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 name. The value string may be placed in quotes (single or double, but matching) to preserve leading or trailing blanks.
Several environment variables are set up automatically by the cron(8) 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.)
In addition to LOGNAME, HOME, and SHELL, cron(8) 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 its mail.
By default, cron will send mail using the mail 'Content-Type:' header of 'text/plain' with the 'charset=' parameter set to the charmap / codeset of the locale in which crond(8) is started up - ie. either the default system locale, if no LC_* environment variables are set, or the locale specified by the LC_* environment variables (see locale(7)). You can use different character encodings for mailed cron job output by setting the CONTENT_TYPE and CONTENT_TRANSFER_ENCODING variables in crontabs, to the correct values of the mail headers of those names.
The MLS_LEVEL environment variable provides support for multiple per-job SELinux security contexts in the same crontab. By default, cron jobs execute with the default SELinux security context of the user that created the crontab file. When using multiple security levels and roles, this may not be sufficient, because the same user may be running in a different role or at a different security level. For more about roles and SELinux MLS/MCS see selinux(8) and undermentioned crontab example. You can set MLS_LEVEL to the SELinux security context string specifying the SELinux security context in which you want the job to run, and crond will set the execution context of the or jobs to which the setting applies to the specified context. See also the crontab(1) -s option.
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 cron(8) when the minute, hour, and month of year fields match the current time, and at least one of the two day fields (day of month, or day of week) match the current time (see "Note" below). Note that this means that non-existent times, such as "missing hours" during daylight savings conversion, will never match, causing jobs scheduled during the "missing times" not to be run. Similarly, times that occur more than once (again, during daylight savings conversion) will cause matching jobs to be run twice.
cron(8) examines cron entries once every minute.
The time and date fields are:
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.
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
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.
# 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"
# login as root newrole -r sysadm_r mkdir /tmp/SystemHigh chcon -l SystemHigh /tmp/SystemHigh crontab -e # write in crontab file MLS_LEVEL=SystemHigh 0-59 * * * * id -Z > /tmp/SystemHigh/crontest Now if I log in as a normal user it can't work, because /tmp/SystemHigh is higher than my level.
Lists and ranges are allowed to co-exist in the same field. "1-3,7-9" would be rejected by ATT or BSD cron -- they want to see "1-3" or "7,8,9" ONLY.
Ranges can include "steps", so "1-9/2" is the same as "1,3,5,7,9".
Names of months or days of the week can be specified by name.
Environment variables can be set in the crontab. In BSD or ATT, the environment handed to child processes is basically the one from /etc/rc.
Command output is mailed to the crontab owner (BSD can't do this), can be mailed to a person other than the crontab owner (SysV can't do this), or the feature can be turned off and no mail will be sent at all (SysV can't do this either).
These special time specification "nicknames" are supported, which replace the 5 initial time and date fields, and are prefixed by the '@' character:
@reboot : Run once, at startup. @yearly : Run once a year, ie. "0 0 1 1 *". @annually : Run once a year, ie. "0 0 1 1 *". @monthly : Run once a month, ie. "0 0 1 * *". @weekly : Run once a week, ie. "0 0 * * 0". @daily : Run once a day, ie. "0 0 * * *". @hourly : Run once an hour, ie. "0 * * * *".
Paul Vixie <firstname.lastname@example.org>