August 19, 2008

The wonderful thing about computers and electronic gizmos is that they do mundane, repetitive tasks quickly, efficiently and with much less lip than humans. In fact, that’s all they ever do. But how to use this power?

Enter Cronnix.

Cronnix is a GUI for OS X’s crontab server. Crontab is a system-level application that runs every minute and checks whether programs or scripts are set up to run at that time. It enables you to schedule programs at any time your computer is on, and accomplish tasks that would normally be time consuming to perform manually. Work like backing up websites and cleaning up your computer is prime for automation. Cronnix makes it very easy to schedule bash scripts or even regular applications.

I’m just starting to touch the possibilities of the crontab. Currently I have two programs set to run with Cronnix: one is a nerdy, complicated method for loading my MacBook’s uptime on my blog, the other is an Applescript to record the web stream of a local radio station. Both are too complicated to share here, but if you’re interested in the uptime system, head over to my personal blog.

Cronnix Usage

Using Cronnix is conveniently simple. As shown in the above image of the window, there are 4 tabs to give you options for editing and adding tasks. Every event is shown in the list, where you can make changes as necessary.

To add a new task, press New and fill in the options as shown above. The numbers and asterisks need to be in their right place for your task to execute successfully.

For example, the image above shows the correct options for running the application at 8 AM on weekdays. The * indicates that the time is irrelevant. This means if you wish to change the timing to 9:45 AM on the 5th day of every month, you would need to change the options to 45 Minute, 9 Hour, 5 Day of month, * Month, and check the box next to All days of the week.

With that style, you can set up any application to run at any time you wish.

The thing to remember is that the box marked Prepend “/usr/bin/open” should be checked if your application is not a command line script. Prepend “/usr/bin/open” means open the file with whatever application you have set as default. For example, if you’re running a bash script and leave the box checked, the file will simply open in your text editor, and not execute. If you want to run an Automator action, for example, you must remember to check the box.

Final Words

Cronnix is an easy to use application that has one purpose and excels at it. For scheduling your work without resorting to the command line, give Cronnix a try.

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