Programming language: Objective-C
Tags: Logging    
Latest version: v2.9.0

Twitter Logging Service alternatives and similar libraries

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Twitter Logging Service


Twitter created a framework for logging in order to fulfill the following requirements:

  • fast (no blocking the main thread)
  • thread safe
  • as easy as NSLog in most situations
  • support pluggable "output streams" to which messages will be delivered
  • "output streams" filter messages rather than global filtering for all "output streams"
  • able to categorize log messages (log channels)
  • able to designate importance to log messages (log levels)
  • require messages to opt-in for persisted logs (a security requirement, fulfilled by using the context feature of TLS)

Twitter has been using Twitter Logging Service since January 2014 with minimal changes. We've decided to share it with the developer community.

List of good alternative logging frameworks

If Twitter Logging Service doesn't meet your needs, there are many great logging frameworks available, including the following high quality and well maintained projects:

  • CocoaLumberjack
  • SwiftyBeaver
  • Apache Logging Services


There are 3 components to consider:

  1. the log message and its context
  2. the logging service instance or singleton
  3. the output stream(s)

The log message is sent to the logging service which provides the message to each output stream.

The logging service is configured by adding discrete output streams. Output streams encapsulate their own behavior and decisions, including filtering and logging messages. For instance, logging can mean printing to console with NSLog, writing to a file on disk, or sending the message to a remote server.

Message arguments don't need to be evaluated if the message is going to be filtered out. This avoids expensive, synchronous execution of argument evaluation. The message is then packaged with context before it is sent to the logging service. Context includes information such as the log level, log channel, file name, function name, line number and timestamp.

The logging service marshals the message and its context to a background queue for processing by all available output streams. Streams can then filter or output the message.



CocoaPods is a dependency manager for Cocoa projects. You can install it using the following command:

    $ gem install cocoapods

To integrate TwitterLoggingService into your Xcode project using CocoaPods, specify it in your Podfile:

    platform :ios, '8.0'

    target "MyApp" do
        pod 'TwitterLoggingService', '~> 2.9.0'


TLSLog.h is the principal header for using TwitterLoggingService. Just include TLSLog.h or @import TwitterLoggingService.

    // The primary macros for *TwitterLoggingService*

    TLSLogError(channel, ...)          // Log at the TLSLogLevelError level
    TLSLogWarning(channel, ...)        // Log at the TLSLogLevelWarning level
    TLSLogInformation(channel, ...)    // Log at the TLSLogLevelInformation level
    TLSLogDebug(channel, ...)          // Log at the TLSLogLevelDebug level

For each macro in the TLSLog family of macros, TLSCanLog is called first to gate whether the actual logging should occur. This saves us from having to evaluate the arguments to the log message and can provide a win in performance when calling a TLSLog macro that will never end up being logged. For more on TLSCanLog see Gating TLSLog messages below.

TLSLog Core Macro

    #define TLSLog(level, channel, ...)

TLSLog is the core macro and takes 3 parameters: a TLSLogLevel level, an NSString channel and then an NSString format with variable formatting arguments. The level and channel parameters are used to filter the log message per TLSOutputStream in the TLSLoggingService singleton. Providing nil as the channel argument to any logging macro, function or method will result in the message not being logged.

Logging Channels, Levels and Context Objects


The logging channel of a log message is an arbitrary string and acts as a tag to that message to further help identify what the message relates to. Channels can help to quickly identify what a log message relates to in a large code base, as well as provide a mechanism for filtering. A TLSOutputStream can filter based on the logging channel in its implementation of tls_shouldFilterLevel:channel:contextObject:. Providing a nil channel to a log statement has the effect of not logging that message.

Examples of potential logging channels: @"Networking" for the networking stack, @"SignUp" for an app’s signup flow, TLSLogChannelDefault as a catch all default logging channel, and @"Verbose" for anything you just want to log for the helluvit.


The enum TLSLogLevel specifies 8 logging levels in accordance with the syslog specification for logging. For practical use, however, only 4 log levels are used: TLSLogLevelError, TLSLogLevelWarning, TLSLogLevelInformation and TLSLogLevelDebug. Each log message has a specified logging level which helps quickly identify its level, TLSLogLevelEmergency (or TLSLogLevelError in practice) is the most important while TLSLogLevelDebug is the least. TLSOutputStream instances can filter a log message by its log level (in combination with its logging channel and context object) by implementing tls_shouldFilterLevel:channel:contextObject:.

An implementation detail to keep in mind w.r.t. logging levels is that TLSLogLevelDebug is ALWAYS filtered out in non-DEBUG builds.

Context Objects

Though the TLSLog macros do not have a context object parameter, one can provide a context object to the TLSLogging APIs in order to provide additional context to custom TLSOutputStreams. The context object will carry through the TLSLoggingService so that it is available to all TLSOutputStream instances. The context object can be used to filter in the tls_shouldFilterLevel:channel:contextObject: method. The context object can also be used for additional information in the logging of a message since it carries to the TLSLogMessageInfo object that's passed to tls_outputLogInfo:.

This context object provides near limitless extensibility to the TLSLogging framework beyond the basics of filtering and logging based on a logging level and logging channel. Twitter uses the context object as a way to secure log messages from leaking to output streams that should not log messages unless explicitely told to do so, thus protecting Personally Identifiable Information from being logged as a default behavior.


Setting up your project to use TwitterLoggingService:

1) Add the TwitterLoggingService XCode project as a subproject of your XCode project.

2) Add the libTwitterLoggingService.a library or TwitterLoggingService.framework framework as a dependency in your XCode project.

3) Set up your project to build the TwitterLoggingService project with DEBUG=1 in debug builds and RELEASE=1 in release builds.

4) Set up the TLSLoggingService singleton on application startup (often in application:didFinishLaunchingWithOptions: of your UIApplication's delegate for iOS).

    @import TLSLoggingKit;

    // ...

    - (BOOL)application:(UIApplication *)application didFinishLaunchingWithOptions:(NSDictionary *)options
        // ...

        // Set up the Twitter Logging Service!
        TLSLoggingService *logger = [TLSLoggingService sharedInstance];
    #if DEBUG
        if ([TLSOSLogOutputStream supported]) {
            [logger addOutputStream:[[TLSOSLogOutputStream alloc] init]];
        } else {
            [logger addOutputStream:[[TLSNSLogOutputStream alloc] init]];
        [logger addOutputStream:[[TLSFileOutputStream alloc] initWithLogFileName:@"appname-info.log"]];

        // ...

    // ...

    // Someplace else in your project
    - (void)foo
        //  ...

        if (error) {
            TLSLogError(TLSLogChannelDefault, @"Encountered an error while performing foo: %@", error);
        } else {
            TLSLogInformation(@"Verbose", @"foo executed flawlessly!");

        // ...

Best Practices

As a best practice follow these simple guidelines:

1) Any user sensitive information should not be logged to output streams that persist messages (including being sent over the network to be saved). You can configure your output stream to filter out logs to these sensitive channels. Or do the inverse, and only permit certain "safe" channels to be logged. Twitter has elected to use the pattern where only explicitely "safe" messages (designated via a custom context object) are logged to output streams that will persist. If in doubt, you can log to the TLSLogLevelDebug log level, which is only ever logged in DEBUG builds.

2) Configure DEBUG builds to have a console output like TLSNSLogOutputStream or TLSStdErrOutputStream - but add only 1 or you'll spam the debug console.

3) Configure RELEASE builds to not use the console output stream.

4) Add Crashlytics to your project and add a subclass of the TLSCrashlyticsOutputStream to TLSLoggingService instead of using CLSLog, CLSNSLog or CLS_LOG. You MUST subclass TLSCrashlyticsOutputStream.

TLSLogChannelApplicationDefault function

    FOUNDATION_EXTERN NSString *TLSLogChannelApplicationDefault() __attribute__((const));
    #define TLSLogChannelDefault TLSLogChannelApplicationDefault()

Retrieve a channel based on the application. You can use this as a default channel.

Loads and caches the channel name in the following order of descending priority:

1) kCFBundleNameKey of main bundle

2) kCFBundleExecutableKey of main bundle

3) Binary executable name

4) @"Default"

The default channel is available as a convenience for quick logging. However, it is recommended to always have concrete, well-defined logging channels to which output is logged (e.g. "Networking", "UI", "Model", "Cache", et al).

TLSLog Helper Functions

There are a number of TLSLog Helper Functions and they all accept as a first parameter a TLSLoggingService. If nil is provided for the service parameter, the shared [TLSLoggingService sharedInstance] will be used. All TLSLog macros use nil for the service parameter, but if there is different instance to be used, these helper functions support that. As an example, Twitter extends TwitterLoggingService with its own set of macros so that a context is provided that defines the duration for which a message can be safely retained (e.g. to avoid retaining sensitive information), and uses custom macros that call these helper functions.

Gating TLSLog messages

    BOOL TLSCanLog(TLSLoggingService *service, TLSLogLevel level, NSString *channel, id contextObject); // gate for logging TLSLog messages

At the moment, TLSCanLog evaluates two things (contextObject is currently ignored): the cached permitted log levels and the cached not permitted log channels. A log message can log given the desired level is permitted by the internal cache of known permitted TLSLogLevels based on the outputStreams of TLSLoggingService AND the given log channel has not been cached as a known to be an always off channel (for TLSLOGMODE=1 that is, see below for different behaviors).

TLSCANLOGMODE build setting

TwitterLoggingService supports being compiled in one of 3 different modes:

  • TLSCanLog will always return YES
  • Log arguments always evaluate, which can be inefficient for args that won't log
  • TLSCanLog will base its return value on cached insight into what can and cannot be logged
  • This will save on argument evalution at the minimal cost of a quick lookup of cached information
  • This is the default if TLSCANLOGMODE is not defined
  • TLSCanLog will base its return value on the filtering behavior of all the registered output streams
  • This will save on argument evalution but requires an expensive examination of all output streams


Copyright 2013-2020 Twitter, Inc.

Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0: https://www.apache.org/licenses/LICENSE-2.0

Security Issues?

Please report sensitive security issues via Twitter's bug-bounty program (https://hackerone.com/twitter) rather than GitHub.

*Note that all licence references and agreements mentioned in the Twitter Logging Service README section above are relevant to that project's source code only.