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Custom Log Levels

Defining Custom Log Levels in Code

Log4J 2 supports custom log levels. Custom log levels can be defined in code or in configuration. To define a custom log level in code, use the Level.forName() method. This method creates a new level for the specified name. After a log level is defined you can log messages at this level by calling the Logger.log() method and passing the custom log level:

// This creates the "VERBOSE" level if it does not exist yet.
final Level VERBOSE = Level.forName("VERBOSE", 550);

final Logger logger = LogManager.getLogger();
logger.log(VERBOSE, "a verbose message"); // use the custom VERBOSE level

// Create and use a new custom level "DIAG".
logger.log(Level.forName("DIAG", 350), "a diagnostic message");

// Use (don't create) the "DIAG" custom level.
// Only do this *after* the custom level is created!
logger.log(Level.getLevel("DIAG"), "another diagnostic message");

// Using an undefined level results in an error: Level.getLevel() returns null,
// and logger.log(null, "message") throws an exception.
logger.log(Level.getLevel("FORGOT_TO_DEFINE"), "some message"); // throws exception!

When defining a custom log level, the intLevel parameter (550 and 350 in the example above) determines where the custom level exists in relation to the standard levels built-in to Log4J 2. For reference, the table below shows the intLevel of the built-in log levels.

Standard log levels built-in to Log4J
Standard Level intLevel
WARN 300
INFO 400

Defining Custom Log Levels in Configuration

Custom log levels can also be defined in configuration. This is convenient for using a custom level in a logger filter or an appender filter. Similar to defining log levels in code, a custom level must be defined first, before it can be used. If a logger or appender is configured with an undefined level, that logger or appender will be invalid and will not process any log events.

The CustomLevel configuration element creates a custom level. Internally it calls the same Level.forName() method discussed above.

CustomLevel Parameters
Parameter Name Type Description
name String The name of the custom level. Note that level names are case sensitive. The convention is to use all upper-case names.
intLevel integer Determines where the custom level exists in relation to the standard levels built-in to Log4J 2 (see the table above).

The following example shows a configuration that defines some custom log levels and uses a custom log level to filter log events sent to the console.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<Configuration status="WARN">
  <!-- Define custom levels before using them for filtering below. -->
    <CustomLevel name="DIAG" intLevel="350" />
    <CustomLevel name="NOTICE" intLevel="450" />
    <CustomLevel name="VERBOSE" intLevel="550" />

    <Console name="Console" target="SYSTEM_OUT">
      <PatternLayout pattern="%d %-7level %logger{36} - %msg%n"/>
    <File name="MyFile" fileName="logs/app.log">
      <PatternLayout pattern="%d %-7level %logger{36} - %msg%n"/>
    <Root level="trace">
      <!-- Only events at DIAG level or more specific are sent to the console. -->
      <AppenderRef ref="Console" level="diag" />
      <AppenderRef ref="MyFile" level="trace" />

Convenience Methods for the Built-in Log Levels

The built-in log levels have a set of convenience methods on the Logger interface that makes them easier to use. For example, the Logger interface has fourteen debug() methods that support the DEBUG level:

// convenience methods for the built-in DEBUG level
debug(Marker, Message)
debug(Marker, Message, Throwable)
debug(Marker, Object)
debug(Marker, Object, Throwable)
debug(Marker, String)
debug(Marker, String, Object...)
debug(Marker, String, Throwable)
debug(Message, Throwable)
debug(Object, Throwable)
debug(String, Object...)
debug(String, Throwable)

Similar methods exist for the other built-in levels. Custom levels, in contrast, need to pass in the log level as an extra parameter.

// need to pass the custom level as a parameter
logger.log(VERBOSE, "a verbose message");
logger.log(Level.forName("DIAG", 350), "another message");

It would be nice to have the same ease of use with custom levels, so that after declaring the custom VERBOSE/DIAG levels, we could use code like this:

// nice to have: descriptive methods and no need to pass the level as a parameter
logger.verbose("a verbose message");
logger.diag("another message");

The standard Logger interface cannot provide convenience methods for custom levels, but the next few sections introduce a code generation tool to create loggers that aim to make custom levels as easy to use as built-in levels.

Adding or Replacing Log Levels

We assume that most users want to add custom level methods to the Logger interface, in addition to the existing trace(), debug(), info(), ... methods for the built-in log levels.

There is another use case, Domain Specific Language loggers, where we want to replace the existing trace(), debug(), info(), ... methods with all-custom methods.

For example, for medical devices we could have only critical(), warning(), and advisory() methods. Another example could be a game that has only defcon1(), defcon2(), and defcon3() levels.

If it were possible to hide existing log levels, users could customize the Logger interface to match their requirements. Some people may not want to have a FATAL or a TRACE level, for example. They would like to be able to create a custom Logger that only has debug(), info(), warn() and error() methods.

Generating Source Code for a Custom Logger Wrapper

Common Log4J usage is to get an instance of the Logger interface from the LogManager and call the methods on this interface. However, the custom log Levels are not known in advance, so Log4J cannot provide an interface with convenience methods for these custom log Levels.

To solve this, Log4J ships with a tool that generates source code for a Logger wrapper. The generated wrapper class has convenience methods for each custom log level, making custom levels just as easy to use as the built-in levels.

There are two flavors of wrappers: ones that extend the Logger API (adding methods to the built-in levels) and ones that customize the Logger API (replacing the built-in methods).

When generating the source code for a wrapper class, you need to specify:

  • the fully qualified name of the class to generate
  • the list of custom levels to support and their intLevel relative strength
  • whether to extend Logger (and keep the existing built-in methods) or have only methods for the custom log levels

You would then include the generated source code in the project where you want to use custom log levels.

Example Usage of a Generated Logger Wrapper

Here is an example of how one would use a generated logger wrapper with custom levels DIAG, NOTICE and VERBOSE:

// ExtLogger is a generated logger wrapper
import com.mycompany.myproject.ExtLogger;

public class MyService {
    // instead of Logger logger = LogManager.getLogger(MyService.class):
    private static final ExtLogger logger = ExtLogger.create(MyService.class);

    public void someMethod() {
        // ...
        logger.trace("the built-in TRACE level");
        logger.verbose("a custom level: a VERBOSE message");
        logger.debug("the built-in DEBUG level");
        logger.notice("a custom level: a NOTICE message");
        logger.info("the built-in INFO level");
        logger.diag("a custom level: a DIAG message");
        logger.warn("the built-in WARN level");
        logger.error("the built-in ERROR level");
        logger.fatal("the built-in FATAL level");
        // ...

Generating Extended Loggers

Use the following command to generate a logger wrapper that adds methods to the built-in ones:

java -cp log4j-core-2.3.2.jar org.apache.logging.log4j.core.tools.Generate$ExtendedLogger} \
        com.mycomp.ExtLogger DIAG=350 NOTICE=450 VERBOSE=550 > com/mycomp/ExtLogger.java

This will generate source code for a logger wrapper that has the convenience methods for the built-in levels as well as the specified custom levels. The tool prints the generated source code to the console. By appending " > filename" the output can be redirected to a file.

Generating Custom Loggers

Use the following command to generate a logger wrapper that hides the built-in levels and has only custom levels:

java -cp log4j-core-2.3.2.jar org.apache.logging.log4j.core.tools.Generate$CustomLogger \
        com.mycomp.MyLogger DEFCON1=350 DEFCON2=450 DEFCON3=550 > com/mycomp/MyLogger.java

This will generate source code for a logger wrapper that only has convenience methods for the specified custom levels, not for the built-in levels. The tool prints the generated source code to the console. By appending " > filename" the output can be redirected to a file.