Tech Insights

How to Create a GoLang Map? Follow These 6 Steps

Joana Almeida
- 3 min. to read

Maps are a very powerful and versatile tool for any programmer in any language. GoLang is no exception.

If you want to know how to use this specific data structure in GoLang, you can use the following 6 simple steps to learn how to create and manipulate maps in your own GoLang projects.

But first let’s go over what maps are and how they are used.

What is a GoLang Map?

A Map in GoLang is a data structure that allows you to store data indexed by a unique key. It is an efficient way to store and retrieve data that needs to have an unique identifier.

How to Create a GoLang Map: 6 Steps

Creating and manipulating maps is actually quite simple. Let’s go over what you need to know in order to use them.

Map Structure in GoLang

Maps are containers consisting of key-value pairs. The ‘key’ is used as an indexer for the rest of the data, or our ‘value’.

The advantage of a map is that the keys do not have to be sequential and can be inserted in any order. When any key is inserted, the map internally takes care of indexing it in a way that makes future searches fast and efficient.

1. Initializing a Map

Before using a map, you have to initialize it. There are two main ways to do this.

Method 1: Declare and Make

make() is a built-in function of Go that is used to allocate and initialize a complex data structure, such as a map. If you try to use a map before ‘making’ it, an error will occur.

This method declares the map variable, and the map has no entries.

Declare and then make
var map_name map[key_type]value_type

    // Any number of lines of code can go here, but you must not use 'map_name' in them

    map_name = make(map[kay_type]value_type)

This is useful in case you need to declare the map before allocating and initializing it in some later part of your code.

Declare and make in the same line

var map_name = make(map[key_type]value_type)

Or you can use the short variable declaration operator (‘:=’).

map_name := make(map[key_type]value_type)

The map becomes immediately available to be manipulated further.

Method 2: Declare and Initialize

In this case, the map is declared and immediately filled with any number of entries you require.

 map_name := map[key_type]value_type{
        key1: value1,
        key2: value2, // remember to always use a comma, even in the last key-value pair
    }

Practical Example

We’ll be doing a practical example by developing a simple program that keeps track of the patrons of a library. We’ll be using a map to store our library’s patrons. Their Patron ID will be our ‘key’, and their name our ‘value’. The patron ID will be a simple integer, and their name a string.

Since we already want to have some patrons in our library, we’ll declare and initialize straight away.

Mr. Terrence and Ms. Evelyn work at the library and also use it, so they are our first patrons to be registered.

We’ll import the fmt package from now on so we can print our map’s contents to the screen.

Method 1

package main

import "fmt"

func main() {
    patrons := make(map[int]string)

    patrons[0] = "Terrence"
    patrons[1] = "Evelyn"

    fmt.Println(patrons)
}

The output is:

map[0:Terrence 1:Evelyn]

Method 2

package main

import "fmt"

func main() {
    patrons := map[int]string{
        0: "Terrence",
        1: "Evelyn",
    }

    fmt.Println(patrons)
}

The output is:

map[0:Terrence 1:Evelyn]

2. Adding to a Map

Adding to a map is simple. All you need to do is assign a value to a key on a map. Remember that keys are unique and cannot repeat. If the key already exists, the assignment will replace the existing value.

map_name[key] = value

Practical Example

New patrons are now registering in our library, so we’ll add them to our map and give them unique IDs.

package main

import "fmt"

func main() {
    patrons := map[int]string{
        0: "Terrence",
        1: "Evelyn",
    }

    patrons[2] = "Jonathan"
    patrons[3] = "Rick"

    fmt.Println(patrons)
}

The output is:

map[0:Terrence 1:Evelyn 2:Jonathan 3:Rick]

3. Retrieving a Value from a Golang Map

If you want to retrieve a value from a map, you do it using the key, like so:

map_name[key]

Practical Example

Let’s see who our patron 1 is.

package main

import "fmt"

func main() {
    patrons := map[int]string{
        0: "Terrence",
        1: "Evelyn",
    }

    fmt.Printf("Who is our Patron #%d? %s!", 1, patrons[1])
}

The output is:

Who is our Patron #1? Evelyn!

4. Iterating a Map

Iterating maps is usually done with a for loop combined with the range keyword.

for key, value := range map_name {
        // Process each key-value pair. You have access to both the 'key' and the 'value'.
    }

If you don’t care about a specific part of the key-value pair, you can use the blank identifier (‘_’) instead of declaring a variable.

  for _, value := range map_name {
        // Process each 'value' on the map. The key is automatically discarded.
    }
    
    for key, _ := range map_name {
        // Process each 'key' on the map. The value is automatically discarded.
    }

Practical Example

We’ve seen that you can print a whole map at once using fmt.Println(), but let’s format it a little better by ourselves, and also provide some more information about our data.

package main

import "fmt"

func main() {
    patrons := map[int]string{
        0: "Terrence",
        1: "Evelyn",
    }
	
    fmt.Printf("--- Our Patrons ---\n")
    for id, name := range patrons {
        fmt.Printf("ID: %d , Name: %s\n", id, name)
    }
		
    fmt.Printf("\n\n--- Used IDs ---\n")
    for id, _ := range patrons {
        fmt.Printf("%d, ", id)
    }
	
    fmt.Printf("\n\n--- Our Patrons' Names ---\n")
    for _, name := range patrons {
        fmt.Printf("%s, ", name)
    }    
}

The output is:

--- Our Patrons ---
ID: 0 , Name: Terrence
ID: 1 , Name: Evelyn

--- Used IDs ---
1, 0, 

--- Our Patrons' Names ---
Evelyn, Terrence, 

5. Checking if an entry exists on a Map

When we try to get a value from a map, it also returns a boolean that tells us if the key exists in the map or not. We can then use it to make checks and have code ready that is tailored to either scenario where the key exists or doesn’t.

 returned_value, boolean_exists := map_name[key]
    if(boolean_exists){
        // You can now use 'returned_value'
    }

If the value is irrelevant to what you want to do and you just want to check that the key exists on the map, you can use the blank identifier.

_, boolean_exists := map_name[key]
    if(boolean_exists){
        // You know that the key exists on the map, but not the associated value
    }

Practical Example

Let’s check our patrons and see if an ID is being used and if so, by whom.

package main

import "fmt"

func main() {
    patrons := map[int]string{
        0: "Terrence",
        1: "Evelyn",
    }
	
    patron1_name, patron1_exists := patrons[1]
    if(patron1_exists){
        fmt.Printf("Patron #%d exists and is named %s.\n", 1, patron1_name)
    } else {
        fmt.Printf("Patron #%d does not exist.\n", 1)
    }
	
    _, patron2_exists := patrons[2]
    if(patron2_exists){
        fmt.Printf("Patron #%d exists.\n", 2)
    } else {
        fmt.Printf("Patron #%d does not exist.\n", 2)
    }
}

The output is:

Patron #1 exists and is named Evelyn.
Patron #2 does not exist.

6. Removing an entry from a Golang Map

To remove a key-value pair on a map, all you need to do is use the built-in function delete().

delete(map_name, key)

Practical Example

Mr. Terrence is moving away and unfortunately will no longer be working at the library. As such, we need to remove him from our patrons.

package main

import "fmt"

func main() {
    patrons := map[int]string{
        0: "Terrence",
        1: "Evelyn",
    }

    fmt.Println("Before Mr. Terrence Leaves:")
    fmt.Println(patrons, "\n")

    delete(patrons, 0)

    fmt.Println("After Mr. Terrence Leaves:")
    fmt.Println(patrons, "\n")
}

The output is:

Before Mr. Terrence Leaves:
map[0:Terrence 1:Evelyn] 

After Mr. Terrence Leaves:
map[1:Evelyn] 

Remember: GoLang Maps are reference types

This is useful to remember if you’re assigning a map to another variable. Manipulating that new variable will also change the original map.

map_name := make(map[key_type]value_type)
    
    map_copy := map_name
    
    map_copy[key] = value

    // Both 'map_name' and 'map_copy' now have an entry [key:value]

Practical Example

Imagine we wanted to have separate dedicated lists for our patrons and our staff, but still include our staff as our patrons, since they also use the library.

package main

import "fmt"

func main() {
    staff := map[int]string{
        0: "Terrence",
        1: "Evelyn",
    }

    patrons := staff

    patrons [2] = "Jonathan"
    patrons [3] = "Rick"

    fmt.Println("Our Staff:")
    fmt.Println(staff, "\n")

    fmt.Println("Our Patrons:")
    fmt.Println(patrons, "\n")
}

The output is:

Our Staff:
map[0:Terrence 1:Evelyn 2:Jonathan 3:Rick] 

Our Patrons:
map[0:Terrence 1:Evelyn 2:Jonathan 3:Rick] 

This clearly would not work. We’d need to have two separate lists with repeat entries.

package main

import "fmt"

func main() {
    staff := map[int]string{
        0: "Terrence",
        1: "Evelyn",
    }
	
    patrons := make(map[int]string)

    patrons [0] = "Terrence"
    patrons [1] = "Evelyn"
    patrons [2] = "Jonathan"
    patrons [3] = "Rick"

    fmt.Println("Our Staff:")
    fmt.Println(staff, "\n")

    fmt.Println("Our Patrons:")
    fmt.Println(patrons, "\n")
}

The output is:

Our Staff:
map[0:Terrence 1:Evelyn] 

Our Patrons:
map[0:Terrence 1:Evelyn 2:Jonathan 3:Rick] 

Conclusion

Maps are extremely versatile tools that help you index and search through data efficiently and easily. We hope we’ve given you a comprehensive primer on how Go Maps work and how you can use them in your projects.

Go is a very easy to use language that is growing rapidly in terms of usage by many high profile companies. If you’re looking to hire Go developers, DistantJob can help you find the perfect fit for your needs.

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