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Or would I have to write my own? What's the best language for building a tool of this kind?

I'm kind of new to linux, but I'm guessing that you could pass the output of a program to a particular script and have it display it in various colours, based on some regular expressions (constructed from some kind of config file perhaps). Or has it been done already...?

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MultiTail has support for colorizing logs according to some (possibly preconfigured) patterns.

Log Tool is another example of such software.

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Supercat (spc) works really well. It's in the Debian and Ubuntu repositories and may be in others.

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