Set up Your Pico with TinyGo and VSCode

Set up Your Pico with TinyGo and VSCode

Charath Ranganathan
Setup your Pico with TinyGo and VSCode
Date Published
Jul 1, 2022
The TinyGo web site has a detailed installation guide for various operating systems. So, the steps below are just for your quick reference. When in doubt, refer to the TinyGo web site.


  • Go version 1.15 or greater. Go v1.17+ is preferred.
  • Visual Studio Code: I currently run VSCode 1.68.1.

Install TinyGo using Homebrew

Run the following commands:
% brew tap tinygo-org/tools % brew install tinygo
Verify that the installation was successful by running this command, which should give you the output that is shown below it.
% tinygo version tinygo version 0.25.0 darwin/amd64 (using go version go1.18.5 and LLVM version 14.0.0)

Install the TinyGo VSCode Extension

Inside VSCode, search for the TinyGo VSCode extension and install it.
notion image
This extension requires the VSCode Go extension to be installed. If not already installed, the Go extension is installed as a dependency by the TinyGo extension's installer.

Testing the VSCode Installation

  • Put the Pico into Bootsel mode by holding down the BOOTSEL button on the Pico while plugging in the USB cable.
  • Release the BOOTSEL button. You should now see a drive named RPI-RP2 on your Desktop.
  • Go to the VSCode Command Window (Cmd-Shift-P on Mac, Ctrl-Shift-P on Windows) and run the TinyGo target command. Select pico for the board. The command will run and create a .vscode/settings.json file in your workspace home directory. This provides the appropriate type hints for Intellisense to work correctly.
  • Start a new Go program in VSCode. Let's name it blinky.go.
// blinky.go package main import ( "machine" "time" ) func main() { led := machine.LED led.Configure(machine.PinConfig{ Mode: machine.PinOutput, }) for { led.High() time.Sleep(500 * time.Millisecond) led.Low() time.Sleep(500 * time.Millisecond) } }
  • Flash the program to your Pico using the tinygo flash command:
% tinygo flash -target=pico blinky.go
You should now see the onboard LED blink twice a second, i.e. at 2 Hz.
You have now set up TinyGo on your computer, as well as the TinyGo VSCode extension. The next steps are optional.

(Optional) Install a Reset Button

I highly recommend this step since it makes the process of flashing new programs to your Pico significantly less tedious than unplugging and replugging the USB cable into the Pico while holding down the BOOTSEL button.
Detailed instructions are available on the Raspberry Pi web site, but a summary is below.
Connect a push button between the RUN pin (pin 30) on your Pico and ground. Refer to the image below from the Raspberry Pi web site.
Installing the reset button for the Pico
Installing the reset button for the Pico
To load a new program, follow these steps:
  1. Hold down the pushbutton and the BOOTSEL button.
  1. Release the pushbutton.
  1. Release the BOOTSEL button.
You'll see the RPI-RP2 folder on your computer indicating your Pico is ready to be flashed with a new program.

(Optional) Enable Serial Debugging

In most microcontroller projects, it is easy (and common) to use the serial port for debugging. If you use MicroPython or CircuitPython, the serial messages are sent via the USB connection to your computer.
Unfortunately, the RP2040 port of TinyGo does not support the printing of serial messages over the USB port. Consequently, you will have to use the UART on the Pico to send debugging messages.
As of TinyGo 0.25.0, USB is supported for debugging. So, this section is moot, but I have left it here in case someone wants to set up a UART connection to their computer.

Install a UART-to-USB Cable

Since the UART cannot talk directly to USB, you will need a USB-to-Serial cable to convert the UART output to USB-compatible signals.
Thankfully, the fine folks at Adafruit have one such cable.
Purchase one of these cables, and follow the instructions to install the drivers required for your OS. Then, plug in the individual leads of the cable into the appropriate UART ports of your Pico, and the USB connector into a USB port on your computer.
If you get the same cable that I did, the connections are as follows:
  • Black: GND
  • White: UART0 TX (pin 1 - GP0 - on the Pico)
  • Green: UART0 RX (pin 2 - GP1 - on the Pico)

Install the Serial Monitor VSCode Extension

Search for, and install the Serial Monitor extension for VSCode.
notion image
Once the extension is installed, you'll see a Serial Monitor tab in the terminal pane in VSCode. Click on that tab and configure the settings as shown in the image:
notion image
You can use the following program to test that your serial connection is successful.
// serial.go package main import "time" func main() { print("starting") // the command starts with lowercase "p" print("program\n") // the command starts with lowercase "p" for { println("hello, world") // the command starts with lowercase "p" time.Sleep(time.Second) } }
On the Serial Monitor, ensure you have the correct port selected, and press Start Monitoring.
Put your Pico into BOOTSEL mode, and flash your program to the Pico.
% tinygo flash -target=pico serial.go
You should see the text startingprogram printed out to the serial monitor followed by hello, world, every second. Here is a sample.
---- Opened the serial port /dev/tty.usbserial-0001 ---- startingprogram hello, world hello, world hello, world hello, world ---- Closed the serial port /dev/tty.usbserial-0001 ----
Press Stop Monitoring on the Serial Monitor to stop monitoring the serial input.
You have now successfully set up serial debugging between your computer and the Pico for TinyGo.
While the extension is great since it's well integrated with VSCode, the font choice - which is as yet unchangeable - is terrible. Apparently, this issue has been fixed and will release with the next release of this extension, whenever that is.
Grab a coffee or your drink of choice! You have earned it!