Pigweed’s logging module provides facilities for applications to log information about the execution of their application. The module is split into two components:

  1. The facade (this module) which is only a macro interface layer

  2. The backend, provided elsewhere, that implements the low level logging

Usage examples

Here is a typical usage example, showing setting the module name, and using the long-form names.


#include "pw_log/log.h"

int main() {
  PW_LOG_DEBUG("CPU temp: %.2f", cpu_temperature);
  if (BootFailed()) {
    PW_LOG_CRITICAL("Had trouble booting due to error %d", GetErrorCode());
  PW_LOG_INFO("Successfully booted");

In .cc files, it is possible to dispense with the PW_ part of the log names and go for shorter log macros.


#include "pw_log/log.h"

int main() {
  DBG("CPU temp: %.2f", cpu_temperature);
  if (BootFailed()) {
    CRT("Had trouble booting due to error %d", GetErrorCode());
  INF("Successfully booted");

Layer diagram example: stm32f429i-disc1

Below is an example diagram showing how the modules connect together for the stm32f429i-disc1 target, where the pw_log backend is pw_log_basic. pw_log_basic uses the pw_sys_io module to log in plaintext, which in turn outputs to the STM32F429 bare metal backend for pw_sys_io, which is pw_sys_io_baremetal_stm32f429i.

blockdiag App code pw_log pw_log_basic pw_sys_io pw_sys_io_ stm32f429 UART pins FTDI cable Minicom Microcontroller

Logging macros

These are the primary macros for logging information about the functioning of a system, intended to be used directly.

PW_LOG(level, flags, fmt, ...)

This is the primary mechanism for logging.

level - An integer level as defined by pw_log/levels.h.

flags - Arbitrary flags the backend can leverage. The semantics of these flags are not defined in the facade, but are instead meant as a general mechanism for communication bits of information to the logging backend.

Here are some ideas for what a backend might use flags for:

  • Example: HAS_PII - A log has personally-identifying data

  • Example: HAS_DII - A log has device-identifying data

  • Example: RELIABLE_DELIVERY - Ask the backend to ensure the log is delivered; this may entail blocking other logs.

  • Example: BEST_EFFORT - Don’t deliver this log if it would mean blocking or dropping important-flagged logs

fmt - The message to log, which may contain format specifiers like %d or %0.2f.


PW_LOG(PW_LOG_DEFAULT_FLAGS, PW_LOG_LEVEL_INFO, "Temp is %d degrees", temp);


PW_LOG() should not be used frequently; typically only when adding flags to a particular message to mark PII or to indicate delivery guarantees. For most cases, prefer to use the direct PW_LOG_INFO or PW_LOG_DEBUG style macros, which are often implemented more efficiently in the backend.

PW_LOG_DEBUG(fmt, ...)
PW_LOG_INFO(fmt, ...)
PW_LOG_WARN(fmt, ...)
PW_LOG_ERROR(fmt, ...)

Shorthand for PW_LOG(PW_LOG_DEFAULT_FLAGS, <level>, fmt, …).

Option macros

This module defines macros that can be overridden to control the behavior of pw_log statements. To override these macros, add #define statements for them before including headers.

The option macro definitions must be visibile to pw_log/log.h the first time it is included. To handle potential transitive includes, place these #defines before all #include statements. This should only be done in source files, not headers. For example:

// Set the pw_log option macros here, before ALL of the #includes.
#define PW_LOG_MODULE_NAME "Calibration"

#include <array>
#include <random>

#include "devices/hal9000.h"
#include "pw_log/log.h"
#include "pw_rpc/server.h"

int MyFunction() {

A string literal module name to use in logs. Log backends may attach this name to log messages or use it for runtime filtering. Defaults to "". The PW_LOG_MODULE_NAME_DEFINED macro is set to 1 or 0 to indicate whether PW_LOG_MODULE_NAME was overridden.


Log flags to use for the PW_LOG_<level> macros. Different flags may be applied when using the PW_LOG macro directly.

Log backends use flags to change how they handle individual log messages. Potential uses include assigning logs priority or marking them as containing personal information. Defaults to 0.


Filters logs by level. Source files that define PW_LOG_LEVEL will display only logs at or above the chosen level. Log statements below this level will be compiled out of optimized builds. Defaults to PW_LOG_LEVEL_DEBUG.



#include "pw_log/log.h"

void DoSomething() {
  PW_LOG_DEBUG("This won't be logged at all");
  PW_LOG_INFO("This is INFO level, and will display");
  PW_LOG_WARN("This is above INFO level, and will display");
PW_LOG_ENABLE_IF(level, flags)

Filters logs by an arbitrary expression based on level and flags. Source files that define PW_LOG_ENABLE_IF(level, flags) will display if the given expression evaluates true.


// Pigweed's log facade will call this macro to decide to log or not. In
// this case, it will drop logs with the PII flag set if display of PII is
// not enabled for the application.
#define PW_LOG_ENABLE_IF(level, flags) \
    (level >= PW_LOG_LEVEL_INFO && \

#include "pw_log/log.h"

// This define might be supplied by the build system.

// This is the PII mask bit selected by the application.
#define MY_PRODUCT_PII_MASK (1 << 5)

void DoSomethingWithSensitiveInfo() {
  PW_LOG_DEBUG("This won't be logged at all");
  PW_LOG_INFO("This is INFO level, and will display");

  // In this example, this will not be logged since logging with PII
  // is disabled by the above macros.
         "Sensitive: %d",


At this time, only compile time filtering is supported. In the future, we plan to add support for runtime filtering.

Logging attributes

The logging facade in Pigweed is designed to facilitate the capture of at least the following attributes:

  • Level - The log level; for example, INFO, DEBUG, ERROR, etc. Typically an integer

  • Flags - Bitset for e.g. RELIABLE_DELIVERY, or HAS_PII, or BEST_EFFORT

  • File - The file where the log was triggered

  • Line - The line number in the file where the log line occured

  • Function - What function the log comes from. This is expensive in binary size to use!

  • Module - The user-defined module name for the log statement; e.g. “BLE” or “BAT”

  • Message - The message itself; with % format arguments

  • Arguments - The format arguments to message

  • Thread - For devices running with an RTOS, capturing the thread is very useful

  • Others - Processor security level? Maybe Thread is a good proxy for this

Each backend may decide to capture different attributes to balance the tradeoff between call site code size, call site run time, wire format size, logging complexity, and more.

Design discussion

Why not use C++ style stream logging operators like Google Log?

There are multiple reasons to avoid the C++ stream logging style in embedded, but the biggest reason is that C++ stream logging defeats log tokenization. By having the string literals broken up between << operators, tokenization becomes impossible with current language features.

Consider this example use of Google Log:

LOG(INFO) << "My temperature is " << temperature << ". State: " << state;

This log statement has two string literals. It might seem like one could convert move to tokenization:

LOG(INFO) << TOKEN("My temperature is ") << temperature << TOKEN(". State: ") << state;

However, this doesn’t work. The key problem is that the tokenization system needs to allocate the string in a linker section that is excluded from the final binary, but is in the final ELF executable (and so can be extracted). Since there is no way to declare a string or array in a different section in the middle of an experession in C++, it is not possible to tokenize an expression like the above.

In contrast, the printf-style version is a single statement with a single string constant, which can be expanded by the preprocessor (as part of pw_tokenizer) into a constant array in a special section.

// Note: LOG_INFO can be tokenized behind the macro; transparent to users.
PW_LOG_INFO("My temperature is %d. State: %s", temperature, state);

Additionally, while Pigweed is mostly C++, it a practical reality that at times projects using Pigweed will need to log from third-party libraries written in C. Thus, we also wanted to retain C compatibility.

In summary, printf-style logging is better for Pigweed’s target audience because it:

  • works with tokenization

  • is C compatibile

  • has smaller call sites

The Pigweed authors additionally maintain a C++ stream-style embedded logging library for compatibility with non-embedded code. While it is effective for porting server code to microcontrollers quickly, we do not advise embedded projects use that approach unless absolutely necessary.

  • See also pw_log_tokenized for details on leveraging Pigweed’s tokenizer module for logging.

  • See also pw_tokenizer for details on Pigweed’s tokenizer, which is useful for more than just logging.

Why does the facade use header redirection instead of C functions?

Without header redirection, it is not possible to do sophisticated macro transforms in the backend. For example, to apply tokenization to log strings, the backend must define the handling macros. Additionally, compile-time filtering by log level or flags is not possible without header redirection. While it may be possible to do the filtering in the facade, that would imply having the same filtering implementation for all log handling, which is a restriction we want to avoid.

Why is the module name done as a preprocessor define rather than an argument?

APIs are a balance between power and ease of use. In the practical cases we have seen over the years, most translation units only need to log to one module, like "BLE", "PWR", "BAT" and so on. Thus, adding the argument to each macro call seemed like too much. On the other hand, flags are something that are typically added on a per-log-statement basis, and is why the flags are added on a per-call basis (though hidden through the high-level macros).