Logging in Leopard

The release of Leopard has given third-party developers a lot to do: attempting to restore features lost from Tiger, for instance. (By the way, where is the second party, and why am I never invited?) My friend Rainer Brockerhoff has provided a way, or Quay, to display hierarchical popup menus in the Dock again. One of my most missed features in Leopard is using NSLog to spew output exclusively to Xcode’s console log. When you debug or run your app in Xcode on Tiger, you can put NSLog calls everywhere without worrying about polluting console.log. In my opinion, console.log is only for important messages and errors. I frequently ask users to consult it if they’re experiencing a problem with an app. Either that or the Oracle at Delphi.

Leopard dispenses completely with console.log, though there is a “Console Messages” database query in Console. Whereas on Tiger stdout and stderr standardly go to console.log, on Leopard they boldly go to system.log (as well as to the “Console Messages” query). On either version of Mac OS X, Xcode redirects stdout and stderr to its own console log, so they don’t appear in Console at all.

According to the documentation, NSLog sends a message to stderr. This is true for Tiger, and it’s also true for Leopard, but Leopard’s NSLog has the additional behavior of sending a message to system.log regardless of whether stderr is redirected. Thus, when you debug or run your app in Xcode (these may amount to the same thing in Xcode 3), messages from NSLog appear both in Xcode’s console log and in system.log! Curiously, there is no duplication of NSLog messages in system.log when stderr is not redirected.

If you prefer to keep your debug output out of system.log, the workaround for this new NSLog behavior is to abandon NSLog for debugging purposes on Leopard. :-( After much experimentation with asl, I realized that our old faithful printf would work. Since printf writes to stdout, its output is redirected by Xcode. Plus, when you’re debugging your app in Xcode you don’t really need NSLog to tell you the name of your app, the date, or your shoe size.

A limitation of printf is that it doesn’t handle the format specifier %@ for an Objective-C object. With Cocoa, therefore, we want an Objective-C wrapper around printf (like, um, NSLog). If you add the following code to your target’s .pch file, you’ll have an Objective-C debug logging function JJLog available throughout your target’s code. To enable logging in your app’s debug build, just add JJLOGGING to the GCC_PREPROCESSOR_DEFINITIONS setting (AKA “Preprocessor Macros”) in the debug build configuration.

#ifdef __OBJC__
	#import <Cocoa/Cocoa.h>
		#define JJLog(...) (void)printf("%s:%i %s: %s\n", __FILE__, __LINE__, __PRETTY_FUNCTION__, [[NSString stringWithFormat:__VA_ARGS__] UTF8String])
		#define JJLog(...)

In your app’s release build, the debug function is a NOP that the compiler will almost certainly optimize out. This conditional code should not cause problems when using GCC_PRECOMPILE_PREFIX_HEADER, because Xcode already generates a separate precompiled prefix header for each build configuration. See the .pch.gch.hash-criteria files in /Library/Caches/com.apple.Xcode.###/SharedPrecompiledHeaders.

You can send gobs of gab to JJLog without repercussion or remorse. However, you’ll still want to use NSLog (sparingly, please) for runtime errors in your release build. Now to continue in the spirit of this post, I’ll redirect the epilogue to /dev/null.

5 Responses to “Logging in Leopard”

  1. Peter Hosey says:

    And for more on this topic, I have an epic blog post about ASL coming up RSN. (I am not exaggerating. I’m probably going to break it up into multiple pieces; it is that long.)

  2. Jeff says:

    Peter, I’m looking forward to it. I was originally going to talk more about ASL before I discovered the easy way out. Also, I believe that this means you can be the one rather than me to file Radar bugs against the docs. ;)

  3. Steve Nygard says:

    You can edit /etc/syslog.conf and change the “*.notice” on the second line to “*.err”, and then the NSLog messages won’t appear. (They are logged at the warning level. See the syslog man page for a list of the levels.) You need to kill -HUP syslogd to get it to reread the config file.

    After that, you can use “syslog -k Facility com.apple.console -k Level gt 3″ to see the messages that were filtered out.

  4. Peter Hosey says:

    I should say, for posterity, that I did finally publish my series on ASL.

  5. [...] Lap Cap Software Blog discusses logging in Leopard, with the goal of removing the log messages from the Console. Again, [...]