crontab file contains instructions to the
of the general form: “run this command at this time on this date”.
Each user has their own crontab, and commands in any given crontab
will be executed as the user who owns the crontab. Uucp and News will
usually have their own crontabs, eliminating the need for explicitly
su as part of a cron command.
Blank lines and leading spaces and tabs are ignored. Lines whose first non-space character is a pound-sign (#) are comments, and are ignored. Note that comments are not allowed on the same line as cron commands, since they will be taken to be part of the command. Similarly, comments are not allowed on the same line as environment variable settings.
An active line in a crontab will be either an environment setting or a cron command. An environment setting is of the form,
name = value
where the spaces around the equal-sign (=) are optional, and any
subsequent non-leading spaces in
value will be part of the
value assigned to
value string may be placed
in quotes (single or double, but matching) to preserve leading or
Several environment variables are set up automatically by the
cron daemon. SHELL is set to /bin/sh, and LOGNAME and HOME are
set from the /etc/passwd line of the crontab’s owner. HOME and SHELL
may be overridden by settings in the crontab; LOGNAME may not.
(Another note: the LOGNAME variable is sometimes called USER on BSD systems... on these systems, USER will be set also.) 2
In addition to LOGNAME, HOME, and SHELL,
cron will look at
MAILTO if it has any reason to send mail as a result of running
commands in “this” crontab. If MAILTO is defined (and non-empty),
mail is sent to the user so named. If MAILTO is defined but empty
(MAILTO=""), no mail will be sent. Otherwise mail is sent to the
owner of the crontab. This option is useful if you decide on
/bin/mail instead of /usr/lib/sendmail as your mailer when you install
cron – /bin/mail doesn’t do aliasing, and UUCP usually doesn’t read
The format of a cron command is very much the V7 standard, with a number of
upward-compatible extensions. Each line has five time and date fields,
followed by a user name if this is the system crontab file,
followed by a command. Commands are executed by
when the minute, hour, and month of year fields match the current
time, and when at least one of the two day fields (day of month, or day of week)
match the current time (see “Note” below).
cron examines cron entries once every minute.
The time and date fields are:
|day of month||0-31|
|month||0-12 (or names, see below)|
|day of week||0-7 (0 or 7 is Sun, or use names)|
A field may be an asterisk (*), which always stands for “first-last”.
Ranges of numbers are allowed. Ranges are two numbers separated with a hyphen. The specified range is inclusive. For example, 8-11 for an “hours” entry specifies execution at hours 8, 9, 10 and 11.
Lists are allowed. A list is a set of numbers (or ranges) separated by commas. Examples: “1,2,5,9”, “0-4,8-12”.
Step values can be used in conjunction with ranges. Following a range with “/<number>” specifies skips of the number’s value through the range. For example, “0-23/2” can be used in the hours field to specify command execution every other hour (the alternative in the V7 standard is “0,2,4,6,8,10,12,14,16,18,20,22”). Steps are also permitted after an asterisk, so if you want to say “every two hours”, just use “*/2”.
Names can also be used for the “month” and “day of week” fields. Use the first three letters of the particular day or month (case doesn’t matter). Ranges or lists of names are not allowed. 3
The “sixth” field (the rest of the line) specifies the command to be run. The entire command portion of the line, up to a newline or % character, will be executed by /bin/sh or by the shell specified in the SHELL variable of the cronfile. Percent-signs (%) in the command, unless escaped with backslash (\\), will be changed into newline characters, and all data after the first % will be sent to the command as standard input.
Note: The day of a command’s execution can be specified by two fields – day of month, and day of week. If both fields are restricted (ie, aren’t *), the command will be run when either field matches the current time. For example,
“30 4 1,15 * 5”
would cause a command to be run at 4:30 am on the 1st and 15th of each month, plus every Friday.
EXAMPLE CRON FILE
# use /bin/sh to run commands, no matter what /etc/passwd says SHELL=/bin/sh # mail any output to `paul', no matter whose crontab this is MAILTO=paul # # run five minutes after midnight, every day 5 0 * * * $HOME/bin/daily.job >> $HOME/tmp/out 2>&1 # run at 2:15pm on the first of every month -- output mailed to paul 15 14 1 * * $HOME/bin/monthly # run at 10 pm on weekdays, annoy Joe 0 22 * * 1-5 mail -s "It's 10pm" joe%Joe,%%Where are your kids?% 23 0-23/2 * * * echo "run 23 minutes after midn, 2am, 4am ..., everyday" 5 4 * * sun echo "run at 5 after 4 every sunday"
mcron has not been ported to BSD, so these notes are not relevant.
Mcron allows any alphabetic characters after a name, so full names of days or months are also valid.