Go – From io.Reader to string in Go


I have an io.ReadCloser object (from an http.Response object).

What's the most efficient way to convert the entire stream to a string object?

Best Solution


Since 1.10, strings.Builder exists. Example:

buf := new(strings.Builder)
n, err := io.Copy(buf, r)
// check errors


The short answer is that it it will not be efficient because converting to a string requires doing a complete copy of the byte array. Here is the proper (non-efficient) way to do what you want:

buf := new(bytes.Buffer)
s := buf.String() // Does a complete copy of the bytes in the buffer.

This copy is done as a protection mechanism. Strings are immutable. If you could convert a []byte to a string, you could change the contents of the string. However, go allows you to disable the type safety mechanisms using the unsafe package. Use the unsafe package at your own risk. Hopefully the name alone is a good enough warning. Here is how I would do it using unsafe:

buf := new(bytes.Buffer)
b := buf.Bytes()
s := *(*string)(unsafe.Pointer(&b))

There we go, you have now efficiently converted your byte array to a string. Really, all this does is trick the type system into calling it a string. There are a couple caveats to this method:

  1. There are no guarantees this will work in all go compilers. While this works with the plan-9 gc compiler, it relies on "implementation details" not mentioned in the official spec. You can not even guarantee that this will work on all architectures or not be changed in gc. In other words, this is a bad idea.
  2. That string is mutable! If you make any calls on that buffer it will change the string. Be very careful.

My advice is to stick to the official method. Doing a copy is not that expensive and it is not worth the evils of unsafe. If the string is too large to do a copy, you should not be making it into a string.