Sending your own output to the WordPress debug log

Every WordPress developer knows how to use WP_DEBUG in the wp-config.php file to enable the WordPress debug log. But how do you go about sending output to the WordPress debug log, so you can debug your own code while developing a theme or plugin?

Every developer is familiar with using the old print_r($my_stuff); die; trick to print the contents of an array (or object) to the screen so you can make sure that your code is doing what you expect. A better way to do this is write to your own custom log file, of course, and until this week I’ve maintained a separate PHP log file and using the PHP error log function to write to this;

error_log($my_stuff, 3, "/var/tmp/my-errors.log");

I then use Console on my mac to watch this log:

Mac Console
Mac Console

While this is completely fine, in the background WordPress is busy sending output to the WordPress debug log file, which (providing you’ve enabled WP_DEBUG) lives in wp-content/debug.log. I got fed up with having two separate Console windows open to monitor these, and looked into how I could write my own output directly to the WordPress debug log. And it turns out it’s pretty easy.

Add the following code to your theme’s functions.php file;

if (!function_exists('write_log')) {
    function write_log ( $log )  {
        if ( true === WP_DEBUG ) {
            if ( is_array( $log ) || is_object( $log ) ) {
                error_log( print_r( $log, true ) );
            } else {
                error_log( $log );

What this does is create a custom logging function that you can call within your code – this first checks to see if WP_DEBUG is set to true (notice the yoda condition here, you will – it’s part of the WordPress coding standards). If WP_DEBUG is switched on, the function prints the contents of $log to the WordPress error log. It doesn’t matter if you’ve populated $log with a variable, array or object – the function checks and handles those.

Whenever you need to be sending output to the WordPress debug log file in your code, simply call the new function as follows;



Note that I always use two lines here – the first so I can search for my custom output in Console, and the second the actual data I want to log.

Now you can simply monitor the wp-content/debug.log file  for both WordPress errors and your custom ones. Hope someone else finds that useful!