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Logging in Java: A Comparison of the Top 5 Libraries

Stanley Ulili
Updated on November 29, 2023

The Java ecosystem boasts a plethora of logging libraries, ranging from default options to third-party alternatives. However, this abundance of choices can lead to a degree of confusion, leaving you pondering the most suitable logging framework for your project.

This article aims to streamline the selection process by comparing these options, assisting you in choosing the optimal logging framework for your project.

1. Log4j 2

Screenshot of Log4j 2 github page

Log4j is one of the oldest and most widely adopted logging frameworks in the Java ecosystem. Log4j 2 is a complete overhaul of the original Log4j project, introducing numerous enhancements such as improved performance, versatile configuration options (JSON, XML, YAML, and properties), expandability via third-party plugins, and advanced asynchronous logging capabilities.

Log4j 2 introduces six severity levels for logging methods: trace() debug(), info(), warn(), error(), and fatal() but it also supports custom level creation.

Getting started with Log4j 2 is straightforward. Consider the following example:


import org.apache.logging.log4j.LogManager;
import org.apache.logging.log4j.Logger;

public class App {
    protected static final Logger logger = LogManager.getLogger();

    public static void main(String[] args) {"Hello from Log4j 2");
        logger.error("Error from Log4j 2");

This example demonstrates the use of info() and error() methods for logging and the output is formatted as follows:

13:55:55.710 [main] ERROR - Error from Log4j 2

Log4j defaults to the ERROR severity level which means messages logged below this level are suppressed. However, this behavior can be customized using a log4j2.xml file under the src/main/resources directory. Below is an example configuration:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<Configuration status="INFO">
        <Console name="console" target="SYSTEM_OUT">
            <PatternLayout pattern="%d{yyyy-MM-dd HH:mm:ss.SSS} [%t] %-5level %logger{36} - %msg%n" />

        <Root level="trace">
            <AppenderRef ref="console" />

Key components of Log4j 2's configuration include:

  • Appenders: Direct log messages to various destinations.
  • Layouts: Format log messages in JSON, CSV, or Syslog.
  • Filters: Utilize regular expressions or scripts for selective logging.

The code snippet sets the log severity level to TRACE and formats the log messages accordingly. With these settings, running the program again yields the following output:

2023-11-27 14:00:57.208 [main] INFO - Hello from log4j
2023-11-27 14:00:57.209 [main] ERROR - Error from log4j

Furthermore, Log4j 2 allows embedding contextual data in logs for detailed analysis. For example:


import org.apache.logging.log4j.LogManager;
import org.apache.logging.log4j.Logger;
import org.apache.logging.log4j.ThreadContext;

public class App {

    protected static final Logger logger = LogManager.getLogger();

    public static void main(String[] args) {
        ThreadContext.put("orderNumber", "987654321");
        ThreadContext.put("buyerName", "Alice");
        ThreadContext.put("destination", "xxxxxxxx");"Order shipped successfully.");


To include these contextual details in logs, the log4j2.xml file must be updated:

        <Console name="console" target="SYSTEM_OUT">
<PatternLayout pattern="%d{yyyy-MM-dd HH:mm:ss.SSS} [%t] %-5level %logger{36} - %msg %X{orderNumber} %X{buyerName} %X{destination}%n" />
</Console> </Appenders> ...

The output would then include the contextual data:

2023-11-28 11:19:45.326 [main] INFO - Order shipped successfully. 987654321 Alice xxxxxxxx

Log4j2 pros

  • Boasts a vast ecosystem of plugins, enhancing its extensibility.
  • It can be used in other languages like Python, Ruby, C#, or C++.
  • It has a fast performance.
  • No vendor lock-in.

Log4j2 cons

  • can be complex to configure.
  • has a steep learning curve.

Learn more: How to Get Started with Log4j for Logging in Java

2. Logback

Screenshot of Logback Github page

Logback was conceived to succeed the Log4j project and features an API similar to it. Over the past few years, Logback has gained substantial traction, currently amassing over 2.8K stars on GitHub. The following code demonstrates a primary usage of Logback for logging in a Java application:


import org.slf4j.LoggerFactory;
import org.slf4j.Logger;

public class App {
    private static final Logger logger = LoggerFactory.getLogger(App.class);

    public static void main(String[] args) {"This is an info message.");

After running the code, the log message will appear in the following format:

19:09:20.802 [main] INFO -- This is an info message.

The resulting log message incorporates a timestamp, log level (INFO), class name (, and the specific log message.

Logback is a highly configurable logging framework that consists of the following components:

  • Logger: Captures log data and manages logging functionality.

  • Appender: Directs log entries to various destinations, such as the console, email, file, or database.

  • Level: Categorizes log statements according to severity levels, including TRACE, DEBUG, INFO, WARN, and ERROR.

  • Layout: Formats log messages before they are sent to the configured appenders.

To configure Logback, you use the logback.xml file commonly placed under the src/main/resources directory. In this file, you can specify log levels, appenders, and layout formats:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE configuration>
    <import class="ch.qos.logback.classic.encoder.PatternLayoutEncoder" />
    <import class="ch.qos.logback.core.ConsoleAppender" />
    <appender name="jsonEncoder" class="ch.qos.logback.core.ConsoleAppender">
        <encoder class="ch.qos.logback.classic.encoder.JsonEncoder" />
    <root level="debug">
        <appender-ref ref="jsonEncoder" />

The ConsoleAppender is set up with a JsonEncoder to format log entries in JSON and display them in the console. In the <root> section, the minimum log level is configured as debug, signifying that only log messages with a severity level of DEBUG or higher will be shown.

When the application is executed, the log message will be formatted in the JSON format:

  "sequenceNumber": 0,
  "timestamp": 1701028086525,
  "nanoseconds": 525605000,
  "level": "INFO",
  "threadName": "main",
  "loggerName": "",
  "context": {
    "name": "default",
    "birthdate": 1701028086426,
    "properties": {}
  "mdc": {},
  "message": "This is an info message.",
  "throwable": null

This JSON-formatted log message includes essential fields that offer comprehensive context about the log entry.

Logback boasts additional features, including automatic configuration reloading while the application runs, conditional processing, compression of archived logs, and advanced filtering capabilities.

Logback pros

  • It is fast and efficient.
  • Extensively tested to ensure its reliability and stability.
  • Highly configurable and customizable.
  • Great documentation and community support.

Logback cons

  • Resource consumption can increase under heavy logging workloads.
  • Logback's comprehensive configurability can introduce some complexity, especially for less experienced developers.

Learn more: A Guide to Java Logging with Logback

3. SLF4J

Screenshot of Slf4j logging library

SLF4J, or Simple Logging Facade for Java, is an abstraction layer for various logging libraries in Java, such as Logback or Log4j 2. Its primary function is to provide a logging API, leaving the structuring and formatting of logs to the chosen logging framework.

The key advantage of Slf4J is its flexibility. Using Slf4J, developers are not bound to a specific logging framework and can dynamically switch between frameworks without modifying their code.

You can get started with logging using Slf4J, as demonstrated in this example:


import org.slf4j.Logger;
import org.slf4j.LoggerFactory;

public class App {
    private static Logger LOGGER = LoggerFactory.getLogger(App.class);

    public static void main(String[] args) {"Hello from Slf4j logger!");

This example demonstrates how Slf4J's simple logger sends logs to the console, producing an output like the following:

[main] INFO - Hello from Slf4j logger!

You can also enrich your log information by providing additional context. This can be achieved by including extra parameters when using methods like info():


import org.slf4j.Logger;
import org.slf4j.LoggerFactory;

public class App {
    private static Logger LOGGER = LoggerFactory.getLogger(App.class);

    public static void main(String[] args) {
        String productName = "Smartphone";
        int quantity = 2;
        double totalPrice = 999.99;"Placed an order for {} {}(s) online. Total cost: ${}", quantity, productName, totalPrice);

In this example, the quantity, productName, and totalPrice variables are included in the log message to provide more context about the log entry. The information can aid in troubleshooting and understanding the flow of your application.

[main] INFO - Placed an order for 2 Smartphone(s) online. Total cost: $999.99

Slf4J pros

  • Its very fast.
  • Allows seamless switching between logging frameworks without affecting existing code.
  • Provides bindings to the available logging libraries in the Java ecosystem, ensuring compatibility with a wide range of logging solutions.
  • Provides a migration tool

SLF4J cons

  • It does not provide a complete logging solution since it's only a facade.

4. Tinylog

Screenshot of Tinylog Github page

Tinylog is an open-source logging framework for Java, introduced in 2012 to simplify logging with an easy-to-understand and configure API. Unlike other logging libraries, it is lightweight and small, with a combined JAR size of only 187 KB. Additionally, Tinylog supports multithreaded applications, provides bindings for various logging libraries, supports lambdas, and enables lazy logging. Furthermore, the logging framework can be used with JVM, GraalVM, or Android.

Getting started with Tinylog is straightforward as it comes preconfigured:


import org.tinylog.Logger;

public class App {

    public static void main(String[] args) {"Hello from Tinylog!");


When the program runs, it produces output like this:

2023-11-28 12:01:43 [main]
INFO: Hello from Tinylog!

You can easily pass context data to the log message by adding a second parameter to the log method, as demonstrated in the following code:


import org.tinylog.Logger;

public class App {

    public static void main(String[] args) {

        String userName = "John Doe";

        // Log an error message with a specific error
        Logger.error("Failed to process user '{}'", userName);

When run, this output will include context data:

2023-11-28 12:12:17 [main]
ERROR: Failed to process user 'John Doe'

You can configure Tinylog using the file under the src/main/resources directory:

# logs to Console
writer               = json
writer.level         = debug
writer.file          = log.json
writer.format        = LDJSON
writer.field.level   = level
writer.field.source  = {class}.{method}()
writer.field.message = message
writer.charset       = UTF-8
writer.append        = true
writer.buffered      = true

This changes the log level, formats the logs in the JSON format, and forward them to a log.json file:

{"level": "ERROR", "source": "", "message": "Failed to process user 'John Doe'"}

Tinylog pros

  • Optimized for speed; you can see the benchmarks here.
  • Lightweight.
  • Simple to configure.
  • Relatively straightforward to learn and use.

Tinylog cons

  • Its configurations are limited compared to Logback or SLF4J.
  • Limited community support in comparison to more established logging frameworks.

5. Java Logging Framework

Screenshot of Java logging framework

Java ships with a default logging framework that can be used for logging. The java.util.logging (JUL) has been part of Java since the Java SE 4 (1.4) release in 2001. It includes classes that implement core logging functionalities.

The logging framework contains the following components:

  • Handler: forwards log messages to various destinations. Examples of handlers include Stream Handler, File Handler or SocketHandler
  • Filter: used to filter log messages.
  • Formatter: formats log messages before they are sent to the output stream.

Starting with java.util.logging is as straightforward as this:


import java.util.logging.Level;
import java.util.logging.Logger;

public class App {

    private static Logger logger = Logger.getLogger(App.class.getName());

    public static void main(String[] args) {"Hello from java.util.logging");

        logger.log(Level.WARNING, "This is level warning logging");


This produces a log message similar to the following:

Nov 28, 2023 8:00:08 PM main
INFO: Hello from java.util.logging
Nov 28, 2023 8:00:08 PM main
WARNING: This is level warning logging

To configure the logging, Java provides a default file as the default configuration file. The defaults set the severity level to INFO and forward logs to the console. You can create your own to configure the library depending on your project needs:

# Define handlers for file and console logging
handlers = java.util.logging.FileHandler, java.util.logging.ConsoleHandler

# Set global logging level to INFO
.level = INFO

# Log file output in a dedicated directory, e.g., /var/log/myapp/
java.util.logging.FileHandler.pattern = /var/log/myapp/java%u.log
java.util.logging.FileHandler.limit = 50000
java.util.logging.FileHandler.count = 1
java.util.logging.FileHandler.formatter = java.util.logging.SimpleFormatter

# Console logging settings
java.util.logging.ConsoleHandler.level = INFO
java.util.logging.ConsoleHandler.formatter = java.util.logging.SimpleFormatter

# Define a custom log format
java.util.logging.SimpleFormatter.format = [%1$td-%1$tm-%1$tY %1$tH:%1$tM:%1$tS] [%4$s] %5$s %n

# Set log level for a specific package, e.g., com.myapp
com.myapp.level = WARNING

Java Logging Framework cons

  • Has no dependencies since it ships with Java.
  • Lightweight.
  • Well-documented and supported.
  • Easier to learn.

Java Logging Framework cons

  • Lacks advanced features found in other logging libraries, like asynchronous logging or advanced filters.
  • Not highly performant.

Final thoughts

While Java includes the java.util.logging package, it is not considered the most optimal choice among logging libraries due to its lack of advanced features, suboptimal performance, and infrequent updates. You can explore the details in this post. Alternatives like Logback, Log4j2, or Tinylog provide more robust features and improved performance.

For basic logging needs, Tinylog is a suitable choice. However, for more intricate requirements, consider opting for Logback or Log4J2. Regardless of the selected framework, using Slf4J is recommended, as it facilitates seamless switching between logging libraries if necessary.

To learn about effective logging practices, consider checking out our guide, which covers Java logging best practices.

Thanks for reading, and happy logging!

Author's avatar
Article by
Stanley Ulili
Stanley is a freelance web developer and researcher from Malawi. He loves learning new things and writing about them to understand and solidify concepts. He hopes that by sharing his experience, others can learn something from them too!
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