CLI Applications and Regular Expressions

CIS 193 – Go Programming

Prakhar Bhandari, Adel Qalieh

CIS 193

Course Logistics

Command Line Applications

A command-line application, also known as a command-line interface (CLI) application, are programs that are designed to be used from a text-interface such as a shell inside a terminal.

CLIs usually take in inputs as arguments and flags/switches through a text interface.

CLIs are extremely powerful as they can offer many more options and can be automated and chained together with scripting.

Ex: Command Prompt in Windows, Terminal with bash in OSX and Linux.


Simple CLI Example

To get a command line argument, use os.Args, an array of the arguments.

The first argument is always the program name (os.Args[0]).

package main

import (

func main() {
  fmt.Printf("Hello, %s\n", os.Args[1])

To call this, we say

$ ./hello Adel
Hello, Adel

CLI Arguments

A command line argument is the simplest way to collect data from the CLI. It is simply a []string, so it is unstructured.

For example, to get the rest of the command line arguments, we can edit our program to:

func main() {
  fmt.Printf("Hello, %s\n", strings.Join(os.Args[1:], " "))

So, to compare the original to our new program, we have:

$ ./hello Adel Qalieh
Hello, Adel

$ ./hello2 Adel Qalieh
Hello, Adel Qalieh


To build and install a CLI to your system, simply run go install. This will install the binary into your $GOPATH/bin directory.

$ go install
$ $GOPATH/bin/lec8 Prakhar
Hello, Prakhar

And if your system PATH is correctly configured with your $GOPATH/bin, you should be able to call it directly:

$ lec8 Prakhar
Hello, Prakhar

This makes it incredibly easy to make simple command line tools for your system.

Simple CLI Demo

Command Line Flags

What if you want structured data - numbers, booleans, required arguments, switches, etc?

Use the flag package!

The flag package supports basic CLI parsing. First add a flag

var times = flag.Int("times", 1, "number of times to print hello")

Then make sure to parse the flags with flag.Parse(). Note that times is an *int!
Also note that all arguments must come after all flags, and are accessed with flag.Args and flag.Arg(i)

func main() {

Creating custom flag

What if we want a type that is not defined in the flag package? We can define custom flags by fulfilling the flag.Value interface:

type Value interface {
  Set(string) error

Flags Demo

Getting user input

To get input from a user in a command line application while the program is running, we need to make use of standard input. The simplest way is a utility function from the fmt package

var s string

However, to get buffered input, we can use the bufio package in tandem with os.Stdin

reader := bufio.NewReader(os.Stdin)
text, err := reader.ReadString('\n')

Finally, we can use the formatting verbs to get structured data from user input:

var i int
_, err := fmt.Scanf("%d\n", &i)

Cross compilation

When you run go build or go install, the binary is built for your particular operating system and processor.

To build a binary for another platform, set the GOOS (operating system) and GOARCH (processor architecture) environment variables when running your build commands.
The full list of environments is listed in the Go documentation

$ GOOS=linux GOARCH=386 go build test.go

Regular Expressions

Regular expressions (regex) are a way of matching or categorizing strings. They have their own arcane syntax but are used in a variety of contexts.

End goal: does this string match condition X? What part of the string matches? Can I extract the desired information from a block of text?

Go has an extremely robust and performant regular expression implementation that is unmatched by any other language regex implementation.


Most alphanumeric characters in regex will simply match that character. For example, the regex `go` matches all of the following strings:


Note that regex is (usually) case sensitive, so it will not match Google.

To define a regex in Go, always use raw strings using the backtick (`) character

goRegex := `go`

Character Classes

What about non-verbatim cases, ie. any number or any letter? We use what are called "character classes", or a category of characters that fall under an umbrella. Here are some common ones:

The full regex syntax is described by RE2


There are also operators to match a variable number of characters. All operators act on the syntax immediately before:

Groups of characters

To match an actual period character . escape it with a backslash: \.

Capture Groups

To extract information, wrapping the desired information within parenthesis will put that match in a "capture group" which can be pulled out.

(IMG_\d+).jpg will get filenames like IMG_629.jpg but only the part without the extension in the capture group (IMG_629)

Regex Resources

Regex can be difficult to learn, easy to forget, and has much much more than we can cover in this class. Here are some resources if you want additional help.

Using the regexp library

Define a regexp with regexp.Compile(), which returns a *Regexp

Use methods on *Regexp:

The 16 methods for identifying matched text can be matched by the regular expression


See the regexp documentation for full details on all the methods of *Regexp

Regex Demo

Final Project

Homework 8

Thank you

Prakhar Bhandari, Adel Qalieh

CIS 193

Use the left and right arrow keys or click the left and right edges of the page to navigate between slides.
(Press 'H' or navigate to hide this message.)