history so not including these steps makes things easier.

Github Actions

Then, we add a new job in Github Actions workflow for releasing. It should look simple like this:

    # an amazing test configs
    name: Release
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
    needs: test
      - uses: actions/checkout@v2
      - uses: actions/setup-node@v1
          node-version: 12
      - name: Release
          GITHUB_TOKEN: ${{ secrets.GITHUB_TOKEN }}
        run: npx semantic-release
  • needs: test means the release job is only executed if the test job is successful.
  • npx semantic-release is the command to execute semantic-release. GITHUB_TOKEN will be needed for tagging.
  • semantic-release is able to detect if the job is triggered by pull_request and ignore it. Therefore, we won't need to worry about skipping the job from pull requests.


Sometimes, the module is in a heavy development and it's expected to have multiple breaking changes. In this situation, a pre-release version like v1.0.0-beta.12 is needed before a stable one. semantic-release supports this pretty well. All we need to do is:

  • Create a beta branch and commit your changes here. Relevant commits in this branch will trigger semantic-release to create a new pre-release.
  • Once the module becomes stable, we merge it to the main branch. The merge should trigger semantic-release to create a new stable version.


semantic-release is a handy library. It can free your hands from release modules in a timely manner. One downside is that a buggy module can be released if automated tests are not properly implemented.

semantic-release is not the only package out there to automate the process. Another alternative written in Golang is go-semantic-release. go-semantic-release doesn't have as many plugins as semantic-release but it works better with Go module. Especially, it allows starting versioning with 0.x.x which is a Go's convention for pre-releases.


Tagged with: golang, semantic-release

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