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Automate Recurring Tasks with Python CronTab: A Time-Based Job Scheduler

Python Crontab: The Time-Based Job Scheduler for UNIX-Like Operating Systems

Have you ever had a task that you wanted to schedule to run at a specific time on a regular basis? Perhaps you have a script that needs to be executed daily or a backup that should run every week on a given day and at a specific time.

For UNIX-like operating systems, there exists a time-based job scheduler called “cron.” Cron allows you to schedule tasks to run automatically at set intervals, which can be daily, weekly, monthly and beyond. In this article, we’ll be discussing Python crontab, which is a Python module that allows you to connect to the cron job scheduler and manage your scheduled tasks from within your Python scripts.

What is cron?

Simply put, cron is a time-based job scheduler that is built into most UNIX-like operating systems.

It allows you to schedule recurring tasks that are automatically executed at specific times, intervals or by specific events.

The syntax of crontabs

Cron uses a special syntax for describing schedules that are used to execute a command at specific intervals. The syntax consists of six fields separated by spaces: minute, hour, day of the month, month, day of the week, and the command to be executed.

Here is an example of a cron schedule that runs a command “” every day at 3:14 pm:

14 15 * * * /path/to/

Working with the Python crontab module

The Python crontab module is a third-party library that allows you to manage your cron jobs from within your Python scripts. It provides an easy-to-use interface for creating, modifying, and deleting cron jobs.

Installing the python-crontab module

To get started with Python crontab, you need to install the python-crontab module. You can easily install it using pip:

$ pip install python-crontab

Creating a CronTab object

To use the Python crontab module, you need to create a CronTab object. The CronTab object represents the cron table for the current user or the root user.

Here’s how to create a CronTab object:

from crontab import CronTab

# Creates a CronTab object for the current user
cron = CronTab(user=True)

Working with Jobs

A job is the basic unit of work in cron. Each job is responsible for running a single command at a specific time according to a specified schedule.

Creating a job

To create a new job, you need to create an instance of the Job class from the CronTab object. Here’s how to create a job that runs a script every day at midnight:

job ='/path/to/')
job.setall('0 0 * * *')

The setall() method takes a string representing the cron schedule.

In this example, the job is scheduled to run at midnight every day.

Job restrictions

You can also set restrictions on when a job can run. For example, you may want a job to only run on weekdays or between certain hours.

Here’s an example of a job that only runs on weekdays:

job.setall('0 0 * * 1-5')

This job will run at midnight every weekday.

Clearing jobs

To delete a job, you can use the job.clear() method. Here’s an example of how to delete a job:

jobs = cron.find(command='/path/to/')
for job in jobs:

Final thoughts

Python crontab provides an easy-to-use interface for working with the cron job scheduler from within your Python scripts. With the ability to schedule jobs at specific times and intervals, you can simplify your workflow and automate repetitive tasks.

So why not give it a try?

3) Writing to the crontab file

The CronTab file is a text file that contains the list of all scheduled cron jobs. The file is loaded into the cron daemon and used to execute the commands at scheduled time intervals.

Any changes made to the CronTab file are immediately read by the daemon, which then executes the appropriate commands according to their schedules.

CronTab object

In Python, you can create a CronTab object that allows you to connect to the CronTab file and interact with the scheduled jobs. Once you create a CronTab object, you can add, modify, and remove cron jobs from within your Python script.

To write the changes to the CronTab file, you can use the cron.write() method. This method writes all changes you made to the CronTab object to the CronTab file.

Example of a clean CronTab file

Let’s take a look at some examples of CronTab files. Here are a few schedules that output “hello_world” to the console:

  1. */5 * * * * echo hello_world

    The above schedule runs the command “echo hello_world” every fifth minute.

    The first “*” means “every minute,” while “*/5” means “every fifth minute.”

  2. */5 */4 * * * echo hello_world

    This schedule runs “echo hello_world” every fifth minute but only during the fourth hour, fourth day of the month, and every month of the year.

  3. */5 */4 4,5,6 * * echo hello_world

    This schedule runs “echo hello_world” every fifth minute, but only during the fourth, fifth and sixth month of the year.

These are just a few examples of the many possible Crontab schedules.

The syntax for creating these schedules can be complex and require online tools to help automate the process.

4) Benefits of using cron

The Cron job scheduler has several benefits that you should consider when automating processes. These benefits include the following:

  1. Automation

    Cron allows you to automate the execution of repetitive tasks. This frees up your time and reduces the risk of human error when executing these tasks manually.

  2. Scheduling

    With Cron, you can schedule scripts to run at specific times or intervals.

    This allows you to run these scripts in the background while you complete other work.

  3. Efficient use of resources

    Cron ensures that scripts are executed only when needed, so you do not waste valuable resources running them when not required.

  4. Customizability

    You can customize your scripts to run at specific times or intervals that suit your needs.

Other modules to automate tasks

While cron is an excellent tool for automating processes, Python offers several other modules that can help you automate tasks more effectively.

  1. datetime module

    The datetime module enables you to calculate time intervals and perform time-related operations easily. This module simplifies the process of working with dates and times in Python.

  2. sched module

    The sched module provides a way to schedule events in Python.

    With this module, you can schedule functions to run at specific times or intervals. Unlike cron, the sched module is not limited to operating system jobs, which makes it more flexible and versatile.


Python crontab allows you to manage and automate tasks simply from within your Python scripts. Scheduling tasks using the cron module will save you a lot of time and effort.

Scheduling regular tasks or configurations can be tedious and time-consuming if done manually. Therefore, Cron is incredibly beneficial when you need to automate these types of processes.

While Cron is an excellent tool, Python also has other modules that can simplify the process of working with dates and times in Python. In conclusion, using Python crontab and the Cron job scheduler can greatly enhance the automation of recurring tasks, making it easier to manage your scheduled jobs with the Python scripts.

With its ability to schedule tasks at specific times and intervals, Cron helps you automate the process and saves you valuable time. Additionally, Python offers other modules, such as datetime and sched, which you can use for automating tasks beyond the Cron tool.

With so many helpful modules available in Python, you can explore the full range of tools available in order to automate and simplify your work. Overall, the utilization of Python in automating tasks is crucial in reducing the amount of time required in processing repetitive tasks.

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