This article will cover creating a cron job in your JetRails environment. A cron job is a bash script or command that runs according to a schedule. These are often used to run antivirus scanners, update data on a website, or automate repetitive tasks like flushing cache at the end of a work day. Any regularly scheduled activity done via the command line or a script should be inserted into the cron, which is done by editing a user’s crontab file.
Regular editors should not be used to edit the crontab file. A program called crontab should be used instead; Crontab verifies your edit and ensures that no syntax errors exist. Run the following command to edit the current user’s crontab file:
$ crontab -e
If a command or script must be run once and only once at a particular time, at should be used instead.
General crontab format
The format of the crontab file consists of lines, with each line having a schedule specified and the job command on the right. Here is an example:
* * * * * /bin/bash /home/user/cronjob_script.sh
In the example above, the command that will be run is
/bin/bash /home/user/cronjob_script.sh with the
* * * * * schedule. The first five columns represents a unit time, with increasing units from left to right:
* * * * * │ │ │ │ └─ Day of Week │ │ │ └─── Month │ │ └───── Day of Month │ └─────── Hour └───────── Minute
|Day of Month||1-31|
|Month||1-12, as well as 3-letter names (Jan, Feb, etc.)|
|Day of Week||0-6, as well as 3-letter names (Mon, Tue, etc.)|
An asterisk means “for every”, so using all asterisks will make a cron job run every minute of every day of every month.
A useful tool for checking the input schedule of a cron job is crontab.guru. Crontab Guru will give a plain English description of when a cronjob will run.
Operators for lists, ranges, and steps
Crontab has a syntax which uses operators to specify lists, ranges, and steps to allow you to program any schedule. Below is a description of the operators and what they do.
|each time unit in the range |
Some examples of these operators in action can be seen below:
|minutes 0 and 30 in hour 4|
|minute 10 of every two hours after noon (hour 12)|
|every minute of every day of the first week of every month|
|every minute past every 2nd hour from hour 12 through 23|
To enter comments, use
#at the beginning of a line. This also allows disabling cron jobs by commenting them out.
Predefined schedule macros
Some cron implementations support replacing the first five fields with special strings that specify a particular schedule. These include the following:
|@yearly||Once per year|
|@annually||Same as yearly|
|@monthly||Once per month|
|@weekly||Once per week|
|@daily||Once per day|
|@midnight||Same as daily|
|@hourly||Once per hour|
Here is an example of a job that runs annually:
On Debian-based systems such as Ubuntu, the crontab supports declaring environmental variables above a job’s line:
SHELL="/bin/bash" * * * * * /usr/local/bin/run_every_minute.sh
On Red-Hat based systems, cron does not support putting environmental variables above a job. Instead, they should be prepended to the line on the job:
* * * * * [email protected] /usr/local/bin/check_for_errors.sh
|Variable Name||Default Value|
|Defaults to the user who owns the cron job|
Whenever a cron job produces output, cron sends the output via email to the user who owns it. To prevent this, set
MAILTO="". To prevent this for some jobs but not all jobs following
MAILTO="", redirect the output to
/dev/null. Below is an example of redirecting all output to
/dev/null to never receive an email from a job:
* * * * * /usr/local/bin/silent_job.sh 2>&1 > /dev/null
Below is an example redirecting only standard output so that errors will be sent in an email:
* * * * * /usr/local/bin/email_on_errors.sh > /dev/null
There is no way to have a multi-line cron job. If multiple lines are necessary, they should be put in a script which is then scheduled in the crontab.
Caveats and other information
% special character
The special character
% is replaced with a newline and effectively becomes the end of the cron job’s command. Everything after the
% is then sent to the command as standard input.
Days-of-week versus days-of-month
You may have noticed that days on which jobs have two fields: its number in the month (1-31) and the day of the week. If
* is used in only one of the fields, the job runs when specified in the other field. If both don’t use an asterisk, the job runs when either of the fields match.
* 12 1,15 * 0 runs at noon on the 1st and 15th of every month, as well as every Sunday.
Using day or month names
Names of days of the week may be substituted for numbers for readability. Months of the year support this same substitution. The names of both are the first three letters of the day/month (i.e. Jan, Feb, Sun, Mon) and are case-insensitive. Using names and ranges/lists together (i.e. Sun,Wed,Fri or Jan-Mar) are not supported.
For more information, consult the crontab(5) man page.