Jeremy Taylor

SharePoint & more

SharePoint ULS log viewer tool comparison and verdict

There has been some confusion on which SharePoint ULS log viewer to use when troubleshooting SharePoint issues. In May 2010, I blogged about the SharePoint 2010 ULS Log viewer published by Microsoft (http://www.jeremytaylor.net/2010/05/03/sharepoint-2010-uls-log-viewer).

SharePoint 2013 Alert: In August 2014, I blogged about a re-released ULS Viewer for SharePoint 2013 enhanced by Microsoft.

Read more about it here: http://www.jeremytaylor.net/2014/08/27/uls-log-viewer-sharepoint-2013/

In this post, I have discussed all the ULS log viewer tools here with screenshots and my final verdict..

Lets list all the SharePoint ULS Log Viewers here first:

  1. SharePoint ULS Viewer by Dan Winter, Microsoft - http://archive.msdn.microsoft.com/ULSViewer (link no longer works!)
  2. SharePoint ULS Viewer by Stefan Gordon - http://ulsviewer.codeplex.com
  3. SharePoint LogViewer by Overroot Inc - http://sharepointlogviewer.codeplex.com
  4. SharePoint Log Reader by Tom Vervoort - http://sharepointlogreader.codeplex.com
  5. CorrelationIDViewer Web part by Tom Van Gaever - http://spcorrelationviewwp.codeplex.com
  6. SPTraceView (SharePoint 2007 only) - http://hristopavlov.wordpress.com/2008/06/19/sptraceview-lightweight-tool-for-monitoring-the-sharepoint-diagnostic-logging-in-real-time
  7. ULS Viewer by Microsoft (Launched by Bill Baer)
    http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=44020

1. SharePoint ULS Viewer by Dan Winter, Microsoft - http://archive.msdn.microsoft.com/ULSViewer (link no longer works!)

This was a tool originally built only for internal Microsoft staff and its fortunate that they allowed us! I have worked on troubleshooting some very complex issues with SharePoint and Office Web Apps with Microsoft experts in the USA who use this tool.

This tool allows you to easily open ULS logs. It automatically detects where your ULS logs are. It has far more superior features to help you navigate around the tool (Key Shortcuts, Command line start up).

ULS Viewer has issues if you run it under any locale other than US-English. Run this fix if you use any other locale other than US-English:
http://archive.msdn.microsoft.com/ulsviewerfix

A walk through of the tool:
Open up ULS logs in real time (Crtl+U). It automatically detects where your logs are configured to (saves time!):

If you select “Autoscroll here” your screen would autoscroll with entries to the log file in real time:

A smart feature to record new data to a new csv file. Great if you can replay certain actions and capture only what you need for that period of time.

You can highlight categories, or certain log levels or processes or Correlation IDs. Great for troubleshooting – makes it easier when things are colour coded. Note the quick filter.

Very quick and easy to capture what you need and zero in on a certain Correlation ID or error/category etc


Another great feature is you can press the Ctrl button and select the log entries you want and then save to file. Great for saving those errors and sending it to your SharePoint experts/colleagues for further analysis or reporting.

A view of the filter. You can save your favourite filters and load them in future if you require. Note: The tool can crash if you clear the filter with restart filtering ticked.

More options!

 

Enable Tree View Display Options if you are looking through a number of Correlation IDs. Note the Tabs – you can open / capture ULS logs at different times and separate them out in tabs. Fantastic when there are a lot of entries to look at or if your farm is logging in Verbose.

It also has ballon notifications when there are errors:

Command line options:
Tip: if your ULSViewer path is in the Path variable on the server, then whenever you need to fire up ULSViewer, just open a command prompt and type in ulsviewer -ulsrt

More:

It has file drag an drop functionality, ability to save and load your own Workspace. Workspace allows you to save all your preferences, open log files, filters and settings. Great feature if you are performing a shared troubleshooting exercise or if you want to continue on a different server or continue at a later time/date.

2. SharePoint ULS Viewer by Stefan Gordon - http://ulsviewer.codeplex.com

A simple ULS Viewer – created by Stefan Gordon a long time ago. This was the original tool but then others are a bit more recent. This tool is very straightforward to use and provides the basics to filter out ULS logs. It does not provide any other functionality like the ULS Viewer by Microsoft.


Filter by Process in a drop down:


Filter by Category in a drop down


3. SharePoint LogViewer by Overroot Inc - http://sharepointlogviewer.codeplex.com

One of the best features of this tool is the play button. It starts displaying logs in real time. Hit the play button and you are watching your farm in real time. Its good for a single server farm though. Let me explain…

On codeplex its mentioned “Live monitoring for entire farm”. While this might be true, there is NO way to tell which log comes from which server. Typical enterprise SharePoint environments have at least two servers. I work with 6 and 10 server farms (not including the backend SQL cluster) so a feature like this is beneficial but as long as a ‘ServerName’ column in the tool is displayed against log entry. If this isnt there, then the whole live monitoring for entire farm is quite pointless. I would rather spin up a ULS Viewer tool on each server, then you know for sure that the error occurs on Server1, Server 3 and Server4 for example.

This tool has crashed on me a few times on two different testing environments. ouch.

Another thing that I find hard is the autoscroll keeps scrolling! There is no way to stop the autoscroll whilst gathering logs in the Live monitoring mode. If you pause the Live Monitoring mode, then you miss out on new log entries in this window. Once you click play again, you will only see new entries after clicking play.

The settings available, quite straightforward and basic.


Excellent notifcations settings. System tray, Event log and Email notifications – perfect. Note: SharePoint can be configured to write to the Event Log too.

 

Another feature that hasnt really helped is the bookmarks. Its great for viewing through the tool, but when you export to a file, it doesnt remember anything you bookmarked. You cant selectively export to a file and you cant copy correlation IDs either.

Some other things to note: drop down for a filtered view.


4. SharePoint Log Reader by Tom Vervoort - http://sharepointlogreader.codeplex.com

A simple SharePoint log reader which greets you when you try to open up the current log file with this:

What this means is – it cannot read real time logs from the farm. In short this tool is just a step up from opening up your log in Excel… except Excel has a great copy paste functionality.. so yeah.

A look at the filter. Standard and it works.

It does have a handy Copy to clipboard button and the layout is clean and simple as there is not much more to this tool.

5. CorrelationIDViewer Web part by Tom Van Gaever - http://spcorrelationviewwp.codeplex.com

This is not a standalone tool but I thought I would touch on it anyway.
This is a web based tool to look up Correlation IDs via the Central Admin or any other site. After deploying the wsp file, you would need to active the Site Collection feature:


Once done, you will notice a new item in the Site Actions menu.


Type in the Correlation ID and it spits all information relating to the Correction ID.

6.  SPTraceView (SharePoint 2007 only) - http://hristopavlov.wordpress.com/2008/06/19/sptraceview-lightweight-tool-for-monitoring-the-sharepoint-diagnostic-logging-in-real-time

This tool is for MOSS 2007 and not for SharePoint 2010, so its beyond the scope of this blog post.

If you are tempted to see what it does..it looks for the ‘Windows SharePoint Services Tracing’ service.

7.  ULS Viewer by Microsoft (Launched by Bill Baer)
http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=44020

Some new features:

1. Monitor multiple servers simultaneously

ULSLogViewer-SharePoint2013

2. Locate specific log entries via command line

3. Highlight and personalise the output if a filter match occurs

Some fixes I have noticed:

1. More stability when working with the filters

2. Multiple fixes such as filtering on pause state

Source: http://blogs.technet.com/b/wbaer/archive/2014/08/22/uls-viewing-like-a-boss-uls-viewer-is-now-available.aspx

Can we use it for SharePoint 2010?

Yes! It works well for SharePoint 2010. However, you would need to ensure that .NET 4.5.1 is installed on the server you run ULS Viewer on. With SharePoint 2010, .NET 3.5 is used and you might not find .NET 4.5.1 on your SharePoint 2010 servers.

Download Microsoft .NET Framework 4.5.1 (Offline Installer) here: http://www.microsoft.com/en-au/download/details.aspx?id=40779

I have tested it successfully on Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2008 R2.

Conclusion:

I have taken time to document these and present them to you to make your decision. Stefans Log viewer is stable but lacks the features that I want. Overoots tool had a good thing going but I would say they followed the 80/20 rule. Until last week (August 20th 2014), I had my old favourite – ULS Viewer by Dan Winter (Microsoft). It had a few issues but it worked across SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013. A much loved favourite for many SharePoint professionals. However, thanks to Bill Baer for the effort in getting this tool updated and improved.

 

Verdict:

The winner for SharePoint (2010 and 2013) ULS Logs: ULS Viewer (currently SharePoint 2013 only) by Microsoft (Launched by Bill Baer)
http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=44020

My thanks to Dan Winter, Microsoft for bring out the first ULS Viewer that we all used for so many years.

A big thanks to Bill Baer for bringing out the newer version of ULS Viewer. Thanks Bill!

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