Apache Log4cxx  Version 1.2.0
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Loggers, Appenders and Layouts

Log4cxx has three main components: loggers, appenders and layouts. These three types of components work together to enable developers to log messages according to message type and level, and to control at runtime how these messages are formatted and where they are reported.

Configuration of the Log4cxx environment is typically done at application initialization. The preferred way is by reading a configuration file. This approach was discussed in Runtime Configuration.


The first and foremost advantage of any logging API over plain std::cout resides in its ability to disable certain log statements while allowing others to print unhindered. This capability is provided by assigning each logging request to a category. A Log4cxx category is a name and it is held by a log4cxx::Logger instance. The name of the class in which the logging request appears is a commonly used naming scheme but any category naming scheme may be used. Logging category names (or equivalently logger name) are case-sensitive.


Log4cxx makes it easy to name loggers by software component. This can be accomplished by statically instantiating a logger in each class, with the logger name equal to the fully qualified name of the class. This is a useful and straightforward method of defining loggers. As the log output bears the name of the generating logger, this naming strategy makes it easy to identify the origin of a log message. However, this is only one possible, albeit common, strategy for naming loggers. Log4cxx does not restrict the possible set of loggers. The developer is free to name the loggers as desired.

Nevertheless, naming loggers after the class where they are located seems to be the best strategy known so far.

Logger names follow a hierarchical naming rule. A logger is said to be an ancestor of another logger if its name followed by a dot is a prefix of the descendant logger name. A logger is said to be a parent of a child logger if there are no ancestors between itself and the descendant logger.

For example, the logger named com.foo is a parent of the logger named com.foo.Bar. Similarly, java is a parent of java.util and an ancestor of java.util.Vector. This naming scheme should be familiar to most developers.

Sometimes a per object logger is useful. When each class instance has a identifiable name (e.g. when it is instantiated from configuration data) add a member variable to hold a log4cxx::LoggerInstancePtr and initialize it with a name that makes it a descendant of the class. This allows activation of DEBUG logging for a single object or all objects of that class.


The root logger resides at the top of the hierarchy. It is exceptional in two ways:

  1. it always exists,
  2. it cannot be retrieved by name.

Use the class static method log4cxx::Logger::getRootLogger or log4cxx::LogManager::getRootLogger to retrieve it.

All other loggers are held in a log4cxx::spi::LoggerRepository singleton. They can be retrieved by calling a log4cxx::Logger::getLogger static class method which takes the name of the desired logger as an argument. An instance of log4cxx::Logger is instantiated if a logger of that name is not already held by the log4cxx::spi::LoggerRepository instance.

The core Log4cxx API is made available by #include <log4cxx/logger.h>. The commonly used log4cxx/logger.h methods and macros are listed below.

namespace log4cxx {
class Logger {
// Creation & retrieval methods:
static LoggerPtr getLogger(const std::string& name);
static LoggerPtr getLogger(const std::wstring& name);
// Use these macros instead of calling Logger methods directly.
// Macros will handle char or wchar_t pointers or strings
// and any object that provides a
// <code>operator<<(std::ostream&, ...)</code> overload.
#define LOG4CXX_TRACE(logger, expression) ...
#define LOG4CXX_DEBUG(logger, expression) ...
#define LOG4CXX_INFO(logger, expression) ...
#define LOG4CXX_WARN(logger, expression) ...
#define LOG4CXX_ERROR(logger, expression) ...
#define LOG4CXX_FATAL(logger, expression) ...
static LoggerPtr getLogger(const std::string &name)
Retrieve a logger by name in current encoding.
static LoggerPtr getRootLogger()
Retrieve the root logger.
Definition: configuration.h:25
std::shared_ptr< Logger > LoggerPtr
Definition: defaultloggerfactory.h:27

Calling the getLogger method with the same name will always return a reference to the exact same logger object.

For example, in

auto x = log4cxx::Logger::getLogger("wombat");
auto y = log4cxx::Logger::getLogger("wombat");

x and y refer to exactly the same logger object.

Thus, it is possible to configure a logger and then to retrieve the same instance somewhere else in the code without passing around references. In fundamental contradiction to biological parenthood, where parents always preceed their children, Log4cxx loggers can be created and configured in any order. In particular, a "parent" logger will find and link to its descendants even if it is instantiated after them.


Logging requests are made by invoking a method of a logger instance, preferrably through the use of LOG4CXX_INFO or similar macros which support short-circuiting if the threshold is not satisfied and use of the insertion operator (<<) in the message parameter.

const char* region = "World";
LOG4CXX_INFO(logger, "Simple message text.");
LOG4CXX_INFO(logger, "Hello, " << region);
LOG4CXX_DEBUG(logger, L"Iteration " << i);
LOG4CXX_DEBUG(logger, "e^10 = " << std::scientific << exp(10.0));
// Use a wchar_t first operand to force use of wchar_t based stream.
LOG4CXX_WARN(logger, L"" << i << L" is the number of the iteration.");
#define LOG4CXX_WARN(logger, message)
Add a new logging event containing message to attached appender(s) if logger is enabled for WARN even...
Definition: log4cxx/logger.h:2205
#define LOG4CXX_INFO(logger, message)
Add a new logging event containing message to attached appender(s) if logger is enabled for INFO even...
Definition: log4cxx/logger.h:2161
#define LOG4CXX_DEBUG(logger, message)
Add a new logging event containing message to attached appender(s) if logger is enabled for DEBUG eve...
Definition: log4cxx/logger.h:2075

Logging Custom Types

Often, the data that needs to be logged is not just standard data types (such as int, string, etc), but amalgamations of those types in a data structure such as a class or struct. In order to log these custom types, simply override an operator<< function, the same as if you would print the custom type to std::cout. This can be accomplished by doing the following:

struct MyStruct {
int x;
std::ostream& operator<<( std::ostream& stream, const MyStruct& mystruct ){
stream << "[MyStruct x:" << mystruct.x << "]";
return stream;
void someMethod(){
MyStruct mine;
mine.x = 90;
LOG4CXX_INFO( logger, "Some important information: " << mine );
log4cxx::helpers::UniCharMessageBuffer & operator<<(log4cxx::helpers::UniCharMessageBuffer &mb, const QString &msg)
Definition: log4cxx-qt/messagebuffer.h:24

This will output data similar to the following:

0 [0x7fd1eed63bc0] INFO root null - Some important information: [MyStruct x:90]

Using {fmt} style requests

One issue with utilizing Log4cxx and its ostream style of logging is that log statements can be very awkward if you need to precisely format something:

LOG4CXX_INFO( rootLogger, "Numbers can be formatted with excessive operator<<: "
<< std::setprecision(3) << 22.456
<< " And as hex: "
<< std::setbase( 16 ) << 123 );

This leads to very awkward code to read and write, especially as iostreams don't support positional arguments at all.

In order to get around this, Log4cxx provides a family of macros that support positional arguments and printf-like formatting, which makes for much clearer (and more efficient) code like the following:

LOG4CXX_INFO_FMT( rootLogger, "Numbers can be formatted with a format string {:.1f} and as hex: {:x}", 22.456, 123 );
#define LOG4CXX_INFO_FMT(logger, fmt,...)
Add a new logging event containing a message defined by fmt and ... to attached appender(s) if logger...
Definition: log4cxx/logger.h:2182

The LOG4CXX_[level]_FMT macros use the {fmt} library by default. Note that Log4cxx does not include a copy of {fmt}, so you must include the correct headers and linker flags in order to use the LOG4CXX_[level]_FMT family of macros. Provide LOG4CXX_FORMAT_NS=std to the preprocessor to have the LOG4CXX_[level]_FMT macros use the standard library version of format.

As with the standard logger macros, these macros will also be compiled out if the LOG4CXX_THRESHOLD macro is set to a level that will compile out the non-FMT macros.

A full example can be seen in the format-string.cpp file.


One of the often-cited arguments against logging is its computational cost. This is a legitimate concern as even moderately sized applications can generate thousands of log requests. Much effort was spent measuring and tweaking logging performance. Log4cxx claims to be fast and flexible: speed first, flexibility second.

For performance sensitive applications, you should be aware of the following.

  1. Logging performance when logging is turned off.

    The LOG4CXX_DEBUG and similar macros have a cost of an in-lined null pointer check plus an integer comparison when the logger not currently enabled for that level. The other terms inside the macro are not evaluated.

    When the level is enabled for a logger but the logging hierarchy is turned off entirely or just for a set of levels, the cost of a log request consists of a method invocation plus an integer comparison.

  2. Actually outputting log messages

    This is the cost of formatting the log output and sending it to its target destination. Here again, a serious effort was made to make layouts (formatters) perform as quickly as possible. The same is true for appenders.

  3. The cost of changing a logger's level.

    The threshold value stored in any child logger is updated. This is done iterating over the map of all known logger objects and walking the hierarchy of each.

    There has been a serious effort to make this hierarchy walk to be as fast as possible. For example, child loggers link only to their existing ancestors. In the BasicConfigurator example shown earlier, the logger named com.foo.Bar is linked directly to the root logger, thereby circumventing the nonexistent com or com.foo loggers. This significantly improves the speed of the walk, especially in "sparse" hierarchies.

Removing log requests

Sometimes, you may want to remove all log statements from your program, either for speed purposes or to remove sensitive information. This can easily be accomplished at build-time when using the standard LOG4CXX_[level] macros (LOG4CXX_TRACE, LOG4CXX_DEBUG, LOG4CXX_INFO, LOG4CXX_WARN, LOG4CXX_ERROR, LOG4CXX_FATAL) or their {fmt} library equivalents (LOG4CXX_TRACE_FMT, LOG4CXX_DEBUG_FMT, LOG4CXX_INFO_FMT, LOG4CXX_WARN_FMT, LOG4CXX_ERROR_FMT, LOG4CXX_FATAL_FMT).

Log statements can be removed either above a certain level, or they can be disabled entirely.

For example, if we want to remove all log statements within our program that use the LOG4CXX_[level] family of macros, add a preprocessor definition LOG4CXX_THRESHOLD set to 50001 or greater. This will ensure that any log statement that uses the LOG4CXX_[level]-macro will be compiled out of the program. To remove all log statements at DEBUG or below, set LOG4CXX_THRESHOLD to a value between 10001-20000.

The levels are set as follows:

Logger Level Integer Value
TRACE 5000
DEBUG 10000
INFO 20000
WARN 30000
ERROR(1) 40000
FATAL 50000

(1) The LOG4CXX_ASSERT macro is the same level as LOG4CXX_ERROR

Note that this has no effect on other macros, such as using the LOG4CXX_LOG, LOG4CXX_LOGLS, or LOG4CXX_L7DLOG family of macros.

Removing location information

Whenever you log a message with Log4cxx, metadata about the location of the logging statement is captured as well through the preprocessor. This includes the file name, the method name, and the line number. If you would not like to include this information in your build but you still wish to keep the log statements, define LOG4CXX_DISABLE_LOCATION_INFO in your build system. This will allow log messages to still be created, but the location information will be invalid.


A log4cxx::Logger instance may be assigned a specific level otherwise it will inherit it from the closest ancestor with an assigned level. The root logger always has an assigned level.

The pre-defined levels: TRACE, DEBUG, INFO, WARN, ERROR and FATAL are available. These are defined in the log4cxx/level.h file. Additional levels may be registered by the application but this is not recommended (See Custom_levels).

A logging request is said to be enabled if its level is higher than or equal to the level of its logger. Otherwise, the request is said to be disabled. A logger without an assigned level will inherit one from the hierarchy. This rule is summarized below.

Level Inheritance

The effective level for a given logger X.Y.Z, is equal to the first assigned in the logger hierarchy, starting at X.Y.Z and proceeding upwards in the hierarchy towards the root logger.

To ensure that all loggers can eventually inherit a level, the root logger always has an assigned level.

Below are four tables with various assigned level values and the resulting effective levels according to the above rule.

Logger name Assigned level Effective level
X none INFO
X.Y none INFO
X.Y.Z none INFO

Example 1

In example 1 above, only the root logger is assigned a level. This level value, INFO, is inherited by the other loggers X, X.Y and X.Y.Z.

Logger name Assigned level Effective level

Example 2

In example 2, all loggers have an assigned level value. There is no use of level inheritence.

Logger name Assigned level Effective level
X.Y none DEBUG

Example 3

In example 3, the loggers root, X and X.Y.Z are assigned the levels INFO, DEBUG and WARN respectively. The logger X.Y inherits its level from its parent X.

Logger name Assigned level Effective level
X.Y none DEBUG
X.Y.Z none DEBUG

Example 4

In example 4, the loggers root and X and are assigned the levels INFO and DEBUG respectively. The loggers X.Y and X.Y.Z inherit their level from their nearest parent having an assigned level, X.

Basic Selection Rule

A log request of level p in a logger with (either assigned or inherited, whichever is appropriate) level q, is enabled if p >= q.

This rule is at the heart of Log4cxx. It assumes that levels are ordered. For the standard levels, we have TRACE < DEBUG < INFO < WARN < ERROR < FATAL.

Here is an example of this rule.

// get a logger instance named "com.foo"
auto logger = log4cxx::Logger::getLogger("com.foo");
// Now set its level. Normally you do not need to set the
// level of a logger programmatically. This is usually done
// in configuration files.
auto barlogger = log4cxx::Logger::getLogger("com.foo.Bar");
// This request is enabled, because WARN >= INFO.
LOG4CXX_WARN(logger, "Low fuel level.");
// This request is disabled, because DEBUG < INFO.
LOG4CXX_DEBUG(logger, "Starting search for nearest gas station.");
// The logger instance barlogger, named "com.foo.Bar",
// will inherit its level from the logger named
// "com.foo" Thus, the following request is enabled
// because INFO >= INFO.
LOG4CXX_INFO(barlogger. "Located nearest gas station.");
// This request is disabled, because DEBUG < INFO.
LOG4CXX_DEBUG(barlogger, "Exiting gas station search");
static LevelPtr getInfo()


The ability to selectively enable or disable logging requests based on their logger is only part of the picture.

Log4cxx allows logging requests to print to multiple destinations. In Log4cxx speak, an output destination is called an appender. Log4cxx provides appenders to write to:

If the same file receives log requests concurrently from multiple process, use this appender. It is also possible to log asynchronously to another appender. See async-example.xml

The addAppender method adds an appender to a given logger. More than one appender can be attached to a logger.


Each enabled logging request for a given logger will be forwarded to all the appenders in that logger as well as the appenders higher in the hierarchy. In other words, appenders are inherited additively from the logger hierarchy. For example, if a console appender is added to the root logger, then all enabled logging requests will at least print on the console. If in addition a file appender is added to a logger, say C, then enabled logging requests for C and C's children will print on a file and on the console. It is possible to override this default behavior so that appender accumulation is no longer additive by setting the additivity flag to false.

The rules governing appender additivity are summarized below.

The output of a log statement of logger C will go to all the appenders in C and its ancestors. This is the meaning of the term "appender additivity". However, if an ancestor of logger C, say P, has the additivity flag set to false, then C's output will be directed to all the appenders in C and it's ancestors up to and including P but, not the appenders in any of the ancestors of P.

Loggers have their additivity flag set to true by default, meaning output goes to the appender attached to a parent Logger. It is therefore often sufficient to configure or attach an appender only to the root logger in the Hierarchy.

The table below shows an example:

Logger Name Added Appenders Additivity Flag Output Targets Comment
root A1 not applicable A1 The root logger is anonymous but can be accessed with the log4cxx::Logger::getRootLogger() method. There is no default appender attached to root.
x A-x1, A-x2 true A1, A-x1, A-x2 Appenders of "x" and root.
x.y none true A1, A-x1, A-x2 Appenders of "x" and root.
x.y.z A-xyz1 true A1, A-x1, A-x2, A-xyz1 Appenders in "x.y.z", "x" and root.
security A-sec false A-sec No appender accumulation since the additivity flag is set to false.
security.access none true A-sec Only appenders of "security" because the additivity flag in "security" is set to false.


More often than not, users wish to customize not only the output destination but also the output format. This is accomplished by associating a layout with an appender. The layout is responsible for formatting the logging request according to the user's wishes, whereas an appender takes care of sending the formatted output to its destination.

The PatternLayout, part of the standard Log4cxx distribution, lets the user specify the output format according to conversion patterns similar to the C language printf function.

For example, the PatternLayout with the conversion pattern %r [%t] %%-5p %c - %m%n will output something akin to:

176 [main] INFO org.foo.Bar - Located nearest gas station.

The first field is the number of milliseconds elapsed since the start of the program. The second field is the thread making the log request. The third field is the level of the log statement. The fourth field is the name of the logger associated with the log request. The text after the '-' is the message of the statement.

The following examples show how you might configure the PatternLayout in order to achieve the results shown. Each example has two blocks of code: the layout for the PatternLayout, and a sample output message.

Pattern 1

This pattern contains the date in an ISO-8601 format(without fractional seconds), followed by the logger name, the level, and then the message.

[%d{yyyy-MM-dd HH:mm:ss}] %c %-5p - %m%n
[2020-12-24 15:31:46] root INFO - Hello there!

Pattern 2

Similar to Pattern 1, except using ISO-8601 with fractional seconds

[%d] %c %-5p - %m%n
[2020-12-24 15:35:39,225] root INFO - Hello there!

Pattern 3

Prints out the number of milliseconds since the start of the application, followed by the level(5 character width), followed by the logger name (20 character width), followed by the message.

%r %-5p %-20c %m%n
0 INFO root Hello there!

Pattern 4

If you have no idea where a log message is coming from, it's possible to print out more information about the place the log statement is coming from. For example, we can get the filename, class name, method name, and line number in one log message. This utilises the %F(file name), %C(class name), %M(method name), %L(line number) patterns to output more information:

(%F:%C[%M]:%L) %m%n

Possible output:

(/home/robert/log4cxx-test-programs/fooclass.cpp:FooClass[FooClass]:9) Constructor running
(/home/robert/log4cxx-test-programs/fooclass.cpp:FooClass[doFoo]:13) Doing foo

Note that unlike Java logging, the location information is free(as it utilizes macros to determine this information at compile-time).

The other layouts provided in Log4cxx are: