13 stable releases

2.2.0 Nov 19, 2023
2.1.0 Nov 12, 2023
1.6.1 Nov 1, 2023
1.6.0 Oct 22, 2023
1.3.0 Jul 31, 2023

#27 in Filesystem

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1,879 downloads per month

MIT license


A log file highlighter


  • 🪵 View (or tail) any log file of any format
  • 🍰 No setup or config required
  • 🌈 Highlights numbers, dates, IP-addresses, UUIDs, URLs and more
  • ⚙️ All highlight groups are customizable
  • 🧬 Easy to integrate with other commands
  • 🔍 Uses less under the hood for scrollback, search and filtering

Table of Contents


tailspin works by reading through a log file line by line, running a series of regexes against each line. The regexes recognize patterns like dates, numbers, severity keywords and more.

tailspin does not make any assumptions on the format or position of the items it wants to highlight. For this reason, it requires no configuration or setup and will work predictably regardless of the format the log file is in.


Package Managers

The binary name for tailspin is tspin.

# Homebrew
brew install tailspin

# Cargo
cargo install tailspin

paru -S tailspin

# Nix
nix-shell -p tailspin

# NetBSD
pkgin install tailspin

From Source

cargo install --path .

Binary will be placed in ~/.cargo/bin, make sure you add the folder to your PATH environment variable.

Highlight Groups





IP Addresses


Unix file paths

HTTP methods


Key-value pairs

Unix processes

Watching folders

tailspin can listen for newline entries in a given folder. Watching folders is useful for monitoring log files that are rotated.

When watching folders, tailspin will start in follow mode (abort with Ctrl + C) and will only print newline entries which arrive after the initial start.

Customizing Highlight Groups


Create config.toml in ~/.config/tailspin to customize highlight groups.

Styles have the following shape:

style = { fg = "color", bg = "color", italic = false, bold = false, underline = false }

To edit the different highlight groups, include them in your config.toml file. For example, to edit the date highlight group, add the following to your config.toml:

style = { fg = "green" }

Collapse the following section to see the default config:

Default highlight groups settings
style = { fg = "magenta" }
# To shorten the date, uncomment the line below
# shorten = { to = "␣", style = { fg = "magenta" } }

time = { fg = "blue" }
zone = { fg = "red" }
# To shorten the time, uncomment the line below
# shorten = { to = "␣", style = { fg = "blue" } }

words = ['null', 'true', 'false']
style = { fg = "red", italic = true }

words = ['GET']
style = { fg = "black", bg = "green" }
border = true

# You can add as many keywords as you'd like

http = { faint = true }
https = { bold = true }
host = { fg = "blue", faint = true }
path = { fg = "blue" }
query_params_key = { fg = "magenta" }
query_params_value = { fg = "cyan" }
symbols = { fg = "red" }

style = { fg = "cyan" }

segment = { fg = "blue", italic = true }
separator = { fg = "red" }

style = { fg = "yellow" }
token = '"'

segment = { fg = "green", italic = true }
separator = { fg = "yellow" }

segment = { fg = "blue", italic = true }
separator = { fg = "red" }

key = { faint = true }
separator = { fg = "white" }

name = { fg = "green" }
separator = { fg = "red" }
id = { fg = "yellow" }

Disabling Highlight Groups

To disable a highlight group, set the disabled field to true:

disabled = true

Adding Keywords via config.toml

To add custom keywords, either include them in the list of keywords or add new entries:

words = ['MyCustomKeyword']
style = { fg = "green" }

words = ['null', 'true', 'false']
style = { fg = "red", italic = true }

Adding Keywords from the command line

Sometimes it is more convenient to add highlight groups on the fly without having to edit a TOML. To add highlights from the command line, use the --words-[red|green|yellow|blue|magenta|cyan] flag followed by a comma separated list of words to be highlighted.

Working with stdin and stdout

By default, tailspin will open a file in the pager less. However, if you pipe something into tailspin, it will print the highlighted output directly to stdout. This is similar to running tspin [file] --print.

To let tailspin highlight the logs of different commands, you can pipe the output of those commands into tailspin like so:

journalctl -f | tspin
cat /var/log/syslog | tspin
kubectl logs -f pod_name | tspin

Using the pager less


tailspin uses less as its pager to view the highlighted log files. You can get more info on less via the man command (man less) or by hitting the h button to access the help screen.


Navigating within less uses a set of keybindings that may be familiar to users of vim or other vi-like editors. Here's a brief overview of the most useful navigation commands:

  • j/k: Scroll one line up / down
  • d/u: Scroll one half-page up / down
  • g/G: Go to the top / bottom of the file

Follow mode

When you run tailspin with the -f or --follow flag, it will scroll to the bottom and print new lines to the screen as they're added to the file.

To stop following the file, interrupt with Ctrl + C. This will stop the tailing, but keep the file open, allowing you to review the existing content.

To resume following the file from within less, press Shift + F.

Use / followed by your search query. For example, /ERROR finds the first occurrence of ERROR.

After the search, n finds the next instance, and N finds the previous instance.


less allows filtering lines by a keyword, using & followed by the pattern. For instance, &ERROR shows only lines with ERROR.

To only show lines containing either ERROR or WARN, use a regular expression: &\(ERROR\|WARN\).

To clear the filter, use & with no pattern.


-f, --follow                     Follow the contents of the file
-t, --tail                       Start at the end of the file
-p, --print                      Print the output to stdout
-c, --config-path PATH           Path to a custom configuration file
-l, --follow-command [CMD]       Follows the output of the provided command
    --words-red      [WORDS]     Highlight the provided words in red
    --words-green    [WORDS]     Highlight the provided words in green
    --words-yellow   [WORDS]     Highlight the provided words in yellow
    --words-blue     [WORDS]     Highlight the provided words in blue
    --words-magenta  [WORDS]     Highlight the provided words in magenta
    --words-cyan     [WORDS]     Highlight the provided words in cyan
    --disable-builtin-keywords   Disables the highlighting of all builtin keyword groups
    --disable-booleans           Disables the highlighting of booleans and nulls
    --disable-severity           Disables the highlighting of severity levels
    --disable-rest               Disables the highlighting of REST verbs


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