Skip to content


Subversion checkout URL

You can clone with
Download ZIP
Fetching contributors…
Cannot retrieve contributors at this time
253 lines (169 sloc) 8.64 KB

papertrail command-line tail & search client for Papertrail log management service

Small standalone binary to retrieve, search, and tail recent app server log and system syslog messages from Papertrail.

Supports optional Boolean search queries and polling for new events (like "tail -f"). Example:

$ papertrail -f "(www OR db) (nginx OR pgsql) -accepted"

Output is line-buffered so it can be fed into a pipe, like for grep. ANSI color codes are rendered in color on suitable terminals; see below for additional colorization options.

The Connection class can be used by other apps to perform one-off API searches or follow (tail) events matching a given query. Interface may change.

Also includes papertrail-add-system, papertrail-remove-system, papertrail-add-group, and papertrail-join-group binaries, which invoke the corresponding Papertrail HTTP API call.

Quick Start

$ [sudo] gem install papertrail
$ echo "token: 123456789012345678901234567890ab" > ~/.papertrail.yml
$ papertrail

Retrieve the token from Papertrail User Profile.

The API token can also be passed in the PAPERTRAIL_API_TOKEN environment variable instead of a configuration file. Example:

$ export PAPERTRAIL_API_TOKEN='abc123'
$ papertrail


Install the gem (details on RubyGems), which includes a binary called "papertrail":

$ [sudo] gem install papertrail


Create ~/.papertrail.yml containing your API token, or specify the path to that file with -c. Example (from examples/papertrail.yml.example):

token: 123456789012345678901234567890ab

Retrieve token from Papertrail User Profile. For compatibility with older config files, username and password keys are also supported.

You may want to alias "pt" to "papertrail", like:

echo "alias pt=papertrail" >> ~/.bashrc

Usage & Examples

$ papertrail -h
papertrail - command-line tail and search for Papertrail log management service
    -h, --help                       Show usage
    -f, --follow                     Continue running and print new events (off)
    -d, --delay SECONDS              Delay between refresh (2)
    -c, --configfile PATH            Path to config (~/.papertrail.yml)
    -s, --system SYSTEM              System to search
    -g, --group GROUP                Group to search
    -S, --search SEARCH              Saved search to search
    -j, --json                       Output raw json data
    --min-time MIN                   Earliest time to search from.
    --max-time MAX                   Latest time to search from.

  papertrail [-f] [-s system] [-g group] [-d seconds] [-c papertrail.yml] [-j] [--min-time mintime] [--max-time maxtime] [query]

  papertrail -f
  papertrail something
  papertrail --min-time "20 minutes ago" 1.2.3 Failure
  papertrail -s ns1 "connection refused"
  papertrail -f "(www OR db) (nginx OR pgsql) -accepted"
  papertrail -f -g Production "(nginx OR pgsql) -accepted"
  papertrail -S "Critical errors"
  papertrail -g Production --min-time 'yesterday at noon' --max-time 'today at 4am'

Includes 4 binaries to change Papertrail settings: papertrail-add-system, papertrail-remove-system,
  papertrail-add-group, papertrail-leave-group. Run with --help or see README.


Count, pivot, and summarize

To count the number of matches, pipe to wc -l. For example, count how many logs contained Failure in the last minute:

$ papertrail --min-time '1 minute ago' Failure | wc -l

Output only the program/file name (which is output as field 5):

$ papertrail --min-time '1 minute ago' | cut -f 5 -d ' '

Count by source/system name (field 4):

$ papertrail --min-time '1 minute ago' | cut -f 4 -d ' ' | sort | uniq -c
  98 www42
  39 acmedb-core01
  2 fastly

For sum, mean, and statistics, see datamash.


ANSI color codes are retained, so log messages which are already colorized will automatically render in color on ANSI-capable terminals.

To colorize monochrome logs, pipe through lnav. Install lnav from your preferred package repository, such as brew install lnav or apt-get install lnav, then:

$ papertrail -f | lnav
$ papertrail --min-time "1 hour ago" error | lnav


If you're using bash, create a function that accepts arguments, then invoke pt with optional search operators:

$ function pt() { papertrail -f -d 5 $* | lnav; }
$ pt 1.2.3 Failure

Add the function line to your ~/.bashrc.


For complete control, pipe through anything capable of inserting ANSI control characters. Here's an example that colorizes 3 fields separately (the first 15 characters for the date, a word for the hostname, and a word for the program name):

$ papertrail | perl -pe 's/^(.{15})(.)([\S]+)(.)([\S]+)/\e[1;31;43m\1\e[0m\2\e[1;31;43m\3\e[0m\4\e[1;31;43m\5\e[0m/g'

the 1;31;43 are bold (1), foreground red (31), background yellow (43), and can be any ANSI escape characters.

UTF-8 (non-English searches)

When searching in a language other than English, if you get no matches, you may need to explicitly tell Ruby to use UTF-8. Ruby 1.9 honors the LANG shell environment variable, and your shell may not set it to UTF-8.

To test, try:

ruby -E:UTF-8 -S papertrail your_search

If that works, add -E:UTF-8 to the RUBYOPT variable to set the encoding at invocation. For example, to persist that in a .bashrc:

export RUBYOPT="-E:UTF-8"

Negation-only queries

Unix shells handle arguments beginning with hyphens (-) differently (why). Usually this is moot because most searches start with a positive match. To search only for log messages without a given string, use --. For example, to search for -whatever, run:

papertrail -- -whatever

Time zones

Times are interpreted in the client itself, which means it uses the time zone that your local PC is set to. Log timestamps are also output in the same local PC time zone.

When providing absolute times, append UTC to provide the input time in UTC. For example, regardless of the local PC time zone, this will show messages beginning from 1 PM UTC:

papertrail --min-time "2014-04-27 13:00:00 UTC"

Output timestamps will still be in the local PC time zone.

Quoted phrases

Because the Unix shell parses and strips one set of quotes around a phrase, to search for a phrase, wrap the string in both single-quotes and double-quotes. For example:

papertrail -f '"Connection reset by peer"'

Use one set of double-quotes and one set of single-quotes. The order does not matter as long as the pairs are consistent.

Note that many phrases are unique enough that searching for the words yields the same results as searching for the quoted phrase. As a result, quoting strings twice is often not actually necessary. For example, these two searches are likely to yield the same log messages, even though one is for 4 words (AND) while the other is for a phrase:

papertrail -f Connection reset by peer
papertrail -f '"Connection reset by peer"'

Add/Remove Systems, Create Group, Join Group

In addition to tail and search with the papertrail binary, the gem includes 4 other binaries which wrap other parts of Papertrail's HTTP API to explicitly add or remove a system, to create a new group, and to join a system to a group.

In most cases, configuration is automatic and these are not not necessary.

To see usage, run any of these commands with --help: papertrail-add-system, papertrail-remove-system, papertrail-add-group, papertrail-join-group.


Bug report:

  1. See whether the issue has already been reported:
  2. If you don't find one, create an issue with a repro case.

Enhancement or fix:

  1. Fork the project:
  2. Make your changes with tests.
  3. Commit the changes without changing the Rakefile or other files unrelated to your enhancement.
  4. Send a pull request.
Jump to Line
Something went wrong with that request. Please try again.