Use this documentation with care! It describes the heavily outdated version 5, which was actively developed around 2010 and is considered dead by the rsyslog team for many years now.

This documentation reflects the latest update of the previously existing (now removed) v5-stable branch. It describes the 5.10.2 version, which was never released. As such, it contains some content that does not apply to any released version.

To obtain the doc that properly matches your installed v5 version, obtain the doc set from your distro. Each version of rsyslog contained the version that exactly matches it.

As general advise, it is strongly suggested to upgrade to the current version supported by the rsyslog project. The current version can always be found on the right-hand side info box on the rsyslog web site.

Note that there is no rsyslog community support available for this heavily outdated version. If you need to stick with it, please ask your distribution for support.


Templates are a key feature of rsyslog. They allow to specify any format a user might want. They are also used for dynamic file name generation. Every output in rsyslog uses templates - this holds true for files, user messages and so on. The database writer expects its template to be a proper SQL statement - so this is highly customizable too. You might ask how does all of this work when no templates at all are specified. Good question ;) The answer is simple, though. Templates compatible with the stock syslogd formats are hardcoded into rsyslogd. So if no template is specified, we use one of these hardcoded templates. Search for “template_” in syslogd.c and you will find the hardcoded ones.

Starting with 5.5.6, there are actually two differnt types of template:

  • string based
  • string-generator module based

String-based Templates

A template consists of a template directive, a name, the actual template text and optional options. A sample is:

$template MyTemplateName,"\7Text %property% some more text\n",<options>

The “$template” is the template directive. It tells rsyslog that this line contains a template. “MyTemplateName” is the template name. All other config lines refer to this name. The text within quotes is the actual template text. The backslash is an escape character, much as it is in C. It does all these “cool” things. For example, \7 rings the bell (this is an ASCII value), \n is a new line. C programmers and perl coders have the advantage of knowing this, but the set in rsyslog is a bit restricted currently.

All text in the template is used literally, except for things within percent signs. These are properties and allow you access to the contents of the syslog message. Properties are accessed via the property replacer (nice name, huh) and it can do cool things, too. For example, it can pick a substring or do date-specific formatting. More on this is below, on some lines of the property replacer.

The <options> part is optional. It carries options influencing the template as whole. See details below. Be sure NOT to mistake template options with property options - the later ones are processed by the property replacer and apply to a SINGLE property, only (and not the whole template).

Template options are case-insensitive. Currently defined are:

sql - format the string suitable for a SQL statement in MySQL format. This will replace single quotes (“’”) and the backslash character by their backslash-escaped counterpart (“\’” and “\\”) inside each field. Please note that in MySQL configuration, the NO_BACKSLASH_ESCAPES mode must be turned off for this format to work (this is the default).

stdsql - format the string suitable for a SQL statement that is to be sent to a standards-compliant sql server. This will replace single quotes (“’”) by two single quotes (“’‘”) inside each field. You must use stdsql together with MySQL if in MySQL configuration the NO_BACKSLASH_ESCAPES is turned on.

Either the sql or stdsql  option must be specified when a template is used for writing to a database, otherwise injection might occur. Please note that due to the unfortunate fact that several vendors have violated the sql standard and introduced their own escape methods, it is impossible to have a single option doing all the work.  So you yourself must make sure you are using the right format. If you choose the wrong one, you are still vulnerable to sql injection.

Please note that the database writer *checks* that the sql option is present in the template. If it is not present, the write database action is disabled. This is to guard you against accidental forgetting it and then becoming vulnerable to SQL injection. The sql option can also be useful with files - especially if you want to import them into a database on another machine for performance reasons. However, do NOT use it if you do not have a real need for it - among others, it takes some toll on the processing time. Not much, but on a really busy system you might notice it ;)

The default template for the write to database action has the sql option set. As we currently support only MySQL and the sql option matches the default MySQL configuration, this is a good choice. However, if you have turned on NO_BACKSLASH_ESCAPES in your MySQL config, you need to supply a template with the stdsql option. Otherwise you will become vulnerable to SQL injection.

Escaping is done as in C. For example to escape the percent symbol:


To escape a backslash use another backslash:


$template TraditionalFormat,"%timegenerated% %HOSTNAME% %syslogtag%%msg%\\n"

Properties can be accessed by the property replacer (see there for details).

Please note that templates can also by used to generate selector lines with dynamic file names. For example, if you would like to split syslog messages from different hosts to different files (one per host), you can define the following template:

$template DynFile,"/var/log/system-%HOSTNAME%.log"

This template can then be used when defining an output selector line. It will result in something like “/var/log/system-localhost.log”

Template names beginning with “RSYSLOG_” are reserved for rsyslog use. Do NOT use them if, otherwise you may receive a conflict in the future (and quite unpredictable behaviour). There is a small set of pre-defined templates that you can use without the need to define it:

  • RSYSLOG_TraditionalFileFormat - the “old style” default log file format with low-precision timestamps
  • RSYSLOG_FileFormat - a modern-style logfile format similar to TraditionalFileFormat, buth with high-precision timestamps and timezone information
  • RSYSLOG_TraditionalForwardFormat - the traditional forwarding format with low-precision timestamps. Most useful if you send messages to other syslogd’s or rsyslogd below version 3.12.5.
  • RSYSLOG_SysklogdFileFormat - sysklogd compatible log file format. If used with options: $SpaceLFOnReceive on; $EscapeControlCharactersOnReceive off; $DropTrailingLFOnReception off, the log format will conform to sysklogd log format.
  • RSYSLOG_ForwardFormat - a new high-precision forwarding format very similar to the traditional one, but with high-precision timestamps and timezone information. Recommended to be used when sending messages to rsyslog 3.12.5 or above.
  • RSYSLOG_SyslogProtocol23Format - the format specified in IETF’s internet-draft ietf-syslog-protocol-23, which is assumed to be come the new syslog standard RFC. This format includes several improvements. The rsyslog message parser understands this format, so you can use it together with all relatively recent versions of rsyslog. Other syslogd’s may get hopelessly confused if receiving that format, so check before you use it. Note that the format is unlikely to change when the final RFC comes out, but this may happen.
  • RSYSLOG_DebugFormat - a special format used for troubleshooting property problems. This format is meant to be written to a log file. Do not use for production or remote forwarding.

String-based Template Samples

This section provides some sample of what the default formats would look as a text-based template. Hopefully, their description is self-explanatory. Note that each $template statement is on a single line, but probably broken accross several lines for display purposes by your browsers. Lines are separated by empty lines.

$template FileFormat,"%TIMESTAMP:::date-rfc3339% %HOSTNAME% %syslogtag%%msg:::sp-if-no-1st-sp%%msg:::drop-last-lf%\n"

$template TraditionalFileFormat,"%TIMESTAMP% %HOSTNAME% %syslogtag%%msg:::sp-if-no-1st-sp%%msg:::drop-last-lf%\n"

$template ForwardFormat,"<%PRI%>%TIMESTAMP:::date-rfc3339% %HOSTNAME% %syslogtag:1:32%%msg:::sp-if-no-1st-sp%%msg%"

$template TraditionalForwardFormat,"<%PRI%>%TIMESTAMP% %HOSTNAME% %syslogtag:1:32%%msg:::sp-if-no-1st-sp%%msg%"

$template StdSQLFormat,"insert into SystemEvents (Message, Facility, FromHost, Priority, DeviceReportedTime, ReceivedAt, InfoUnitID, SysLogTag) values ('%msg%', %syslogfacility%, '%HOSTNAME%', %syslogpriority%, '%timereported:::date-mysql%', '%timegenerated:::date-mysql%', %iut%, '%syslogtag%')",SQL

String Generator based Templates

String-generator module based templates have been introduced in 5.5.6. They permit a string generator, actually a C “program”, the generate a format. Obviously, it is more work required to code such a generator, but the reward is speed improvement. If you do not need the ultimate throughput, you can forget about string generators (so most people never need to know what they are). You may just be interested in learning that for the most important default formats, rsyslog already contains highly optimized string generators and these are called without any need to configure anything. But if you have written (or purchased) a string generator module, you need to know how to call it. Each such module has a name, which you need to know (look it up in the module doc or ask the developer). Let’s assume that “mystrgen” is the module name. Then you can define a template for that strgen in the following way:

$template MyTemplateName,=mystrgen

(Of course, you must have first loaded the module via $ModLoad).

The important part is the equal sign: it tells the rsyslog config parser that no string follows but a strgen module name.

There are no additional parameters but the module name supported. This is because there is no way to customize anything inside such a “template” other than by modifying the code of the string generator.

So for most use cases, string-generator module based templates are not the route to take. Usually, us use string based templates instead.

This documentation is part of the rsyslog project. Copyright © 2008-2014 by Rainer Gerhards and Adiscon. Released under the GNU GPL version 2 or higher.

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