TypeScript icon, indicating that this package has built-in type declarations

    2.1.0 • Public • Published

    Coverage Status


    At LogDNA, consuming log files and making them searchable is what we do! It all starts with the ability to efficiently watch log files on a local host and send new lines up to the LogDNA service. This Node.js class provides functionality like Unix's tail -f command, and we use it in our agents to get the job done. Of course, anything needing tail functionality in Node.js could also benefit from using this.


    • Zero dependencies! It's lightweight and uses 100% Node.js core modules.
    • It implements a Readable stream, which is efficient and flexible in terms of being able to pipe to other streams or consume via events.
    • Stream backpressure is properly respected, so at no time is data pushed through the stream unless it is requested.
    • It handles log rolling. Renaming files is handled gracefully without losing lines written to the "old" file, no matter what the poll interval is.
    • It handles file truncation, continuing to tail the file despite being truncated.


    npm install @logdna/tail-file


    Instantiate an instance by passing the full path of a file to tail. This will return a stream that can be piped to other streams or consumed via data events. To begin the tailing, call the start method.

    Example using data events

    const TailFile = require('@logdna/tail-file')
    const tail = new TailFile('/path/to/your/logfile.txt', {encoding: 'utf8'})
      .on('data', (chunk) => {
        console.log(`Recieved a utf8 character chunk: ${chunk}`)
      .on('tail_error', (err) => {
        console.error('TailFile had an error!', err)
      .on('error', (err) => {
        console.error('A TailFile stream error was likely encountered', err)
      .catch((err) => {
        console.error('Cannot start.  Does the file exist?', err)

    Example using pipe

    This example is more realistic. It pipes the output to a transform stream which breaks the data up by newlines, emitting its own data event for every line.

    const TailFile = require('@logdna/tail-file')
    const split2 = require('split2') // A common and efficient line splitter
    const tail = new TailFile('/path/to/your/logfile.txt')
      .on('tail_error', (err) => {
        console.error('TailFile had an error!', err)
        throw err
      .catch((err) => {
        console.error('Cannot start.  Does the file exist?', err)
        throw err
    // Data won't start flowing until piping
      .on('data', (line) => {

    Example using readline

    This is an easy way to get a "line splitter" by using Node.js core modules. For tailing files with high throughput, an official Transform stream is recommended since it will edge out readline slightly in performance.

    const readline = require('readline')
    const TailFile = require('@logdna/tail-file')
    async function startTail() {
      const tail = new TailFile('./somelog.txt')
        .on('tail_error', (err) => {
          console.error('TailFile had an error!', err)
      try {
        await tail.start()
        const linesplitter = readline.createInterface({
          input: tail
        linesplitter.on('line', (line) => {
      } catch (err) {
        console.error('Cannot start.  Does the file exist?', err)
    startTail().catch((err) => {
      process.nextTick(() => {
        throw err


    TailFile is a Readable stream, so it can emit any events from that superclass. Additionally, it will emit the following custom events.

    Event: 'flush'

    This event is emitted when the underlying stream is done being read. If backpressure is in effect, then _read() may be called multiple times until it's flushed, so this event signals the end of the process. It is used primarily in shutdown to make sure the data is exhausted, but users may listen for this event if the relative "read position" in the file is of interest. For example, the lastReadPosition may be persisted to memory or database for resuming tail-file on a separate execution without missing any lines or duplicating them.

    Event: 'renamed'

    • <Object>
      • message <String> - Static message: 'The file was renamed or rolled. Tailing resumed from the beginning.'
      • filename <String> - The filename that's being tailed
      • when <Date> - The date/time when the event happened

    This event is emitted when a file with the same name is found, but has a different inode than the previous poll. Commonly, this happens during a log rotation.

    Event: 'retry'

    • <Object>
      • message <String> - Static message: 'File disappeared. Retrying.'
      • filename <String> - The filename that's being tailed
      • attempts <Number> - The number of attempts to try and access the file
      • when <Date> - The date/time when the event happened

    If a file that was successfully being tailed goes away, TailFile will try for maxPollFailures to re-poll the file. For each of those retries, this event is emitted for informative purposes. Typically, this could happen if log rolling is occurring manually, or timed in a way where the poll happens during the time in which the "new" filename is not yet created.

    Event: 'tail_error'

    • <Error>
      • message <String> - The error message as written by TailFile
      • code <String> - Static value of ETAIL
      • meta <Object> - Additional metadata added for context
        • actual <Error> - The actual error that was thrown, e.g. from a stream

    When an error happens that is specific to TailFile, it cannot emit an error event without causing the main stream to end (because it's a Readable implementation). Therefore, if an error happens in a place such as reading the underlying file resource, a tail_error event will be emitted instead.

    Event: 'truncated'

    • <Object>
      • message <String> - Static message: 'The file was truncated. Tailing resumed from the beginning.'
      • filename <String> - The filename that's being tailed
      • when <Date> - The date/time when the event happened

    If a file is shortened or truncated without moving or renaming the file, TailFile will assume it to be a new file, and it will start consuming lines from the beginning of the file. This event is emitted for informational purposes about that behavior.

    Event: (Any Readable event)

    TailFile implements a Readable stream, so it may also emit these events. The most common ones are close (when TailFile exits), or data events from the stream.


    Constructor: new TailFile(filename[, options])

    • filename <String> - The filename to tail. Poll errors do not happen until start is called.
    • options <Object> - Optional
      • pollFileIntervalMs <Number> - How often to poll filename for changes. Default: 1000ms
      • pollFailureRetryMs <Number> - After a polling error (ENOENT?), how long to wait before retrying. Default: 200ms
      • maxPollFailures <Number> - The number of times to retry a failed poll before exiting/erroring. Default: 10 times.
      • readStreamOpts <Object> - Options to pass to the fs.createReadStream function. This is used for reading bytes that have been added to filename between every poll.
      • startPos <Number> - An integer representing the inital read position in the file. Useful for reading from 0. Default: null (start tailing from EOF)
      • Any additional key-value options get passed to the Readable superclass constructor of TailFile
    • Throws: <TypeError>|<RangeError> if parameter validation fails
    • Returns: TailFile, which is a Readable stream

    Instantiating TailFile will return a readable stream, but nothing will happen until start() is called. After that, follow node's standard procedure to get the stream into flowing mode. Typically, this means using pipe or attaching data listeners to the readable stream.

    As the underlying filename is polled for changes, it will call fs.createReadStream to efficiently read the changed bytes since the last poll. To control the options of that stream, the key-values in readStreamOpts will be passed to the fs.createReadStream constructor. Similarly, options for controlling TailFile's' stream can be passed in via options, and they will get passed through to the Readable's super() constructor. Useful settings such as encoding: 'utf8' can be used this way.


    • Returns: <Promise> - Resolves after the file is polled successfully
    • Rejects: If filename is not found

    Calling start() begins the polling of filename to watch for added/changed bytes. start() may be called before or after data is set up to be consumed with a data listener or a pipe. Standard node stream rules apply, which say that data will not flow through the stream until it's consumed.


    • Returns: undefined
    • Emits: close when the parent Readstream is ended.

    This function closes all streams and exits cleanly. The parent TailFile stream will be properly ended by pushing null, therefore an end event may be emitted as well.

    Program Flow

    Using "file watcher" events don't always work across different operating systems, therefore the most effective way to "tail" a file is to continuously poll it for changes and read those changes when they're detected. Even Unix's tail -f command works similarly.

    Once start() is called, TailFile will being this polling process. As changes are detected through a .size comparison, it uses fs.openReadStream to efficiently read to the end of the file using async/await iterators. This allows backpressure to be supported throughout the process.

    How Log Rolling is Handled

    TailFile keeps a FileHandle open for the filename, which is attached to an inode. If log rolling happens, TailFile uses the FileHandle to read the rest of the "old" file before starting the process from the beginning of the newly-created file. This ensures that no data is lost due to the rolling/renaming of filename. This functionality assumes that filename is re-created with the same name, otherwise an error is emitted if filename does not re-appear.

    Backpressure Pauses Polling

    Because TailFile won't be consumed until it is in a reading mode, this may cause backpressure to be enacted. In other words, if .start() is called, but pipe or data events are not immediately set up, TailFile may encounter backpressure if its push() calls exceed the high water mark. Backpressure can also happen if TailFile becomes unpiped. In these cases, TailFile will stop polling and wait until data is flowing before polling resumes.

    Log Rolling During Backpressure

    If polling is off during backpressure, TailFile can handle a single log roll or rename during backpressure, but if the log is renamed more than once, there will most likely be data loss, as polling for changes will be off.

    This is an extrememly unlikely edge case, however we recommend consuming the TailFile stream almost immediately upon creation.


    npm i @logdna/tail-file

    DownloadsWeekly Downloads






    Unpacked Size

    44.1 kB

    Total Files


    Last publish


    • svenlogdna
    • muaz
    • logdna-user
    • darinspivey