Tip

BareTail freeware offers no-frills monitoring of log files

There's never been a decent version of the UNIX tail command-line function in Windows, which lets you follow the very end of a log file as it's written to. (However, in February 2006, I wrote about a utility called Tail for Win32,

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which reads everything written to the bottom (or tail) of the file and prints it to a console window.

Now there's a utility you can download for free, called BareTail, which, as the name implies, is a basic program for monitoring one or more log files in real time, but includes just the right collection of features to make it useful.

In BareTail, when you open a file for monitoring, it opens immediately and scrolls right to the end by default. The program can read files of any size up to the limit of what the file system can support, without slowdowns, and can read over the network as well. It supports ASCII, ANSI and all varieties of Unicode.

BareTail doesn't have to index or pre-parse the file; it's read directly in with no delays. (This was a problem I had with fLogViewer, a similar program which had to tokenize/pre-read a file before it could be displayed.)

You can open multiple files for watching, each in their own tab. The tab of any file that's been updated with changes is marked with a green arrow. By default each file is watched every 250 milliseconds for changes, but you can adjust that interval. Each file can also have specific search terms highlighted line by line, if, for instance, you want to call out each time a specific error is thrown and logged.

The only drawback to the freeware version is the relatively small feature mix and the splash screen you have to wait through whenever the program launches (which you can get rid of by registering). The more upscale  professional version of BareTail includes goodies like regular expression searches and filters, which can be saved and reused, and more flexible configuration options for the program itself.

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor ofWindows Insight (formerly the Windows Power Users Newsletter), a blog site devoted to hints, tips, tricks and news for users and administrators of Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Vista. He has more than 12 years of experience working with Windows, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com and other TechTarget sites.

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This was first published in June 2007

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