Cron allows you to run commands, programs, and scripts automatically at defined points in time or on a schedule. It’s powerful, it’s light, and it’s also hard to wrap your head around. That’s why you can find front-ends that try to simplify the use of crontab, and Zeit is one of the best ones.
Zeit’s sole goal is to make adding and managing your cron jobs very easy. With Zeit, running commands and scripts is as straightforward as adding a new entry to a task list. Let’s see how it allows you to easily create cron jobs in Linux.
On most Linux distributions, you’ll have to build Zeit from source. After downloading it, and according to the official documentation, you can turn it into a usable app with:
If you’re on Ubuntu, you can add its repository and install Zeit with the following commands:
After a while, you’ll find Zeit among the rest of your installed programs. Locate and run the app.
Tasks and Schedules
Zeit’s interface is straightforward. To add a task, click “Add Task” button.
Enter a name for your task in the Description field. Type the command you want to schedule in the Command field.
In the “Time and Date” section, you can select Basic, which allows you to quickly schedule a task to run on a regular pattern. For more customization, choose the Advanced option.
The Advanced option allows you to input precisely the minute, hour, day, day of the week, and month a task will run. All fields are populated initially with an asterisk, which works as a wildcard translating to “every.” For example, if you input “*” in the Day field, it means “every day.”
You can input more than one number, separating them with commas. For example, if you enter “20, 23” in the Hour field and “35′ in the Minute field, your task will run at 20:35 and 23:35 every day.
If you ever want a reminder of crontab’s syntax, leave your mouse hovering over one of the fields. Zeit will show you a useful pop-up with a list of examples of how you can set up the task’s schedule.
After you’ve created a task, it will appear in Zeit’s main list. If you want to disable a task quickly, you can double-click on it, while a right-click will also allow you to edit or entirely remove it.
Alarms and Timers
Zeit allows you to set up Alarms and Timers, but we won’t go into detail on how to do that, since it’s even simpler than tasks. With Alarms and Timers, you don’t have to worry about wildcards and complicated schedules, for even if it would be useful for some, there’s no such functionality offered.
You can only set simple schedules, defining the time and selecting the days when an Alarm or Timer will run. That’s it. Two extra buttons allow you to input the current time in the Hour and Minutes fields (the Now button) or clear them (the Reset button). You must use the two buttons with the folder icons, next to Player and Sound File, to choose a media player and a sound file when setting up alarms and timers. Since Zeit/crontab won’t have a way to notify you without them, it also won’t allow you to set up a rule with those fields being blank.
With Zeit, you’re editing your own crontab rules by default, active only for your user account. To see all rules (by others and the system) and be able to edit everything, enable “System Mode” from the View menu.
With System Mode, you’ll be able to tweak existing rules – for example, for the automated reports Ubuntu creates for your OS. Be extra careful when tweaking such rules and keep in mind that any changes you make can break stuff. It’s also possible for your tweaks to be overwritten after a software update.
Filter and Find
If you find yourself trying to locate a particular rule, you can use its search feature instead of scrolling up and down the list. Press Ctrl + F on your keyboard, and a search field will appear at the bottom of Zeit’s window. Enter your search term to find the task you want to find.