Go's defer statement schedules a function call (the deferred function) to be run immediately before the function executing the defer returns. It's an unusual but effective way to deal with situations such as resources that must be released regardless of which path a function takes to return. The canonical examples are unlocking a mutex or closing a file.

// Contents returns the file's contents as a string.
func Contents(filename string) (string, error) {
    f, err := os.Open(filename)
    if err != nil {
        return "", err
    }
    defer f.Close()  // f.Close will run when we're finished.

    var result []byte
    buf := make([]byte, 100)
    for {
        n, err := f.Read(buf[0:])
        result = append(result, buf[0:n]...) // append is discussed later.
        if err != nil {
            if err == io.EOF {
                break
            }
            return "", err  // f will be closed if we return here.
        }
    }
    return string(result), nil // f will be closed if we return here.
}
Go's defer statement schedules a function call (the deferred function) to be run immediately before the function executing the defer returns. It's an unusual but effective way to deal with situations such as resources that must be released regardless of which path a function takes to return. The canonical examples are unlocking a mutex or closing a file.

// Contents returns the file's contents as a string.
func Contents(filename string) (string, error) {
    f, err := os.Open(filename)
    if err != nil {
        return "", err
    }
    defer f.Close()  // f.Close will run when we're finished.

    var result []byte
    buf := make([]byte, 100)
    for {
        n, err := f.Read(buf[0:])
        result = append(result, buf[0:n]...) // append is discussed later.
        if err != nil {
            if err == io.EOF {
                break
            }
            return "", err  // f will be closed if we return here.
        }
    }
    return string(result), nil // f will be closed if we return here.
}
The arguments to the deferred function (which include the receiver if the function is a method) are evaluated when the defer executes, not when the call executes. Besides avoiding worries about variables changing values as the function executes, this means that a single deferred call site can defer multiple function executions. Here's a silly example.

for i := 0; i < 5; i++ {
    defer fmt.Printf("%d ", i)
}
We can do better by exploiting the fact that arguments to deferred functions are evaluated when the defer executes. The tracing routine can set up the argument to the untracing routine. This example:

func trace(s string) string {
    fmt.Println("entering:", s)
    return s
}

func un(s string) {
    fmt.Println("leaving:", s)
}

func a() {
    defer un(trace("a"))
    fmt.Println("in a")
}

func b() {
    defer un(trace("b"))
    fmt.Println("in b")
    a()
}

func main() {
    b()
}
Deferred functions are executed in LIFO order, so this code will cause 4 3 2 1 0 to be printed when the function returns. A more plausible example is a simple way to trace function execution through the program. We could write a couple of simple tracing routines like this:

func trace(s string)   { fmt.Println("entering:", s) }
func untrace(s string) { fmt.Println("leaving:", s) }

// Use them like this:
func a() {
    trace("a")
    defer untrace("a")
    // do something....
}
The arguments to the deferred function (which include the receiver if the function is a method) are evaluated when the defer executes, not when the call executes. Besides avoiding worries about variables changing values as the function executes, this means that a single deferred call site can defer multiple function executions. Here's a silly example.

for i := 0; i < 5; i++ {
    defer fmt.Printf("%d ", i)
}
We can do better by exploiting the fact that arguments to deferred functions are evaluated when the defer executes. The tracing routine can set up the argument to the untracing routine. This example:

func trace(s string) string {
    fmt.Println("entering:", s)
    return s
}

func un(s string) {
    fmt.Println("leaving:", s)
}

func a() {
    defer un(trace("a"))
    fmt.Println("in a")
}

func b() {
    defer un(trace("b"))
    fmt.Println("in b")
    a()
}

func main() {
    b()
}
Deferred functions are executed in LIFO order, so this code will cause 4 3 2 1 0 to be printed when the function returns. A more plausible example is a simple way to trace function execution through the program. We could write a couple of simple tracing routines like this:

func trace(s string)   { fmt.Println("entering:", s) }
func untrace(s string) { fmt.Println("leaving:", s) }

// Use them like this:
func a() {
    trace("a")
    defer untrace("a")
    // do something....
}
With our recovery pattern in place, the do function (and anything it calls) can get out of any bad situation cleanly by calling panic. We can use that idea to simplify error handling in complex software. Let's look at an idealized version of a regexp package, which reports parsing errors by calling panic with a local error type. Here's the definition of Error, an error method, and the Compile function.

// Error is the type of a parse error; it satisfies the error interface.
type Error string
func (e Error) Error() string {
    return string(e)
}

// error is a method of *Regexp that reports parsing errors by
// panicking with an Error.
func (regexp *Regexp) error(err string) {
    panic(Error(err))
}

// Compile returns a parsed representation of the regular expression.
func Compile(str string) (regexp *Regexp, err error) {
    regexp = new(Regexp)
    // doParse will panic if there is a parse error.
    defer func() {
        if e := recover(); e != nil {
            regexp = nil    // Clear return value.
            err = e.(Error) // Will re-panic if not a parse error.
        }
    }()
    return regexp.doParse(str), nil
}
With our recovery pattern in place, the do function (and anything it calls) can get out of any bad situation cleanly by calling panic. We can use that idea to simplify error handling in complex software. Let's look at an idealized version of a regexp package, which reports parsing errors by calling panic with a local error type. Here's the definition of Error, an error method, and the Compile function.

// Error is the type of a parse error; it satisfies the error interface.
type Error string
func (e Error) Error() string {
    return string(e)
}

// error is a method of *Regexp that reports parsing errors by
// panicking with an Error.
func (regexp *Regexp) error(err string) {
    panic(Error(err))
}

// Compile returns a parsed representation of the regular expression.
func Compile(str string) (regexp *Regexp, err error) {
    regexp = new(Regexp)
    // doParse will panic if there is a parse error.
    defer func() {
        if e := recover(); e != nil {
            regexp = nil    // Clear return value.
            err = e.(Error) // Will re-panic if not a parse error.
        }
    }()
    return regexp.doParse(str), nil
}