Most Linux/Unix veterans use cron to schedule tasks on their machines and it is a very powerful utility for what it does.
The problem with cron is the cryptic syntax which tends to scare away most new users and the fact that a user has to use the terminal to create a new job.
In this tutorial we will explain how to use a graphical front end to cron, called gnome-schedule.
Gnome-schedule is a graphical front-end to cron and at, another utility to execute commands at a specified time . It is completely GUI driven and the user does not need to have any prior knowledge of cron or it’s syntax.
To get started with gnome-schedule on Ubuntu/Debian, install it using the apt-get install command:
apt-get install gnome-schedule
Once, gnome-schedule is installed, it can be launched from the Applications -> System Tools -> Scheduled Tasks menu entry.
Scheduling a new Task
To schedule a new task, click on the New button in the menu bar.
There are three options to create new tasks, either create a recurring task (This will use cron at the backend), or create a one time task (This will use at at the backend) or use a template.
For our purpose here, we’ll create a recurring task. Click on New -> Recurring task and you should see the following window which will let you define the task.
The advanced radio button will let you chose exactly when do you want the task to be run. ‘*’ here stands for ‘all’. So, the above task will be run on Day 1 of every month at 0 hours and 0 minutes. The handy preview, in case you didn’t notice, tell you exactly what option have you selected.
You don’t need to manually enter the times. Click on the Edit button next to the text field and you will be able to select the exact time of the task using a simple GUI.
Once a task has been created, the gnome-schedule application can be closed and cron will take care of executing the task at your chosen time and interval.
gnome-schedule also lets you create templates for tasks that you schedule frequently. Although, I don’t use this option a lot since I don’t really have that many tasks to be scheduled at any given time, some people might find this option useful.
gnome-schedule is an absolute time saver and negates the need to learn the complex cron syntax for newbies. It presents almost all the power of cron to the users with a nice and easy to learn interface.
Are there any other scheduling applications that you guys use ? Let me know in the comments.