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 It describes the heavily outdated version 5, which was actively developed around 2010 and is considered dead by the rsyslog team for many years now.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Note that there is no rsyslog community support available for this heavily outdated version.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.

Recording the Priority of Syslog Messages

Written by Rainer Gerhards (2007-06-18)


The so-called priority (PRI) is very important in syslog messages, because almost all filtering in syslog.conf is based on it. However, many syslogds (including the Linux stock sysklogd) do not provide a way to record that value. In this article, I’ll give a brief overview of how PRI can be written to a log file.


The PRI value is a combination of so-called severity and facility. The facility indicates where the message originated from (e.g. kernel, mail subsystem) while the severity provides a glimpse of how important the message might be (e.g. error or informational). Be careful with these values: they are in no way consistent across applications (especially severity). However, they still form the basis of most filtering in syslog.conf. For example, the directive (aka “selector line)

mail.* /var/log/mail.log

means that messages with the mail facility should be stored to /var/log/mail.log, no matter which severity indicator they have (that is telling us the asterisk). If you set up complex conditions, it can be annoying to find out which PRI value a specific syslog message has. Most stock syslogds do not provide any way to record them.

How is it done?

With rsyslog, PRI recording is simple. All you need is the correct template. Even if you do not use rsyslog on a regular basis, it might be a handy tool for finding out the priority.

Rsyslog provides a flexible system to specify the output formats. It is template-based. A template with the traditional syslog format looks as follows:

$template TraditionalFormat,"%timegenerated% %HOSTNAME% %syslogtag%%msg:::drop-last-lf%\n"

The part in quotes is the output formats. Things between percent-signs are so-called messages properties. They are replaced with the respective content from the syslog message when output is written. Everything outside of the percent signs is literal text, which is simply written as specified.

Thankfully, rsyslog provides message properties for the priority. These are called “PRI”, “syslogfacility” and “syslogpriority” (case is important!). They are numerical values. Starting with rsyslog 1.13.4, there is also a property “pri-text”, which contains the priority in friendly text format (e.g. “local0.err<133>”). For the rest of this article, I assume that you run version 1.13.4 or higher.

Recording the priority is now a simple matter of adding the respective field to the template. It now looks like this:

$template TraditionalFormatWithPRI,"%pri-text%: %timegenerated% %HOSTNAME% %syslogtag%%msg:::drop-last-lf%\n"

Now we have the right template - but how to write it to a file? You probably have a line like this in your syslog.conf:

*.* -/var/log/messages.log

It does not specify a template. Consequently, rsyslog uses the traditional format. In order to use some other format, simply specify the template after the semicolon:

*.* -/var/log/messages.log;TraditionalFormatWithPRI

That’s all you need to do. There is one common pitfall: you need to define the template before you use it in a selector line. Otherwise, you will receive an error.

Once you have applied the changes, you need to restart rsyslogd. It will then pick the new configuration.

What if I do not want rsyslogd to be the standard syslogd?

If you do not want to switch to rsyslog, you can still use it as a setup aid. A little bit of configuration is required.

  1. Download, make and install rsyslog
  2. copy your syslog.conf over to rsyslog.conf
  3. add the template described above to it; select the file that should use it
  4. stop your regular syslog daemon for the time being
  5. run rsyslogd (you may even do this interactively by calling it with the -n additional option from a shell)
  6. stop rsyslogd (press ctrl-c when running interactively)
  7. restart your regular syslogd

That’s it - you can now review the priorities.

Some Sample Data

Below is some sample data created with the template specified above. Note the priority recording at the start of each line.<6>: Jun 15 18:10:38 host kernel: PCI: Sharing IRQ 11 with 00:04.0<6>: Jun 15 18:10:38 host kernel: PCI: Sharing IRQ 11 with 01:00.0 kern.warn<4>: Jun 15 18:10:38 host kernel: Yenta IRQ list 06b8, PCI irq11 kern.warn<4>: Jun 15 18:10:38 host kernel: Socket status: 30000006 kern.warn<4>: Jun 15 18:10:38 host kernel: Yenta IRQ list 06b8, PCI irq11 kern.warn<4>: Jun 15 18:10:38 host kernel: Socket status: 30000010<6>: Jun 15 18:10:38 host kernel: cs: IO port probe 0x0c00-0x0cff: clean.<6>: Jun 15 18:10:38 host kernel: cs: IO port probe 0x0100-0x04ff: excluding 0x100-0x107 0x378-0x37f 0x4d0-0x4d7<6>: Jun 15 18:10:38 host kernel: cs: IO port probe 0x0a00-0x0aff: clean. local7.notice<189>: Jun 15 18:17:24 host dd: 1+0 records out local7.notice<189>: Jun 15 18:17:24 host random: Saving random seed: succeeded local7.notice<189>: Jun 15 18:17:25 host portmap: portmap shutdown succeeded local7.notice<189>: Jun 15 18:17:25 host network: Shutting down interface eth1: succeeded local7.notice<189>: Jun 15 18:17:25 host network: Shutting down loopback interface: succeeded local7.notice<189>: Jun 15 18:17:25 host pcmcia: Shutting down PCMCIA services: cardmgr user.notice<13>: Jun 15 18:17:25 host /etc/hotplug/net.agent: NET unregister event not supported local7.notice<189>: Jun 15 18:17:27 host pcmcia: modules. local7.notice<189>: Jun 15 18:17:29 host rc: Stopping pcmcia: succeeded local7.notice<189>: Jun 15 18:17:30 host rc: Starting killall: succeeded<46>: Jun 15 18:17:33 host [origin software="rsyslogd" swVersion="1.13.3" x-pid="2464"] exiting on signal 15.<46>: Jun 18 10:55:47 host [origin software="rsyslogd" swVersion="1.13.3" x-pid="2367"][x-configInfo udpReception="Yes" udpPort="514" tcpReception="Yes" tcpPort="1470"] restart user.notice<13>: Jun 18 10:55:50 host rger: test<46>: Jun 18 10:55:52 host [origin software="rsyslogd" swVersion="1.13.3" x-pid="2367"] exiting on signal 2.

Feedback Requested

I would appreciate feedback on this paper. If you have additional ideas, comments or find bugs, please let me know.

References and Additional Material

Revision History