Guides
Zerolog Guide

A Complete Guide to Logging in Go with Zerolog

Better Stack Team
Updated on September 8, 2022

Zerolog is a high-performance, zero-allocation Go logging library. It provides structured logging capabilities for latency-sensitive applications where garbage collection is undesirable. You can use in a completely zero-allocation manner such that after the logger object is initialized, no further objects will be allocated on the heap, thus preventing the garbage collector from being triggered.

This tutorial will explain how to install, set up, and use the Zerolog logger in a Go application. We'll start by going through its API and all the options it provides, and show how to customize them in various ways. Finally, we'll describe how to use it in a typical web application so you can get a good idea of how to adopt it in your projects.

Prerequisites

Before following through with this tutorial, ensure that you have the latest version of Go installed on your computer. If you're just getting started with logging in Go, you may want to check out our guide on the standard library log package to get an idea of what you can do with it before moving on to this one.

Getting started with Zerolog

Zerolog may be installed in any Go project through the command below:

go get -u github.com/rs/zerolog/log
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The library provides a preconfigured and globally available logger that you can import and use in any file via the zerolog/log package:

package main

import (
    "github.com/rs/zerolog/log"
)

func main() {
    log.Info().Msg("Hello from Zerolog global logger")
}
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The above program outputs a JSON formatted log entry to the console:

Output
{"level":"info","time":"2022-08-18T13:45:51+01:00","message":"Hello from global logger"}

The global logger prints to the standard error by default, and it is also configured to log at the TRACE level though you can set a different minimum level by calling the SetGlobalLevel() function provided by the primary zerolog package:

package main

import (
    "github.com/rs/zerolog"
    "github.com/rs/zerolog/log"
)

func main() {
    zerolog.SetGlobalLevel(zerolog.ErrorLevel)
    log.Info().Msg("Info message")
    log.Error().Msg("Error message")
}
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Output
{"level":"error","time":"2022-08-18T13:51:44+01:00","message":"Error message"}

Aside from logging in JSON, you can also configure Zerolog to output binary logs encoded in CBOR format. You can enable it by using the binary_log build tag while compiling your application:

go build -tags binary_log .
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When executing the resulting binary, you will observe an output that looks like this:

Output
eleveleerrordtimeAAPwgmessagemError message⏎

You can decode this binary log entry to JSON with any CBOR decoder, such as csd

./main 2> >(csd)
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Output
{"level":"error","time":"2022-08-31T11:57:18.764748096-07:00","message":"Error message"}

You may find outputting your logs in CBOR format useful if your log entries are large and you want to compact them for long-term storage, and it's effortless to convert back to JSON when needed.

Exploring the Zerolog API

Zerolog offers a simple structured logging API that is easy to understand and use. Its Logger type represents any active logger that writes to some io.Writer interface, which, for the global logger (zerolog/log), is os.Stderr. You can create a new custom Logger using the zerolog.New() method:

package main

import (
    "os"

    "github.com/rs/zerolog"
)

func main() {
    logger := zerolog.New(os.Stdout)
    logger.Trace().Msg("Trace message")
}
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Output
{"level":"trace","message":"Trace message"}

Log levels

Each logger provides a method that corresponds to the seven log levels offered by Zerolog, which are listed below along with their integer priority values:

  • TRACE (-1): for tracing the code execution path.
  • DEBUG (0): messages useful for troubleshooting the program.
  • INFO (1): messages describing the normal operation of an application.
  • WARNING (2): for logging events that need may need to be checked later.
  • ERROR (3): error messages for a specific operation.
  • FATAL (4): severe errors where the application cannot recover. os.Exit(1) is called after the message is logged.
  • PANIC (5): similar to FATAL, but panic() is called instead.

You can set any of the above levels as the minimum level for a custom Logger through the Level() method. You can pass the integer priority number shown above or use the level constants provided on the zerolog package (TraceLevel, DebugLevel, etc):

logger := zerolog.New(os.Stdout).Level(zerolog.InfoLevel)
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The above snippet configures the logger to only output logs with INFO severity or greater. You can also set the minimum level through an environmental variable (demonstrated later in this tutorial).

Adding contextual data to your logs

When you call the leveled method corresponding to the log level of choice (Info(), Debug(), etc), a zerolog.Event type is returned which represents a log event. This Event type provides several methods that allow you to add properties to its context (in the form of key-value pairs) so that the log entry contains enough contextual data that aids your understanding of the event. For example, you may include the user ID or client information (like IP address) when logging the creation of a resource on your server which makes it easy to filter your logs later through such properties.

Most methods on the Event type return a pointer to the Event so you can chain them as needed at log point. Once you've added all the necessary context to the Event, you must call one of the Msg() Msgf(), MsgFunc() or Send() methods to finalize the Event. Usually, the Msg() method will be used for closing the Event by adding a message field to the log entry.

logger.Info().
  Str("name", "john").
  Int("age", 22).
  Bool("registered", true).
  Msg("new signup!")
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Output
{"level":"info","name":"john","age":22,"registered":true,"message":"new signup!"}

If you desire to omit the message field, you can call pass an empty string to Msg() or use Send() instead:

logger.Info().
  Str("name", "john").
  Int("age", 22).
  Bool("registered", true).
  Send()
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Output
{"level":"info","name":"john","age":22,"registered":true}

Note that one event closing method must always be called last on a zerolog.Event so that the corresponding entry is logged. If none of those methods are used, the log entry will not be recorded.

logger.Info().
  Str("name", "john").
  Int("age", 22).
  Bool("registered", true)
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Output

Adding global context to a Logger

In the previous section, you discovered how to use methods on the zerolog.Event type to add relevant context to a log entry. This section will go one step further and show you how to add contextual data to the Logger itself to ensure that such data is included in all subsequent records produced by the logger.

There are two main ways to add context to a Zerolog Logger. The first involves using the With() method which returns a zerolog.Context instance that allows you to add additional properties to the logger in key-value pairs through field methods similar to those on the zerolog.Event type. Then, after adding the necessary data to the context, you must call the Logger() method to return a new Logger object with the updated context.

package main

import (
    "os"

    "github.com/rs/zerolog"
)

func main() {
    logger := zerolog.New(os.Stdout).With().Timestamp().Logger()

    logger.Info().Msg("info message")
    logger.Debug().Str("username", "joshua").Send()
}
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Output
{"level":"info","time":"2022-08-31T21:00:29+01:00","message":"info message"}
{"level":"debug","username":"joshua","time":"2022-08-31T21:00:29+01:00"}

The snippet above adds the time field to all records produced by the logger which makes sense since all log records are expected to include a timestamp. You can also add the file and line number to all log entries as follows:

func main() {
    logger := zerolog.New(os.Stdout).With().Timestamp().Caller().Logger()

    logger.Info().Msg("info message")
    logger.Debug().Str("username", "joshua").Send()
}
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Output
{"level":"info","time":"2022-08-31T21:20:04+01:00","caller":"/home/user/dev/main.go:12","message":"info message"}
{"level":"debug","username":"joshua","time":"2022-08-31T21:20:04+01:00","caller":"/home/user/dev/main.go:13"}

Since the Logger() method returns a brand new Logger, you can use the With() method to implement child loggers that annotate all logs in a certain scope with relevant metadata that differentiates them from other records. Here's a contrived example that demonstrates how this could work:

package main

import (
    "os"

    "github.com/rs/zerolog"
)

var logger = zerolog.New(os.Stdout).With().Timestamp().Logger()

func main() {
    mainLogger := logger.With().Str("service", "main").Logger()
    mainLogger.Info().Msg("main logger message")

    auth()
    admin()
}

func auth() {
    authLogger := logger.With().Str("service", "auth").Logger()
    authLogger.Info().Msg("auth logger message")
}

func admin() {
    adminLogger := logger.With().Str("service", "admin").Logger()
    adminLogger.Info().Msg("admin logger message")
}
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Output
{"level":"info","service":"main","time":"2022-08-31T21:13:51+01:00","message":"main logger message"}
{"level":"info","service":"auth","time":"2022-08-31T21:13:51+01:00","message":"auth logger message"}
{"level":"info","service":"admin","time":"2022-08-31T21:13:51+01:00","message":"admin logger message"}

The second way to global metadata to a Logger is through the use of the UpdateContext() method. This method updates the Logger's internal context in place (without creating a copy), and you can use it like this:

func main() {
    logger := zerolog.New(os.Stdout).With().Timestamp().Logger()

logger.UpdateContext(func(c zerolog.Context) zerolog.Context {
return c.Str("name", "john")
})
logger.Info().Msg("info message") }
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Output
{"level":"info","name":"john","time":"2022-09-01T09:25:20+01:00","message":"info message"}

Prettifying your logs in development

In development environments, you might find it helpful to output the log entries from your application in a more human-readable format so that it's easy to spot the various events without being distracted by irrelevant symbols and fields. Zerolog provides a ConsoleWriter type that parses the original JSON entry and writes it in a colorized format to your preferred destination.

package main

import (
    "os"
    "runtime/debug"
    "time"

    "github.com/rs/zerolog"
)

func main() {
    buildInfo, _ := debug.ReadBuildInfo()

    logger := zerolog.New(zerolog.ConsoleWriter{Out: os.Stderr, TimeFormat: time.RFC3339}).
        Level(zerolog.TraceLevel).
        With().
        Timestamp().
        Caller().
        Int("pid", os.Getpid()).
        Str("go_version", buildInfo.GoVersion).
        Logger()

    logger.Trace().Msg("trace message")
    logger.Debug().Msg("debug message")
    logger.Info().Msg("info message")
    logger.Warn().Msg("warn message")
    logger.Error().Msg("error message")
    logger.WithLevel(zerolog.FatalLevel).Msg("fatal message")
    logger.WithLevel(zerolog.PanicLevel).Msg("panic message")
}
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Output
2022-09-01T10:03:06+01:00 TRC main.go:23 > trace message go_version=go1.19 pid=2616969
2022-09-01T10:03:06+01:00 DBG main.go:24 > debug message go_version=go1.19 pid=2616969
2022-09-01T10:03:06+01:00 INF main.go:25 > info message go_version=go1.19 pid=2616969
2022-09-01T10:03:06+01:00 WRN main.go:26 > warn message go_version=go1.19 pid=2616969
2022-09-01T10:03:06+01:00 ERR main.go:27 > error message go_version=go1.19 pid=2616969
2022-09-01T10:03:06+01:00 FTL main.go:28 > fatal message go_version=go1.19 pid=2616969
2022-09-01T10:03:06+01:00 PNC main.go:29 > panic message go_version=go1.19 pid=2616969

Zerolog Console Writer Showing prettified logs

You can use the options provided on the ConsoleWriter type to customize the appearance and formatting of the output:

zerolog.ConsoleWriter{
    Out:        os.Stderr,
    TimeFormat: time.RFC3339,
    FormatLevel: func(i interface{}) string {
        return strings.ToUpper(fmt.Sprintf("[%s]", i))
    },
    FormatMessage: func(i interface{}) string {
        return fmt.Sprintf("| %s |", i)
    },
    FormatCaller: func(i interface{}) string {
        return filepath.Base(fmt.Sprintf("%s", i))
    },
    PartsExclude: []string{
        zerolog.TimestampFieldName,
    },
}
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Output
[TRACE] main.go:41 | trace message | go_version=go1.19 pid=2632311
[DEBUG] main.go:42 | debug message | go_version=go1.19 pid=2632311
[INFO] main.go:43 | info message | go_version=go1.19 pid=2632311
[WARN] main.go:44 | warn message | go_version=go1.19 pid=2632311
[ERROR] main.go:45 | error message | go_version=go1.19 pid=2632311
[FATAL] main.go:46 | fatal message | go_version=go1.19 pid=2632311
[PANIC] main.go:47 | panic message | go_version=go1.19 pid=2632311

Zerolog ConsoleWriter customization output

Notice how the timestamp is now excluded from the output and how the formatting of the log levels, caller information, and log message are different. The formatted fields are also no longer colorized, but you can use a library like pterm or gookit/color to colorize the output.

Take care not to use the ConsoleWriter in production, as it will slow down your logging significantly. It is only provided to help make your logs easier to read when developing your application. You can use an environmental variable to enable the ConsoleWriter output in development only:

var output io.Writer = zerolog.ConsoleWriter{...}
if os.Getenv("GO_ENV") != "development" {
  output = os.Stderr
}
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Log sampling with Zerolog

Sampling is a technique used to intentionally drop repetitive log entries so that only a proportion of them are kept and processed without sacrificing the insights derived from the logs. This is helpful when your highly trafficked application is producing a massive amount of records, and storing every single one will lead to excessive storage and processing costs which may not be desirable. Sampling fixes this problem by preventing the same logs from being recorded hundreds or thousands of times per second which prevents resources from being used up unnecessarily.

Here's the most basic way to sample logs with Zerolog:

func main() {
    log := zerolog.New(os.Stdout).
        With().
        Timestamp().
        Logger().
        Sample(&zerolog.BasicSampler{N: 5})

    for i := 1; i <= 10; i++ {
        log.Info().Msg("a message from the gods: %d", i)
    }
}
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In this example, the BasicSampler configures the Logger such that each log is only recorded once out of five times. This is demonstrated in the for loop where the INFO message would normally be logged ten times, but due to sampling, it is logged only twice:

Output
{"level":"info","time":"2022-09-02T08:05:48+01:00","message":"a message from the gods: 1"}
{"level":"info","time":"2022-09-02T08:05:48+01:00","message":"a message from the gods: 6"}

Zerolog provides other more sophisticated samplers that may be more appropriate for your application. For example, the BurstSampler can be used to restrict the number of logs that are recorded in an amount of time:

func main() {
    l := zerolog.New(os.Stdout).
        With().
        Timestamp().
        Logger().
        Sample(&zerolog.BurstSampler{
            Burst:  3,
            Period: 1 * time.Second,
        })

    for i := 1; i <= 10; i++ {
        l.Info().Msgf("a message from the gods: %d", i)
        l.Warn().Msgf("warn message: %d", i)
        l.Error().Msgf("error message: %d", i)
    }
}
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Here, the BurstSampler configuration restricts the Logger from producing more than three log entries every second. Every other record that would have otherwise been logged within the specified will be discarded. The for loop above should log 30 messages without sampling, but due to the configuration above, it logs only three:

Output
{"level":"info","time":"2022-09-02T08:20:47+01:00","message":"a message from the gods: 1"}
{"level":"warn","time":"2022-09-02T08:20:47+01:00","message":"warn message: 1"}
{"level":"error","time":"2022-09-02T08:20:47+01:00","message":"error message: 1"}

You may only apply sampling to a specific level as shown below:

burstSampler := &zerolog.BurstSampler{
    Burst:       3,
    Period:      1 * time.Second,
    NextSampler: &zerolog.BasicSampler{N: 5},
}

l := zerolog.New(os.Stdout).
    With().
    Timestamp().
    Logger().
    Sample(zerolog.LevelSampler{
        WarnSampler: burstSampler,
        InfoSampler: burstSampler,
    })
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Here, only the INFO and WARN logs will be sampled, while the others are logged as usual, thus producing the following output:

{"level":"info","time":"2022-09-02T08:26:42+01:00","message":"a message from the gods: 1"}
{"level":"warn","time":"2022-09-02T08:26:42+01:00","message":"warn message: 1"}
{"level":"error","time":"2022-09-02T08:26:42+01:00","message":"error message: 1"}
{"level":"info","time":"2022-09-02T08:26:42+01:00","message":"a message from the gods: 2"}
{"level":"error","time":"2022-09-02T08:26:42+01:00","message":"error message: 2"}
{"level":"error","time":"2022-09-02T08:26:42+01:00","message":"error message: 3"}
{"level":"error","time":"2022-09-02T08:26:42+01:00","message":"error message: 4"}
{"level":"error","time":"2022-09-02T08:26:42+01:00","message":"error message: 5"}
{"level":"error","time":"2022-09-02T08:26:42+01:00","message":"error message: 6"}
{"level":"error","time":"2022-09-02T08:26:42+01:00","message":"error message: 7"}
{"level":"error","time":"2022-09-02T08:26:42+01:00","message":"error message: 8"}
{"level":"error","time":"2022-09-02T08:26:42+01:00","message":"error message: 9"}
{"level":"error","time":"2022-09-02T08:26:42+01:00","message":"error message: 10"}
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As you can see, the INFO message is logged twice and WARN is logged once (totalling three logs), while all 10 ERROR logs are recorded since its not being sampled. If you want each level to be sampled differently, you must create a different sampling strategy for each one such as infoSampler, warnSampler etc.

func main() {
    infoSampler := &zerolog.BurstSampler{
        Burst:  3,
        Period: 1 * time.Second,
    }

    warnSampler := &zerolog.BurstSampler{
        Burst:  3,
        Period: 1 * time.Second,
        // Log every 5th message after exceeding the burst rate of 3 messages per
        // second
        NextSampler: &zerolog.BasicSampler{N: 5},
    }

    errorSampler := &zerolog.BasicSampler{N: 2}

    l := zerolog.New(os.Stdout).
        With().
        Timestamp().
        Logger().
        Sample(zerolog.LevelSampler{
            WarnSampler:  warnSampler,
            InfoSampler:  infoSampler,
            ErrorSampler: errorSampler,
        })

    for i := 1; i <= 10; i++ {
        l.Info().Msgf("a message from the gods: %d", i)
        l.Warn().Msgf("warn message: %d", i)
        l.Error().Msgf("error message: %d", i)
    }
}
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In this scenario, a different sampling strategy is defined for the INFO, WARN, and ERROR levels while other levels are logged normally. The infoSampler is the sample configuration we used in the previous snippet (log 3 messages per second and discard all others), while the warnSampler uses the NextSampler property to log each 5th message after the burst rate is exceeded. The errorSampler uses the BasicSampler strategy alone and logs every second log message. This configuration produces the following results:

Output
{"level":"info","time":"2022-09-02T08:40:58+01:00","message":"a message from the gods: 1"}
{"level":"warn","time":"2022-09-02T08:40:58+01:00","message":"warn message: 1"}
{"level":"error","time":"2022-09-02T08:40:58+01:00","message":"error message: 1"}
{"level":"info","time":"2022-09-02T08:40:58+01:00","message":"a message from the gods: 2"}
{"level":"warn","time":"2022-09-02T08:40:58+01:00","message":"warn message: 2"}
{"level":"info","time":"2022-09-02T08:40:58+01:00","message":"a message from the gods: 3"}
{"level":"warn","time":"2022-09-02T08:40:58+01:00","message":"warn message: 3"}
{"level":"error","time":"2022-09-02T08:40:58+01:00","message":"error message: 3"}
{"level":"warn","time":"2022-09-02T08:40:58+01:00","message":"warn message: 4"}
{"level":"error","time":"2022-09-02T08:40:58+01:00","message":"error message: 5"}
{"level":"error","time":"2022-09-02T08:40:58+01:00","message":"error message: 7"}
{"level":"warn","time":"2022-09-02T08:40:58+01:00","message":"warn message: 9"}
{"level":"error","time":"2022-09-02T08:40:58+01:00","message":"error message: 9"}

Notice how the INFO message is logged thrice (all others produced within the second are discarded), the WARN message is logged thrice following the burst rate, and two additional times according to the strategy defined in the NextSampler property. Finally, the ERROR message is logged five times instead of ten (1 in 2).

Zerolog also provides the global DisableSampling() method for enabling or disabling all forms of sampling in all Loggers. It takes a boolean argument that controls whether to enable or disable log sampling, which may be helpful when you need to update your configuration on the fly in response to certain events.

Hooks in Zerolog

Zerolog provides a way to hook into the logging process through the Hook interface which is defined as follows:

type Hook interface {
    // Run runs the hook with the event.
    Run(e *zerolog.Event, level zerolog.Level, message string)
}
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When you implement the Hook interface on a concrete type, you can use the Logger.Hook() method to apply it to a Logger such that its Run() method is executed each time a log is recorded. You can then run different actions based on the log level of the event or some other criteria.

Here's an example that sends messages logged at the ERROR level or higher to a Telegram channel:

package main

import (
    "context"
    "os"
    "time"

    "github.com/nikoksr/notify"
    "github.com/nikoksr/notify/service/telegram"
    "github.com/rs/zerolog"
)

var wg sync.WaitGroup

type TelegramHook struct{}

func (t *TelegramHook) Run(
    e *zerolog.Event,
    level zerolog.Level,
    message string,
) {
    if level > zerolog.WarnLevel {
        wg.Add(1)
        go func() {
            _ = notifyTelegram("", message)
            wg.Done()
        }()
    }
}

func notifyTelegram(title, msg string) error {
telegramService, err := telegram.New(
"<telegram bot token>",
)
if err != nil { return err }
telegramService.AddReceivers("<chat id>")
notifier := notify.New() notifier.UseServices(telegramService) ctx, cancel := context.WithTimeout( context.Background(), 30*time.Second, ) defer cancel() return notifier.Send(ctx, title, msg) } func main() { logger := zerolog.New(os.Stdout). Level(zerolog.TraceLevel). With(). Timestamp(). Logger() logger = logger.Hook(&TelegramHook{}) logger.Trace().Msg("trace message") logger.Debug().Msg("debug message") logger.Info().Msg("info message") logger.Warn().Msg("warn message") logger.Error().Msg("error message") logger.WithLevel(zerolog.FatalLevel).Msg("fatal message") logger.WithLevel(zerolog.PanicLevel).Msg("panic message") wg.Wait() }
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The program above creates a TelegramHook type that implements the zerolog.Hook interface. Its Run() method checks the level of the message being logged and sends it off to a Telegram channel if it is more severe than the WARN level. If you run the program (after replacing the highlighted placeholders above), you will observe that every log message is printed to the console and the ERROR, FATAL, and PANIC logs are also sent to the configured Telegram channel.

Zerolog Demo in Telegram

Logging errors with Zerolog

Logging unexpected errors is one of the most important things you can do to ensure that bugs are detected and fixed quickly, so a logging framework must be well equipped to do this satisfactorily. Zerolog provides a few helpers to log errors which we will demonstrate in this section.

The easiest way to log an error with Zerolog is to log at the ERROR level and use the Err() method on the resulting zerolog.Event. This adds an error property to the log entry that contains the details of the error in question:

logger.Error().
  Err(errors.New("file open failed")).
  Msg("something happened!")
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Output
{"level":"error","error":"file open failed","time":"2022-08-31T22:59:07+01:00","message":"something happened!"}

You can change the field name for errors to some other value by changing the value of zerolog.ErrorFieldName:

zerolog.ErrorFieldName = "err"

logger.Error().
  Err(errors.New("file open failed")).
  Msg("something happened!")
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Output
{"level":"error","err":"file open failed","time":"2022-08-31T22:59:07+01:00","message":"something happened!"}

While the above output gives you details about the error that occurred, it does not show the path of code execution that led to the error which can be crucial for debugging the issue. You can fix this by including a stack trace in your error log through the Stack() method on an Event, but before it can have an effect, you must assign zerolog.ErrorStackMarshaler to a function that can extract stack traces from an error. You can combine pkg/errors with the zerolog/pkgerrors helper to add a stack trace to an error log as follows:

package main

import (
    "os"

    "github.com/pkg/errors"

    "github.com/rs/zerolog"
    "github.com/rs/zerolog/pkgerrors"
)

func main() {
    zerolog.ErrorStackMarshaler = pkgerrors.MarshalStack

    logger := zerolog.New(os.Stdout).With().Timestamp().Logger()
    logger.Error().
        Stack().
        Err(errors.New("file open failed!")).
        Msg("something happened!")
}
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Output
{"level":"error","stack":[{"func":"main","line":"19","source":"main.go"},{"func":"main","line":"250","source":"proc.go"},{"func":"goexit","line":"1594","source":"asm_amd64.s"}],"error":"file open failed!","time":"2022-08-24T21:52:24+01:00","message":"something happened!"}

Notice how the stack property contains a JSON formatted stack trace that describes the program's execution leading up to the error. This information can be precious when investigating unexpected errors in your application.

You can also use the FATAL or PANIC levels to log particularly severe errors where the application cannot recover. Note that logging at the FATAL level causes the program to exit immediately with an exit status of 1 while the PANIC level will call panic() after logging the message.

err := errors.New("failed to connect to database")
logger.Fatal().Err(err).Msg("something catastrophic happened!")
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Output
{"level":"fatal","error":"failed to connect to database","time":"2022-09-01T09:34:49+01:00","message":"something catastrophic happened!"}
exit status 1

If you want to log a FATAL or PANIC level message without calling os.Exit(1) and panic() respectively, you must use the WithLevel() method as shown below:

err := errors.New("failed to connect to database")
logger.WithLevel(zerolog.FatalLevel).
  Err(err).
  Msg("something catastrophic happened!")
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The program will not exit immediately anymore, but the event is still logged at the appropriate level:

Output
{"level":"fatal","error":"failed to connect to database","time":"2022-09-01T09:35:27+01:00","message":"something catastrophic happened!"}

Logging to a file

The options for logging into a file with Zerolog are pretty much the same as when using the standard library log package. Since you can pass a type that implements the io.Writer interface to zerolog.New() method, any os.File instance will work as expected as long as the file is opened with the proper permissions.

package main

import (
    "os"

    "github.com/rs/zerolog"
)

func main() {
    file, err := os.OpenFile(
        "myapp.log",
        os.O_APPEND|os.O_CREATE|os.O_WRONLY,
        0664,
    )
    if err != nil {
        panic(err)
    }

    defer file.Close()

    logger := zerolog.New(file).With().Timestamp().Logger()

    logger.Info().Msg("Info message")
}
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After executing the above program, you'll notice that a myapp.log file is present in the current directory. You can view its contents to verify that logging into the file works as expected:

cat myapp.log
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Output
{"level":"info","time":"2022-08-27T11:38:27+01:00","message":"Info message"}

Read our article on Logging in Go to learn more about other strategies for logging into files, their pros and cons, and how to rotate the log files so they don't grow too large and eat up your server disk space.

Using Zerolog in a web application

Now that we've covered Zerolog's most essential concepts, let's look at a practical example of how to use it for logging in a Go web application. We'll utilize an application that searches Wikipedia for this demonstration (see the logging branch for the final result).

Clone the GitHub repository to your computer through the command below:

git clone https://github.com/betterstack-community/wikipedia-demo.git
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Afterward, change into the newly created directory:

cd wikipedia-demo
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Before we start the server, let's install the air utility for live reloading the app in development:

go install github.com/cosmtrek/[email protected]
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You can now start the server by running the command below:

air
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Output
  __    _   ___
 / /\  | | | |_)
/_/--\ |_| |_| \_ , built with Go

watching .
!exclude assets
watching logger
!exclude tmp
building...
running...
2022/09/02 11:02:35 Starting Wikipedia App Server on port '3000'

Once the server is running, visit http://localhost:3000 in your browser and initiate a search query to confirm that the application works:

Wikipedia Demo for Zerolog

Now, open the contents of the main.go file in your code editor:

code main.go
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This simple web application consists of two handlers, the indexHandler() for rendering the homepage, and the searchHandler(), for processing each search query. We are currently using the built-in log package to log errors a few places, but they will be updated to use Zerolog in subsequent sections.

Go ahead and install the zerolog package to your project using the command below:

go get -u github.com/rs/zerolog/log
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Once installed, create a new logger package and a logger.go file within the package as shown below:

mkdir logger
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code logger/logger.go
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Populate the logger.go file with the following code:

logger/logger.go
package logger

import (
    "io"
    "os"
    "runtime/debug"
    "strconv"
    "sync"
    "time"

    "github.com/rs/zerolog"
    "github.com/rs/zerolog/pkgerrors"
    "gopkg.in/natefinch/lumberjack.v2"
)

var once sync.Once

var log zerolog.Logger

func Get() zerolog.Logger {
    once.Do(func() {
        zerolog.ErrorStackMarshaler = pkgerrors.MarshalStack
        zerolog.TimeFieldFormat = time.RFC3339Nano

        logLevel, err := strconv.Atoi(os.Getenv("LOG_LEVEL"))
        if err != nil {
            logLevel = int(zerolog.InfoLevel) // default to INFO
        }

        var output io.Writer = zerolog.ConsoleWriter{
            Out:        os.Stdout,
            TimeFormat: time.RFC3339,
        }

        if os.Getenv("APP_ENV") != "development" {
            fileLogger := &lumberjack.Logger{
                Filename:   "wikipedia-demo.log",
                MaxSize:    5, //
                MaxBackups: 10,
                MaxAge:     14,
                Compress:   true,
            }

            output = zerolog.MultiLevelWriter(os.Stderr, fileLogger)
        }

        var gitRevision string

        buildInfo, ok := debug.ReadBuildInfo()
        if ok {
            for _, v := range buildInfo.Settings {
                if v.Key == "vcs.revision" {
                    gitRevision = v.Value
                    break
                }
            }
        }

        log = zerolog.New(output).
            Level(zerolog.Level(logLevel)).
            With().
            Timestamp().
            Str("git_revision", gitRevision).
            Str("go_version", buildInfo.GoVersion).
            Logger()
    })

    return log
}
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In this file, the Get() function returns a zerolog.Logger instance that has been configured with a minimum level according to the LOG_LEVEL environmental variable (if it exists and is a valid number), otherwise it defaults to the INFO level. The APP_ENV environmental variable is also used to specify that the ConsoleWriter API should be used to prettify the log output (sent to the standard error) in development environments alone. In other environments such as staging or production, the logs are recorded to the standard error and a rotating wikipedia-demo.log file through the use of the lumberjack library and the zerolog.MultiLevelWriter() method.

The Git revision and Go version used to build the running Go binary is extracted using the debug package and added to the Logger's context so that they are included in each log entry. This is helpful when debugging as you'll always know the exact version of the program that produced each log entry and the version of Go that was used to build the program. You can access other details about the program through the debug.buildInfo type.

Notice that the initialization of the Logger is done within the function argument to the once.Do() method so that it is initialized only once regardless of how many times Get() is called.

Return to your main.go file and import the logger package as shown below:

main.go
. . .

import (
  . . .

    "github.com/betterstack-community/wikipedia-demo/logger"
)
. . .
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Afterward, update the main() and init() functions as follows:

main.go
. . .
func init() {
l := logger.Get()
var err error tpl, err = template.New("index.html").Funcs(template.FuncMap{ "htmlSafe": htmlSafe, }).ParseFiles("index.html") if err != nil {
l.Fatal().Err(err).Msg("Unable to initialize HTML templates")
} } func main() {
l := logger.Get()
fs := http.FileServer(http.Dir("assets")) port := os.Getenv("PORT") if port == "" { port = "3000" } mux := http.NewServeMux() mux.Handle("/assets/", http.StripPrefix("/assets/", fs)) mux.Handle("/search", handlerWithError(searchHandler)) mux.Handle("/", handlerWithError(indexHandler))
l.Info().
Str("port", port).
Msgf("Starting Wikipedia App Server on port '%s'", port)
l.Fatal().
Err(http.ListenAndServe(":"+port, mux)).
Msg("Wikipedia App Server Closed")
}
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Here, each use of the standard library log package has been replaced with the custom logger package based on zerolog. Ensure to import the necessary dependencies (zerolog/pkgerrors and lumberjack) by running the command below in a separate terminal:

go mod tidy
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Afterward, kill the running server with Ctrl-C and restart it once again through the command below:

LOG_LEVEL=1 APP_ENV="development" air
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You should observe the following prettified log output from Zerolog:

Output
. . .
2022-09-02T11:23:11+01:00 INF Starting Wikipedia App Server on port '3000' git_revision=510791faa17a362faeab72bd367ca26e5b0ad5f6 go_version=go1.19 port=3000

If you set APP_ENV to any other value other than development or if it is left unset, you'll observe a JSON output instead:

LOG_LEVEL=1 APP_ENV="production" air
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Output
{"level":"info","git_revision":"510791faa17a362faeab72bd367ca26e5b0ad5f6","go_version":"go1.19","port":"3000","time":"2022-09-02T11:24:32.92043003+01:00","message":"Starting Wikipedia App Server on port '3000'"}

Creating a logging middleware

Now that our Logger instance is ready, we can create a middleware function that logs all incoming HTTP requests to the server. We'll use it to add contextual information like the request data, response codes, and more to each log entry.

Add the following function below searchHandler() in your main.go file:

main.go
func requestLogger(next http.Handler) http.Handler {
    return http.HandlerFunc(func(w http.ResponseWriter, r *http.Request) {
        start := time.Now()

        l := logger.Get()

        next.ServeHTTP(w, r)

        l.
            Info().
            Str("method", r.Method).
            Str("url", r.URL.RequestURI()).
            Str("user_agent", r.UserAgent()).
            Dur("elapsed_ms", time.Since(start)).
            Msg("incoming request")
    })
}
. . .
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This requestLogger() function returns an HTTP handler that logs several details about the HTTP request, such as the request URL, HTTP method, client user agent, and time taken to complete the request. You can also defer the logging call to ensure that if the handler panics, the request will still be logged so that you can find out what caused the panic. At the moment, the logging call for the request will not be reached in such situations leaving you none the wiser about what caused the panic.

Here's the necessary change to make to resolve this:

main.go
. . .
func requestLogger(next http.Handler) http.Handler {
    return http.HandlerFunc(func(w http.ResponseWriter, r *http.Request) {
        start := time.Now()

        l := logger.Get()

defer func() {
l.
Info().
Str("method", r.Method).
Str("url", r.URL.RequestURI()).
Str("user_agent", r.UserAgent()).
Dur("elapsed_ms", time.Since(start)).
Msg("incoming request")
}()
next.ServeHTTP(w, r)
}) } . . .
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Let's utilize the requestLogger on all our routes by wrapping the entire HTTP request multiplexer as follows:

main.go
. . .
func main() {
    . . .

    l.Fatal().
Err(http.ListenAndServe(":"+port, requestLogger(mux))).
Msg("Wikipedia App Server Closed") } . . .
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Now, return to the homepage of the application in the browser and observe that each request to the server is being logged in the terminal along with all the properties added to the event's context:

Output
2022-09-02T11:30:34+01:00 INF incoming request elapsed_ms=0.293015 git_revision=510791faa17a362faeab72bd367ca26e5b0ad5f6 go_version=go1.19 method=GET url=/ user_agent="Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/105.0.0.0 Safari/537.36"

While developing your application, you probably don't want to see some of the details in the log, such as the user agent and build information which is currently making each log entry more verbose and harder to read. You can use the FieldsExclude property on the zerolog.ConsoleWriter to exclude those fields from the log entry as follows:

logger/logger.go
. . .
var output io.Writer = zerolog.ConsoleWriter{
  Out:        os.Stdout,
  TimeFormat: time.RFC3339,
FieldsExclude: []string{
"user_agent",
"git_revision",
"go_version",
},
} . . .
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At this point, you'll get logs that look like this instead:

Output
2022-08-29T15:59:50+01:00 INF incoming request method=GET elapsed_ms=0.034017 url=/
2022-08-29T15:59:50+01:00 INF incoming request method=GET elapsed_ms=0.03332 url=/favicon.ico

Logging the status code of the request

One crucial piece of information that is currently missing from the request logs is the status code of each request. Without this information, you cannot determine if the request succeeded or not, and you won't be able to track error rates and other similar metrics using the logs. Unfortunately, there's no way to access the status code of the response through the http.ResponseWriter type so you must write some additional code to extract this information.

Add the following code just before the indexHandler() function in your main.go file:

main.go
. . .
type loggingResponseWriter struct {
    http.ResponseWriter
    statusCode int
}

func newLoggingResponseWriter(w http.ResponseWriter) *loggingResponseWriter {
    return &loggingResponseWriter{w, http.StatusOK}
}

func (lrw *loggingResponseWriter) WriteHeader(code int) {
    lrw.statusCode = code
    lrw.ResponseWriter.WriteHeader(code)
}
. . .
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The loggingResponseWriter struct embeds the http.ResponseWriter type and adds a statusCode property which defaults to http.StatusOK (200) when newLoggingResponseWriter() is called. A WriteHeader() method is defined on the loggingResponseWriter which updates the value of the statusCode property and calls the WriteHeader() method of the embedded http.ResponseWriter instance.

We can use the loggingResponseWriter type in our requestLogger() as follows:

main.go
. . .
func requestLogger(next http.Handler) http.Handler {
    return http.HandlerFunc(func(w http.ResponseWriter, r *http.Request) {
        start := time.Now()

        l := logger.Get()

lrw := newLoggingResponseWriter(w)
defer func() {
panicVal := recover()
if panicVal != nil {
lrw.statusCode = http.StatusInternalServerError // ensure that the status code is updated
panic(panicVal) // continue panicking
}
l. Info(). Str("method", r.Method). Str("url", r.URL.RequestURI()). Str("user_agent", r.UserAgent()). Dur("elapsed_ms", time.Since(start)).
Int("status_code", lrw.statusCode).
Msg("incoming request") }()
next.ServeHTTP(lrw, r)
}) } . . .
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An instance of loggingResponseWriter type was created above, and it embeds the local http.ResponseWriter instance so that it can inherit all its properties and methods which allows it to fulfill the ResponseWriter interface. When WriteHeader() is called, the statusCode property is updated and we can access it through the lrw variable as demonstrated above.

When you restart the server, you'll observe that the request logs now contain the status code for each request:

Output
2022-09-02T12:21:44+01:00 INF incoming request elapsed_ms=0.259445 method=GET status_code=200 url=/

Using Zerolog's net/http helpers

Another way to create a logging middleware with Zerolog is to use the helpers defined in the hlog subpackage. For example, here's an alternative version of the requestLogger() method:

main.go
func requestLogger(next http.Handler) http.Handler {
    l := logger.Get()

    h := hlog.NewHandler(l)

    accessHandler := hlog.AccessHandler(
        func(r *http.Request, status, size int, duration time.Duration) {
            hlog.FromRequest(r).Info().
                Str("method", r.Method).
                Stringer("url", r.URL).
                Int("status_code", status).
                Int("response_size_bytes", size).
                Dur("elapsed_ms", duration).
                Msg("incoming request")
        },
    )

    userAgentHandler := hlog.UserAgentHandler("http_user_agent")

    return h(accessHandler(userAgentHandler(next)))
}
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Output
2022-09-02T12:28:56+01:00 INF incoming request elapsed_ms=0.296199 http_user_agent="Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/105.0.0.0 Safari/537.36" method=GET response_size_bytes=1073 status_code=200 url=/

The hlog.NewHandler() method injects the provided Logger instance into the http.Request instance of the returned http.Handler type. We subsequently used hlog.FromRequest() to access this Logger in the function argument in the hlog.AccessHandler() method which is called after each request. The UserAgentHandler() method adds the User Agent to the Logger's, and the result is what you can observe above.

Logging in HTTP handlers

Now that you've set up a general logging middleware that logs each request, let's look at how to log within HTTP handlers with Zerolog. The library provides a way to retrieve a Logger from a context.Context instance through the zerolog.Ctx() method which is demonstrated in the updated searchHandler() function below:

main.go
import (
    . . .
"github.com/rs/zerolog"
) . . . func searchHandler(w http.ResponseWriter, r *http.Request) error { u, err := url.Parse(r.URL.String()) if err != nil { return err } params := u.Query() searchQuery := params.Get("q") pageNum := params.Get("page") if pageNum == "" { pageNum = "1" }
l := zerolog.Ctx(r.Context())
l.UpdateContext(func(c zerolog.Context) zerolog.Context {
return c.Str("search_query", searchQuery).Str("page_num", pageNum)
})
l.Info().
Msgf("incoming search query '%s' on page '%s'", searchQuery, pageNum)
nextPage, err := strconv.Atoi(pageNum) if err != nil { return err } pageSize := 20 resultsOffset := (nextPage - 1) * pageSize searchResponse, err := searchWikipedia(searchQuery, pageSize, resultsOffset) if err != nil { return err }
l.Debug().Interface("wikipedia_search_response", searchResponse).Send()
totalHits := searchResponse.Query.SearchInfo.TotalHits search := &Search{ Query: searchQuery, Results: searchResponse, TotalPages: int(math.Ceil(float64(totalHits) / float64(pageSize))), NextPage: nextPage + 1, } buf := &bytes.Buffer{} err = tpl.Execute(buf, search) if err != nil { return err } _, err = buf.WriteTo(w) if err != nil { return err }
l.Trace().Msgf("search query '%s' succeeded without errors", searchQuery)
return nil }
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The zerolog.Ctx() method accepts a context.Context and returns the Logger associated with the context.Context instance if any. If no Logger is found in the context, the DefaultContextLogger is returned unless DefaultContextLogger is nil. A disabled Logger (created with zerolog.Nop()) is returned as a final resort.

After fetching the Logger from the request context, the Logger's context is immediately updated with some properties that need to be present in every single record within the handler so that you don't have to repeat them at log point.

The searchHandler() function now contains three log points: the first one records a new search query at the INFO level, the next one records the response from the Wikipedia API at the DEBUG level, and the third indicates that the search query was successful at the TRACE level.

After saving the main.go file, head over to the application in your browser and make a new search query. If everything goes well, it should be successful.

Return to your terminal to observe the logs. You will notice that while the request is recorded as before, none of the log statements inside the searchHandler() function are recorded.

2022-08-31T15:44:28+01:00 INF incoming request method=GET elapsed_ms=457.825211 status_code=200 url=/search?q=Go
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Since the LOG_LEVEL property has been set to 1 (INFO) while starting the application, the DEBUG and TRACE statements are not expected to appear, but the INFO statement is also missing, which means there's something wrong with our current setup.

The problem is that zerolog.Ctx() returned a disabled Logger because no Logger was found in the request context, and the DefaultContextLogger is nil by default. There are two things we can do to fix this issue:

  1. Ensure that a Logger instance is associated with the context returned by r.Context(),
  2. Set DefaultContextLogger to an enabled Logger instance.

The first approach is the most appropriate one since it allows you to retain the context of the Logger and even update it as needed, while the second is more of a fallback option. We will ensure that the Logger used in the requestLogger() is added to the request context so that it is accessible in all handler functions and all it takes is the single line of code highlighted below:

main.go
func requestLogger(next http.Handler) http.Handler {
    return http.HandlerFunc(func(w http.ResponseWriter, r *http.Request) {
        start := time.Now()

        l := logger.Get()

r = r.WithContext(l.WithContext(r.Context()))
lrw := newLoggingResponseWriter(w) defer func() { panicVal := recover() if panicVal != nil { lrw.statusCode = http.StatusInternalServerError // ensure that the status code is updated panic(panicVal) } l. Info(). Str("method", r.Method). Str("url", r.URL.RequestURI()). Str("user_agent", r.UserAgent()). Int("status_code", lrw.statusCode). Dur("elapsed_ms", time.Since(start)). Msg("incoming request") }() next.ServeHTTP(lrw, r) }) }
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The Logger type provides a WithContext() method that associates the Logger instance with the provided context and returns a copy of the context which is immediately used as the argument to r.WithContext(), which returns a copy of the request with the new context.

With this change in place, repeat the previous search query in the application. You should observe the following logs in the console:

Output
2022-09-02T12:38:59+01:00 INF incoming search query 'Go' on page '1' page_num=1 search_query=Go
2022-09-02T12:39:00+01:00 INF incoming request elapsed_ms=854.622151 method=GET status_code=200 url=/search?q=Go

If you want to see the DEBUG and TRACE logs, quit the air command with Ctrl-C and rerun it with LOG_LEVEL set to -1:

LOG_LEVEL=-1 APP_ENV=development air
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When you make a query now, the DEBUG and TRACE statements will also be included in the logs:

2022-08-31T17:19:42+01:00 INF incoming search query 'Go' on page '1' page_num=1 search_query=Go
2022-08-31T17:19:43+01:00 DBG page_num=1 search_query=Go wikipedia_search_response={...}
2022-08-31T17:19:43+01:00 TRC search query 'Go' succeeded without errors page_num=1 search_query=Go
2022-08-31T17:19:43+01:00 INF incoming request method=GET elapsed_ms=843.652451 status_code=200 url=/search?q=Go
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If you want to configure the DefaultContextLogger as a fallback in case no Logger is found when using zerolog.Ctx(), you can set zerolog.DefaultContextLogger in your logger.go file as shown below:

logger/logger.go
log = zerolog.New(output).
  Level(zerolog.Level(logLevel)).
  With().
  Timestamp().
  Str("git_revision", gitRevision).
  Str("go_version", buildInfo.GoVersion).
  Logger()

zerolog.DefaultContextLogger = &log
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Finally, update the last standard library log reference as follows:

main.go
. . .
func (fn handlerWithError) ServeHTTP(w http.ResponseWriter, r *http.Request) {
l := zerolog.Ctx(r.Context())
err := fn(w, r) if err != nil {
l.Error().Err(err).Msg("server error")
http.Error(w, err.Error(), http.StatusInternalServerError) return } } . . .
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Correlating your logs

One thing that is currently missing from our logging setup is a way to correlate the logs such that if there's a failure you can pinpoint the exact request that led to the failing scenario.

The first thing you need to do is generate a correlation ID that is stored in the request context. This correlation ID will be added to the response headers for the request, and it will also be included in each log record produced due in the request flow through your program. We will be using the xid package to generate this ID, so ensure to install it in your project through the command below:

go get -u github.com/rs/xid
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While you may create a separate middleware function to generate a request or correlation ID, we will do it in the request logger for simplicity. After it's installed, import it into your main.go file, and update the requestLogger() function as shown below:

main.go
import (
    . . .
"github.com/rs/xid"
) . . . func requestLogger(next http.Handler) http.Handler { return http.HandlerFunc(func(w http.ResponseWriter, r *http.Request) { start := time.Now() l := logger.Get()
correlationID := xid.New().String()
ctx := context.WithValue(r.Context(), "correlation_id", correlationID)
r = r.WithContext(ctx)
l.UpdateContext(func(c zerolog.Context) zerolog.Context {
return c.Str("correlation_id", correlationID)
})
w.Header().Add("X-Correlation-ID", correlationID)
lrw := newLoggingResponseWriter(w)
r = r.WithContext(l.WithContext(r.Context())) defer func() { panicVal := recover() if panicVal != nil { lrw.statusCode = http.StatusInternalServerError panic(panicVal) } l. Info(). Str("method", r.Method). Str("url", r.URL.RequestURI()). Str("user_agent", r.UserAgent()). Int("status_code", lrw.statusCode). Dur("elapsed_ms", time.Since(start)). Msg("incoming request") }() next.ServeHTTP(lrw, r) }) } . . .
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Once the correlation ID is generated, it is added to the request and Logger context respectively, and it is also set in the response headers. Since the Logger itself is subsequently associated with the request context, all the logs following from the flow of the requests will include this correlation ID. We can test it out by making a request to the server with curl in a separate terminal:

curl -I 'http://localhost:3000/search?q=Doom'
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You will observe the correlation ID in the response headers:

Output
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
X-Correlation-Id: cc7qa0picq4sk77aqql0
Date: Wed, 31 Aug 2022 18:14:27 GMT
Content-Type: text/html; charset=utf-8

You will also observe the following log records in the server console (assuming LOG_LEVEL=-1):

Output
2022-08-31T19:14:27+01:00 INF incoming search query 'Doom' on page '1' correlation_id=cc7qa0picq4sk77aqql0 page_num=1 search_query=Doom
2022-08-31T19:14:27+01:00 DBG correlation_id=cc7qa0picq4sk77aqql0 page_num=1 search_query=Doom wikipedia_search_response={...}
2022-08-31T19:14:27+01:00 TRC search query 'Doom' succeeded without errors correlation_id=cc7qa0picq4sk77aqql0 page_num=1 search_query=Doom
2022-08-31T19:14:27+01:00 INF incoming request correlation_id=cc7qa0picq4sk77aqql0 elapsed_ms=758.538297 method=HEAD status_code=200 url=/search?q=Doom

Notice how the correlation_id ties the above logs together, so you know that they were generated in a single identifiable request thus providing some cohesion to your logs.

Centralizing and monitoring your logs

So far, we've discussed Zerolog's API and how to integrate it into your Go application. The final piece of the puzzle is to centralize all logs from your application in one place so that log monitoring, analytics, and long-term storage can be offloaded to one single platform. Using a log management service like Logtail makes the troubleshooting process a lot more straightforward as you won't have to log into individual hosts to read logs, and you can also catch problems before they affect users by setting up automated processes to identify potential issues before they create significant challenges for your business.

Wikipedia Demo on Logtail

When it comes to routing your logs to an external service, we recommend that you continue logging to the console or a file and use a routing tool like Vector, Fluentd and others to forward the logs to the service. This way, your application does not need to know or care about the final destination of the logs as the execution environment manages it completely.

Final thoughts

In this article, we examined the Zerolog package for logging in Go programs and discussed many of its most essential features. We also demonstrated how to integrate it in a typical web application setup, and how you can correlate and aggregate your logs. To learn more about Zerolog, ensure to checkout the official documentation for the package.

Thanks for reading, and happy logging!

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