There are the following golangci-lint execution steps:

Load packages
Run linters
Postprocess issues
Print issues


The execution starts here:

func main() {
e := commands.NewExecutor(version, commit, date)
if err := e.Execute(); err != nil {
fmt.Fprintf(os.Stderr, "failed executing command with error %v\n", err)

The executer is our abstraction:

type Executor struct {
rootCmd *cobra.Command
runCmd *cobra.Command
lintersCmd *cobra.Command
exitCode int
cfg *config.Config
log logutils.Log
reportData report.Data
DBManager *lintersdb.Manager
EnabledLintersSet *lintersdb.EnabledSet
contextLoader *lint.ContextLoader
goenv *goutil.Env
fileCache *fsutils.FileCache
lineCache *fsutils.LineCache
pkgCache *pkgcache.Cache
debugf logutils.DebugFunc
sw *timeutils.Stopwatch
loadGuard *load.Guard
flock *flock.Flock

We use dependency injection and all root dependencies are stored in this executor.

In the function NewExecutor we do the following:

  1. init dependencies
  2. init cobra commands
  3. parse config file using viper and merge it with command line args.

The following execution is controlled by cobra. If user a user executes golangci-lint run then cobra executes e.runCmd.

Different cobra commands have different runners, e.g. a run command is configured in the following way:

func (e *Executor) initRun() {
e.runCmd = &cobra.Command{
Use: "run",
Short: welcomeMessage,
Run: e.executeRun,
PreRun: func(_ *cobra.Command, _ []string) {
if ok := e.acquireFileLock(); !ok {
e.log.Fatalf("Parallel golangci-lint is running")
PostRun: func(_ *cobra.Command, _ []string) {
e.runCmd.SetOutput(logutils.StdOut) // use custom output to properly color it in Windows terminals

The primary execution function of the run command is executeRun.

Load Packages

Loading packages is listing all packages and their recursive dependencies for analysis. Also, depending from enabled linters set some parsing of a source code can be performed at this step.

Packages loading stars here:

func (cl *ContextLoader) Load(ctx context.Context, linters []*linter.Config) (*linter.Context, error) {
loadMode := cl.findLoadMode(linters)
pkgs, err := cl.loadPackages(ctx, loadMode)
if err != nil {
return nil, err
// ...
ret := &linter.Context{
// ...
return ret, nil

First, we find a load mode as union of load modes for all enabled linters. We use go/packages for packages loading and use it's enum packages.Need* for load modes. Load mode sets which data does a linter needs for execution.

A linter that works only with AST need minimum of information: only filenames and AST. There is no need for packages dependencies or type information. AST is built during go/analysis execution to reduce memory usage. Such AST-based linters are configured with the following code:

func (lc *Config) WithLoadFiles() *Config {
lc.LoadMode |= packages.NeedName | packages.NeedFiles | packages.NeedCompiledGoFiles
return lc

If a linter uses go/analysis and needs type information, we need to extract more data by go/packages:

func (lc *Config) WithLoadForGoAnalysis() *Config {
lc = lc.WithLoadFiles()
lc.LoadMode |= packages.NeedImports | packages.NeedDeps | packages.NeedExportsFile | packages.NeedTypesSizes
return lc

After finding a load mode we run go/packages: the library get list of dirs (or ./... as the default value) as input and outputs list of packages and requested information about them: filenames, type information, AST, etc.

Run Linters

First, we need to find all enaled linters. All linters are registered here:

func (m Manager) GetAllSupportedLinterConfigs() []*linter.Config {
// ...
lcs := []*linter.Config{
WithAlternativeNames("vet", "vetshadow").
WithPresets(linter.PresetPerformance, linter.PresetBugs).
// ...
// ...

We filter requested in config and command-line linters in EnabledSet:

func (es EnabledSet) GetEnabledLintersMap() (map[string]*linter.Config, error)

We merge enabled linters into one MetaLinter to improve execution time if we can:

// GetOptimizedLinters returns enabled linters after optimization (merging) of multiple linters
// into a fewer number of linters. E.g. some go/analysis linters can be optimized into
// one metalinter for data reuse and speed up.
func (es EnabledSet) GetOptimizedLinters() ([]*linter.Config, error) {
// ...
// ...

The MetaLinter just stores all merged linters inside to run them at once:

type MetaLinter struct {
linters []*Linter
analyzerToLinterName map[*analysis.Analyzer]string

Currently, all linters except unused can be merged into this meta linter. The unused isn't merged because it has high memory usage.

Linters execution starts in runAnalyzers. It's the most complex part of the golangci-lint. We use custom go/analysis runner there. It runs as much as it can in parallel. It lazy-loads as much as it can to reduce memory usage. Also, it set all heavyweight data to nil as becomes unneeded to save memory.

We don't use existing multichecker because it doesn't use caching and doesn't have some important performance optimizations.

All found by linters issues are represented with result.Issue struct:

type Issue struct {
FromLinter string
Text string
// Source lines of a code with the issue to show
SourceLines []string
// If we know how to fix the issue we can provide replacement lines
Replacement *Replacement
// Pkg is needed for proper caching of linting results
Pkg *packages.Package `json:"-"`
LineRange *Range `json:",omitempty"`
Pos token.Position
// HunkPos is used only when golangci-lint is run over a diff
HunkPos int `json:",omitempty"`
// If we are expecting a nolint (because this is from nolintlint), record the expected linter
ExpectNoLint bool
ExpectedNoLintLinter string

Postprocess Issues

We have an abstraction of result.Processor to postprocess found issues:

$ tree -L 1 ./pkg/result/processors/
├── autogenerated_exclude.go
├── autogenerated_exclude_test.go
├── cgo.go
├── diff.go
├── exclude.go
├── exclude_rules.go
├── exclude_rules_test.go
├── exclude_test.go
├── filename_unadjuster.go
├── fixer.go
├── identifier_marker.go
├── identifier_marker_test.go
├── max_from_linter.go
├── max_from_linter_test.go
├── max_per_file_from_linter.go
├── max_per_file_from_linter_test.go
├── max_same_issues.go
├── max_same_issues_test.go
├── nolint.go
├── nolint_test.go
├── path_prettifier.go
├── path_shortener.go
├── processor.go
├── skip_dirs.go
├── skip_files.go
├── skip_files_test.go
├── source_code.go
├── testdata
├── uniq_by_line.go
├── uniq_by_line_test.go
└── utils.go

The abstraction is simple:

type Processor interface {
Process(issues []result.Issue) ([]result.Issue, error)
Name() string

A processor can hide issues (nolint, exclude) or change issues (path_shortener).

We have an abstraction for printint found issues.

$ tree -L 1 ./pkg/printers/
├── checkstyle.go
├── codeclimate.go
├── github.go
├── github_test.go
├── json.go
├── junitxml.go
├── printer.go
├── tab.go
└── text.go

Needed printer is selected by command line option --out-format.

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