Get Live Access Logs With a Simple Linux Command

Here’s a neat little trick for those of you with SSH access to your Linux server. You can use a simple command to get a live-updated stream of your access log, so you can see hits as they come in. It’s sort of like the “spy” tool in Woopra or pMetrics, but geekier and with less visual polish. :)

Linux "tail -f" on an Apache Access Log

First you need to connect to the server with SSH. Once you’re in, change your working directory to wherever Apache stashes its log files on your system. On my Ubuntu install it’s /var/log/apache2. So I would type cd /var/log/apache2 to switch to that directory. Next, run the tail command like so:

tail -f access.log

Tail normally outputs the last several lines of a file and then returns to a prompt, but with the -f argument it continues to monitor the file for changes, and outputs them. So as the Apache server writes to the log file, tail spits the new lines out on your screen.

When you’re done, press Ctrl+C to terminate the tail process and go back to the shell prompt.