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Extending Log4j

Log4j 2 provides numerous ways that it can be manipulated and extended. This section includes an overview of the various ways that are directly supported by the Log4j 2 implementation.


The LoggerContextFactory binds the Log4j API to its implementation. The Log4j LogManager locates a LoggerContextFactory by locating all instances of META-INF/log4j-provider.properties, a standard java.util.Properties file, and then inspecting each to verify that it specifies a value for the Log4jAPIVersion property that conforms to the version required by the LogManager. If more than one valid implementation is located the value for FactoryPriority will be used to identify the factory with the highest priority. Finally, the value of the LoggerContextFactory property will be used to locate the LoggerContextFactory. In Log4j 2 this is provided by Log4jContextFactory.

Applications may change the LoggerContextFactory that will be used by

  1. Implementing a new LoggerContextFactory and creating a log4j-provider.properties to reference it making sure that it has the highest priority.
  2. Create a new log4j-provider.xml and configure it with the desired LoggerContextFactory making sure that it has the highest priority.
  3. Setting the system property log4j2.loggerContextFactory to the name of the LoggerContextFactory class to use.
  4. Setting the property "log4j2.loggerContextFactory" in a properties file named "log4j2.LogManager.properties" to the name of the LoggerContextFactory class to use. The properties file must be on the classpath.


ContextSelectors are called by the Log4j LoggerContext factory. They perform the actual work of locating or creating a LoggerContext, which is the anchor for Loggers and their configuration. ContextSelectors are free to implement any mechanism they desire to manage LoggerContexts. The default Log4jContextFactory checks for the presence of a System Property named "Log4jContextSelector". If found, the property is expected to contain the name of the Class that implements the ContextSelector to be used.

Log4j provides five ContextSelectors:

Uses either a LoggerContext that has been stored in a ThreadLocal or a common LoggerContext.
Associates LoggerContexts with the ClassLoader that created the caller of the getLogger call. This is the default ContextSelector.
Locates the LoggerContext by querying JNDI.
Creates a LoggerContext that ensures that all loggers are AsyncLoggers.
Associates LoggerContexts with the ClassLoader of the bundle that created the caller of the getLogger call. This is enabled by default in OSGi environments.


Modifying the way in which logging can be configured is usually one of the areas with the most interest. The primary method for doing that is by implementing or extending a ConfigurationFactory. Log4j provides two ways of adding new ConfigurationFactories. The first is by defining the system property named "log4j.configurationFactory" to the name of the class that should be searched first for a configuration. The second method is by defining the ConfigurationFactory as a Plugin.

All the ConfigurationFactories are then processed in order. Each factory is called on its getSupportedTypes method to determine the file extensions it supports. If a configuration file is located with one of the specified file extensions then control is passed to that ConfigurationFactory to load the configuration and create the Configuration object.

Most Configuration extend the BaseConfiguration class. This class expects that the subclass will process the configuration file and create a hierarchy of Node objects. Each Node is fairly simple in that it consists of the name of the node, the name/value pairs associated with the node, The PluginType of the node and a List of all of its child Nodes. BaseConfiguration will then be passed the Node tree and instantiate the configuration objects from that.

@Plugin(name = "XMLConfigurationFactory", category = "ConfigurationFactory")
public class XMLConfigurationFactory extends ConfigurationFactory {

     * Valid file extensions for XML files.
    public static final String[] SUFFIXES = new String[] {".xml", "*"};

     * Returns the Configuration.
     * @param loggerContext The logger context.
     * @param source The InputSource.
     * @return The Configuration.
    public Configuration getConfiguration(final LoggerContext loggerContext, final ConfigurationSource source) {
        return new XmlConfiguration(loggerContext, source);

     * Returns the file suffixes for XML files.
     * @return An array of File extensions.
    public String[] getSupportedTypes() {
        return SUFFIXES;


LoggerConfig objects are where Loggers created by applications tie into the configuration. The Log4j implementation requires that all LoggerConfigs be based on the LoggerConfig class, so applications wishing to make changes must do so by extending the LoggerConfig class. To declare the new LoggerConfig, declare it as a Plugin of type "Core" and providing the name that applications should specify as the element name in the configuration. The LoggerConfig should also define a PluginFactory that will create an instance of the LoggerConfig.

The following example shows how the root LoggerConfig simply extends a generic LoggerConfig.

@Plugin(name = "root", category = "Core", printObject = true)
public static class RootLogger extends LoggerConfig {

    public static LoggerConfig createLogger(@PluginAttribute(value = "additivity", defaultBooleanValue = true) boolean additivity,
                                            @PluginAttribute(value = "level", defaultStringValue = "ERROR") Level level,
                                            @PluginElement("AppenderRef") AppenderRef[] refs,
                                            @PluginElement("Filters") Filter filter) {
        List<AppenderRef> appenderRefs = Arrays.asList(refs);
        return new LoggerConfig(LogManager.ROOT_LOGGER_NAME, appenderRefs, filter, level, additivity);


A LogEventFactory is used to generate LogEvents. Applications may replace the standard LogEventFactory by setting the value of the system property Log4jLogEventFactory to the name of the custom LogEventFactory class.

Note: When log4j is configured to have all loggers asynchronous, log events are pre-allocated in a ring buffer and the LogEventFactory is not used.


A MessageFactory is used to generate Message objects. Applications may replace the standard ParameterizedMessageFactory (or ReusableMessageFactory in garbage-free mode) by setting the value of the system property log4j2.messageFactory to the name of the custom MessageFactory class.

Flow messages for the Logger.entry() and Logger.exit() methods have a separate FlowMessageFactory. Applications may replace the DefaultFlowMessageFactory by setting the value of the system property log4j2.flowMessageFactory to the name of the custom FlowMessageFactory class.


Lookups are the means in which parameter substitution is performed. During Configuration initialization an "Interpolator" is created that locates all the Lookups and registers them for use when a variable needs to be resolved. The interpolator matches the "prefix" portion of the variable name to a registered Lookup and passes control to it to resolve the variable.

A Lookup must be declared using a Plugin annotation with a type of "Lookup". The name specified on the Plugin annotation will be used to match the prefix. Unlike other Plugins, Lookups do not use a PluginFactory. Instead, they are required to provide a constructor that accepts no arguments. The example below shows a Lookup that will return the value of a System Property.

The provided Lookups are documented here: Lookups

@Plugin(name = "sys", category = "Lookup")
public class SystemPropertiesLookup implements StrLookup {

     * Lookup the value for the key.
     * @param key  the key to be looked up, may be null
     * @return The value for the key.
    public String lookup(String key) {
        return System.getProperty(key);

     * Lookup the value for the key using the data in the LogEvent.
     * @param event The current LogEvent.
     * @param key  the key to be looked up, may be null
     * @return The value associated with the key.
    public String lookup(LogEvent event, String key) {
        return System.getProperty(key);


As might be expected, Filters are the used to reject or accept log events as they pass through the logging system. A Filter is declared using a Plugin annotation of type "Core" and an elementType of "filter". The name attribute on the Plugin annotation is used to specify the name of the element users should use to enable the Filter. Specifying the printObject attribute with a value of "true" indicates that a call to toString will format the arguments to the filter as the configuration is being processed. The Filter must also specify a PluginFactory method that will be called to create the Filter.

The example below shows a Filter used to reject LogEvents based upon their logging level. Notice the typical pattern where all the filter methods resolve to a single filter method.

@Plugin(name = "ThresholdFilter", category = "Core", elementType = "filter", printObject = true)
public final class ThresholdFilter extends AbstractFilter {

    private final Level level;

    private ThresholdFilter(Level level, Result onMatch, Result onMismatch) {
        super(onMatch, onMismatch);
        this.level = level;

    public Result filter(Logger logger, Level level, Marker marker, String msg, Object[] params) {
        return filter(level);

    public Result filter(Logger logger, Level level, Marker marker, Object msg, Throwable t) {
        return filter(level);

    public Result filter(Logger logger, Level level, Marker marker, Message msg, Throwable t) {
        return filter(level);

    public Result filter(LogEvent event) {
        return filter(event.getLevel());

    private Result filter(Level level) {
        return level.isAtLeastAsSpecificAs(this.level) ? onMatch : onMismatch;

    public String toString() {
        return level.toString();

     * Create a ThresholdFilter.
     * @param loggerLevel The log Level.
     * @param match The action to take on a match.
     * @param mismatch The action to take on a mismatch.
     * @return The created ThresholdFilter.
    public static ThresholdFilter createFilter(@PluginAttribute(value = "level", defaultStringValue = "ERROR") Level level,
                                               @PluginAttribute(value = "onMatch", defaultStringValue = "NEUTRAL") Result onMatch,
                                               @PluginAttribute(value = "onMismatch", defaultStringValue = "DENY") Result onMismatch) {
        return new ThresholdFilter(level, onMatch, onMismatch);


Appenders are passed an event, (usually) invoke a Layout to format the event, and then "publish" the event in whatever manner is desired. Appenders are declared as Plugins with a type of "Core" and an elementType of "appender". The name attribute on the Plugin annotation specifies the name of the element users must provide in their configuration to use the Appender. Appenders should specify printObject as "true" if the toString method renders the values of the attributes passed to the Appender.

Appenders must also declare a PluginFactory method that will create the appender. The example below shows an Appender named "Stub" that can be used as an initial template.

Most Appenders use Managers. A manager actually "owns" the resources, such as an OutputStream or socket. When a reconfiguration occurs a new Appender will be created. However, if nothing significant in the previous Manager has changed, the new Appender will simply reference it instead of creating a new one. This insures that events are not lost while a reconfiguration is taking place without requiring that logging pause while the reconfiguration takes place.

@Plugin(name = "Stub", category = "Core", elementType = "appender", printObject = true)
public final class StubAppender extends OutputStreamAppender {

    private StubAppender(String name, Layout layout, Filter filter, StubManager manager,
                         boolean ignoreExceptions) {

    public static StubAppender createAppender(@PluginAttribute("name") String name,
                                              @PluginAttribute("ignoreExceptions") boolean ignoreExceptions,
                                              @PluginElement("Layout") Layout layout,
                                              @PluginElement("Filters") Filter filter) {

        if (name == null) {
            LOGGER.error("No name provided for StubAppender");
            return null;

        StubManager manager = StubManager.getStubManager(name);
        if (manager == null) {
            return null;
        if (layout == null) {
            layout = PatternLayout.createDefaultLayout();
        return new StubAppender(name, layout, filter, manager, ignoreExceptions);


Layouts perform the formatting of events into the printable text that is written by Appenders to some destination. All Layouts must implement the Layout interface. Layouts that format the event into a String should extend AbstractStringLayout, which will take care of converting the String into the required byte array.

Every Layout must declare itself as a plugin using the Plugin annotation. The type must be "Core", and the elementType must be "layout". printObject should be set to true if the plugin's toString method will provide a representation of the object and its parameters. The name of the plugin must match the value users should use to specify it as an element in their Appender configuration. The plugin also must provide a static method annotated as a PluginFactory and with each of the methods parameters annotated with PluginAttr or PluginElement as appropriate.

@Plugin(name = "SampleLayout", category = "Core", elementType = "layout", printObject = true)
public class SampleLayout extends AbstractStringLayout {

    protected SampleLayout(boolean locationInfo, boolean properties, boolean complete,
                           Charset charset) {

    public static SampleLayout createLayout(@PluginAttribute("locationInfo") boolean locationInfo,
                                            @PluginAttribute("properties") boolean properties,
                                            @PluginAttribute("complete") boolean complete,
                                            @PluginAttribute(value = "charset", defaultStringValue = "UTF-8") Charset charset) {
        return new SampleLayout(locationInfo, properties, complete, charset);


PatternConverters are used by the PatternLayout to format the log event into a printable String. Each Converter is responsible for a single kind of manipulation, however Converters are free to format the event in complex ways. For example, there are several converters that manipulate Throwables and format them in various ways.

A PatternConverter must first declare itself as a Plugin using the standard Plugin annotation but must specify value of "Converter" on the type attribute. Furthermore, the Converter must also specify the ConverterKeys attribute to define the tokens that can be specified in the pattern (preceded by a '%' character) to identify the Converter.

Unlike most other Plugins, Converters do not use a PluginFactory. Instead, each Converter is required to provide a static newInstance method that accepts an array of Strings as the only parameter. The String array are the values that are specified within the curly braces that can follow the converter key.

The following shows the skeleton of a Converter plugin.

@Plugin(name = "query", category = "Converter")
@ConverterKeys({"q", "query"})
public final class QueryConverter extends LogEventPatternConverter {

    public QueryConverter(String[] options) {

    public static QueryConverter newInstance(final String[] options) {
      return new QueryConverter(options);

Plugin Builders

Some plugins take a lot of optional configuration options. When a plugin takes many options, it is more maintainable to use a builder class rather than a factory method (see Item 2: Consider a builder when faced with many constructor parameters in Effective Java by Joshua Bloch). There are some other advantages to using an annotated builder class over an annotated factory method:

  • Attribute names don't need to be specified if they match the field name.
  • Default values can be specified in code rather than through an annotation (also allowing a runtime-calculated default value which isn't allowed in annotations).
  • Adding new optional parameters doesn't require existing programmatic configuration to be refactored.
  • Easier to write unit tests using builders rather than factory methods with optional parameters.
  • Default values are specified via code rather than relying on reflection and injection, so they work programmatically as well as in a configuration file.

Here is an example of a plugin factory from ListAppender:

public static ListAppender createAppender(
        @PluginAttribute("name") @Required(message = "No name provided for ListAppender") final String name,
        @PluginAttribute("entryPerNewLine") final boolean newLine,
        @PluginAttribute("raw") final boolean raw,
        @PluginElement("Layout") final Layout<? extends Serializable> layout,
        @PluginElement("Filter") final Filter filter) {
    return new ListAppender(name, filter, layout, newLine, raw);

Here is that same factory using a builder pattern instead:

public static Builder newBuilder() {
    return new Builder();

public static class Builder implements org.apache.logging.log4j.core.util.Builder<ListAppender> {

    @Required(message = "No name provided for ListAppender")
    private String name;

    private boolean entryPerNewLine;

    private boolean raw;

    private Layout<? extends Serializable> layout;

    private Filter filter;

    public Builder setName(final String name) {
        this.name = name;
        return this;

    public Builder setEntryPerNewLine(final boolean entryPerNewLine) {
        this.entryPerNewLine = entryPerNewLine;
        return this;

    public Builder setRaw(final boolean raw) {
        this.raw = raw;
        return this;

    public Builder setLayout(final Layout<? extends Serializable> layout) {
        this.layout = layout;
        return this;

    public Builder setFilter(final Filter filter) {
        this.filter = filter;
        return this;

    public ListAppender build() {
        return new ListAppender(name, filter, layout, entryPerNewLine, raw);

The only difference in annotations is using @PluginBuilderAttribute instead of @PluginAttribute so that default values and reflection can be used instead of specifying them in the annotation. Either annotation can be used in a builder, but the former is better suited for field injection while the latter is better suited for parameter injection. Otherwise, the same annotations (@PluginConfiguration, @PluginElement, @PluginNode, and @PluginValue) are all supported on fields. Note that a factory method is still required to supply a builder, and this factory method should be annotated with @PluginBuilderFactory.

When plugins are being constructed after a configuration has been parsed, a plugin builder will be used if available, otherwise a plugin factory method will be used as a fallback. If a plugin contains neither factory, then it cannot be used from a configuration file (it can still be used programmatically of course).

Here is an example of using a plugin factory versus a plugin builder programmatically:

ListAppender list1 = ListAppender.createAppender("List1", true, false, null, null);
ListAppender list2 = ListAppender.newBuilder().setName("List1").setEntryPerNewLine(true).build();

Custom ContextDataInjector

The ContextDataInjector (introduced in Log4j 2.7) is responsible for populating the LogEvent's context data with key-value pairs or replacing it completely. The default implementation is ThreadContextDataInjector, which obtains context attributes from the ThreadContext.

Applications may replace the default ContextDataInjector by setting the value of the system property log4j2.ContextDataInjector to the name of the custom ContextDataInjector class.

Implementors should be aware there are some subtleties related to thread-safety and implementing a context data injector in a garbage-free manner. See the ContextDataInjector javadoc for detail.

Custom Plugins

See the Plugins section of the manual.