Julian Verdurmen edited this page May 29, 2018 · 93 revisions


Installing NLog

ASP.NET Core users should follow Getting started with ASP.NET Core first.

NLog can be downloaded from NuGet.

Just install NLog.Config package and this will install also NLog and NLog.Schema packages - this will result in a starter config and intellisense.

Use the GUI or the following command in the Package Manager Console:

Install-Package NLog.Config

That's it, you can now compile and run your application and it will be able to use NLog.

Configure NLog Targets for output

NLog will only produce output if having configured one (or more) NLog targets.

NLog can be configured using XML by adding a NLog.config file to your application project (File Properties: Copy Always). This is a simple example of the content for NLog.config:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?>
<nlog xmlns="http://www.nlog-project.org/schemas/NLog.xsd"

        <target name="logfile" xsi:type="File" fileName="file.txt" />
        <target name="logconsole" xsi:type="Console" />

        <logger name="*" minlevel="Info" writeTo="logconsole" />
        <logger name="*" minlevel="Debug" writeTo="logfile" />

To configure programmatically, then one can do this in code:

var config = new NLog.Config.LoggingConfiguration();

var logfile = new NLog.Targets.FileTarget("logfile") { FileName = "file.txt" };
var logconsole = new NLog.Targets.ConsoleTarget("logconsole");
config.AddRule(LogLevel.Info, LogLevel.Fatal, logconsole);
config.AddRule(LogLevel.Debug, LogLevel.Fatal, logfile);
NLog.LogManager.Configuration = config;

See also Configuration File or Configuration API

See full list here: Targets

Writing log messages

Example of how to acquire a logger and writing a message to the logger:

var logger = NLog.LogManager.GetCurrentClassLogger();
logger.Info("Hello World");

If having configured the NLog targets correctly, then it will output the message to the configured targets.

The logger has a name, which is used by the logging-rules (See name="*" in configuration example above) to redirect to the wanted targets.

When using NLog.LogManager.GetCurrentClassLogger(), then it will create a logger with the name of the calling class (with namespace). One can also specify an explicit name by using NLog.LogManager.GetLogger("MyLogger").

The logger can write messages with different LogLevels, which is used by the logging-rules (See minLevel in configuration example above) so only relevant messages are redirected to the wanted targets:

The logger is not tied to a specific target. The messages written to one logger can reach multiple targets based on the logging-rules configuration. Maintaining this separation lets you keep logging statements in your code and easily change how and where the logs are written, just by updating the configuration in one place. See also Filtering log messages

Log levels

Each log message has associated log level, which identifies how important/detailed the message is. NLog can route log messages based primarily on their logger name and log level.

NLog supports the following log levels:

  • Trace - very detailed logs, which may include high-volume information such as protocol payloads. This log level is typically only enabled during development
  • Debug - debugging information, less detailed than trace, typically not enabled in production environment.
  • Info - information messages, which are normally enabled in production environment
  • Warn - warning messages, typically for non-critical issues, which can be recovered or which are temporary failures
  • Error - error messages - most of the time these are Exceptions
  • Fatal - very serious errors!
public class MyClass
  private static NLog.Logger logger = NLog.LogManager.GetCurrentClassLogger();

  public void MyMethod1()
    logger.Trace("Sample trace message");
    logger.Debug("Sample debug message");
    logger.Info("Sample informational message");
    logger.Warn("Sample warning message");
    logger.Error("Sample error message");
    logger.Fatal("Sample fatal error message");

    // alternatively you can call the Log() method
    // and pass log level as the parameter.
    logger.Log(LogLevel.Info, "Sample informational message");

    // Example of logging an exception

    catch (Exception ex)
        logger.Error(ex, "ow noos!"); // render the exception with ${exception}


Layouts and LayoutRenderers

It is possible to configure how log messages are written to a NLog target.

This shows the default SimpleLayout used by most NLog targets:

<target name="logfile" xsi:type="File" fileName="file.txt" layout="${longdate}|${level:uppercase=true}|${logger}|${message}" />

This can be configured to include more details:

<target name="logfile" xsi:type="File" fileName="file.txt" layout="${longdate}|${level:uppercase=true}|${logger}|${threadid}|${message}|${exception:format=tostring}" />

See full list here: Layout Renderers

One can also use a more complex Layout instead of SimpleLayout:

See full list here: Layouts

Best Practices for Logging

1. Logger should be a static variable in each class

Creating a new Logger has an overhead, as it has to acquire locks and allocate objects.

Therefore it is recommended to create the logger like this:

namespace MyNamespace
  public class MyClass
    private static NLog.Logger logger = NLog.LogManager.GetCurrentClassLogger();

2. Logger should handle string formatting

Avoid performing string allocation or string concatenation upfront, but instead let the Logger do the formatting. This will allow NLog to defer the formatting and reduce overhead.

Therefore it is recommended to perform the logging like this:

logger.Info("Hello {0}", "Earth");

3. Logger should be given the Exception

Avoid giving the Exception as formatting parameter, but instead provide it explicitly as first parameter. This will help the NLog targets to provide better logging.

catch (Exception ex)
    logger.Error(ex, "Something bad happened");

4. Validate XML configuration from NLog.config

NLog swallows by default all exceptions, so problems with logging will not cause the application to break. But for many application the logging is very critical, so if the initial NLog configuration fails, then it is fatal.

Adding throwConfigExceptions="true" will make NLog complain, when something is wrong with the configuration:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?>
<nlog xmlns="http://www.nlog-project.org/schemas/NLog.xsd"

There is also a setting called throwExceptions="true", which should never be used in production as it can cause havoc for your application. It is intended for unit testing, and local troubleshooting. See also Troubleshooting Configuration

5. Remember to Flush

NLog will by default attempt to flush automatically at application shutdown. Microsoft Windows give .NET applications a limited amount of time to perform shutdown (usually 2 sec) before being terminated. If having a NLog configuration with NLog Targets that requires network-traffic (Http, Mail, Tcp), then it is a really good idea to perform a manually Flush/Shutdown independent on running on Linux/Windows.

NLog.LogManager.Shutdown(); // Flush and close down internal threads and timers

NET Application running on Mono/Linux are required to stop threads/timers before entering application shutdown phase. Failing to do this will cause unhandled exceptions and segmentation faults, and other unpredictable behavior.


NLog supports special kinds of targets which do not do any logging by themselves, but which modify the behavior of other loggers. Those targets are called wrappers. The most commonly used ones are:

See full list here: Target Wrappers

There is a shortcut for enabling the AsyncWrapper for all targets, by adding async="true":

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?>
<nlog xmlns="http://www.nlog-project.org/schemas/NLog.xsd"

    <targets async="true">
        <target name="logfile" xsi:type="File" fileName="file.txt" />

        <logger name="*" minlevel="Info" writeTo="logfile" />

This will make all writes to the file be asynchronous, which will improve responsiveness of the calling thread.


If something is not working as expected then check here:

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