A target is any exported function that has an optional first argument of context.Context, has either no return or just an error return, and where the arguments are all of type string, int, bool, or time.Duration.

e.g. these are all acceptable targets

func Build()
func Install(ctx context.Context) error
func Run(what string) error
func Exec(ctx context.Context, name string, count int, debug bool, timeout time.Duration) error

A target is effectively a subcommand of mage while running mage in this directory. i.e. you can run a target by running mage <target>


Arguments aside from context are taken from the CLI arguments after the target name. Strings are passed as-is, ints are converted with strconv.Atoi, bools are converted with strconv.ParseBool, and time.Durations are converted with time.ParseDuration.

Thus you could call Exec above by running

mage exec somename 5 true 100ms

All arguments are mandatory and must be specified in the order they appear in the function.

You can intersperse multiple targets with arguments as you’d expect:

mage run foo.exe exec somename 5 true 100ms


If the function has an error return, errors returned from the function will print to stdout and cause the magefile to exit with an exit code of 1. Any functions that do not fit this pattern are not considered targets by mage.

Comments on the target function will become documentation accessible by running mage -l which will list all the build targets in this directory with the first sentence from their docs, or mage -h <target> which will show the full comment from the docs on the function, and a list of aliases if specified.

A target may be designated the default target, which is run when the user runs mage with no target specified. To denote the default, create a var Default = <targetname> If no default target is specified, running mage with no target will print the list of targets, like mage -l.

Multiple Targets

Multiple targets can be specified as args to Mage, for example mage foo bar baz. Targets will be run serially, from left to right (so in this case, foo, then once foo is done, bar, then once bar is done, baz). Dependencies run using mg.Deps will still only run once per mage execution, so if each of the targets depend on the same function, that function will only be run once for all targets. If any target panics or returns an error, no later targets will be run.

Contexts and Cancellation

A default context is passed into any target with a context argument. This context will have a timeout if mage was run with -t, and thus will cancel the running targets and dependencies at that time. To pass this context to dependencies, use mg.CtxDeps(ctx, …) to pass the context from the target to its dependencies (and pass the context to sub-dependencies). Dependencies run with mg.Deps will not get the starting context, and thus will not be cancelled when the timeout set with -t expires.

mg.CtxDeps will pass along whatever context you give it, so if you want to modify the original context, or pass in your own, that will work like you expect it to.


Target aliases can be specified using the following notation:

var Aliases = map[string]interface{} {
  "i":     Install,
  "build": Install,
  "ls":    List,

The key is an alias and the value is a function identifier. An alias can be used interchangeably with it’s target.


Namespaces are a way to group related commands, much like subcommands in a normal application. To define a namespace in your magefile, simply define an exported named type of type mg.Namespace. Then, every method on that type which matches the normal target signature becomes a target under that namespace.

import ""

type Build mg.Namespace

// Builds the site using hugo.
func (Build) Site() error {
  return nil

// Builds the pdf docs.
func (Build) Docs() {}

To call a namespaced target, type it as namespace:target. For example, the above would be called by typing

$ mage build:site

Similarly, the help for the target will show how it may be called:

$ mage -l

build:docs    Builds the pdf docs.
build:site    Builds the site using hugo.