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Per-user and system-wide scheduled tasks, handled by the cron daemon.


Cron scripts and entries can run from several locations. By using /etc/crontab.d/scriptname you can set different MAILTO and ENV variables and isolate your scheduled jobs. User jobs can be edited via crontab -e.


Some cron daemons don't handle DST correctly. Because of this, do not schedule jobs within the our of 1am. During DST changes this hour happens twice or is skipped altogether.

Cronie says it handled DST gracefully, running jobs that should have run but haven't yet due to time changes, or no running jobs twice when time goes back.

Syntax quirks

Some systems have problems with #/# syntax. (eg: */5 * * * * /usr/bin/whatever)

Default Editor

In some systems, the default editor is found by the symlink located at /etc/defaults/editor. To override this, export the EDITOR environment variable. (eg: export EDITOR=/usr/bin/vim)


Quick and dirty realignment

This will definitely fail in some circumstances.

alias crontab-align='crontab -l | while read -r a b c d e f ; do
  if [[ "$a" =~ ^# ]] ; then
    echo "$a $b $c $d $e $f" ;
    printf "% -20s %s\n" "$a $b $c $d $e" "$f" ;
  fi ;

crontab-align | crontab -

Add a random delay

This example sleeps for a random number of seconds lower than 1800, including 0. The % symbol has to be escaped in crontabs.

0 * * * *   sleep $((RANDOM \% 1800)) ; /usr/local/bin/ ;

Programmatic editing of the crontab

This is potentially dangerous because you can wipe out a user's crontab.

crontab -l | sed -e '/downtime/s/^\#//' | crontab -
echo "* * * * * /usr/local/bin/" | crontab -

See if and when parts are running

Put this in /etc/cron.*/01-cron-log and when those parts run you will see the message in syslog.

logger -t cron Running `basename $PWD`

OS X Alarm Clock

59 5 * * 1-5    /usr/bin/osascript -e 'tell application "iTunes"' -e 'set the sound volume to 100' -e 'end tell'
0  6 * * 1-5    /usr/bin/osascript -e 'tell application "iTunes"' -e 'play playlist "Old Podcasts"' -e 'end tell'
15 8 * * 1-5    /usr/bin/osascript -e 'tell application "iTunes" to stop'

Detect if you are running in an interactive shell

When writing scripts to use with crontab, sometimes you want to give different flags if they are given by a human. The most obvious case of this is verbosity, where you may want to be very verbose when a human runs the command but be quiet in cron.

# Check if we're running in an interactive shell
if [ -t 0 ] ; then

/usr/bin/some-command "${verbosity}"


Having junk files like temp vim files in /var/cron/tabs can make cron go to 100% cpu usage. Remove all non crontab files and kill cron to fix it.