Making CRON expressions human-readable

3 years ago
3 min read

This weekend, I’ve released a new PHP library that translates any valid CRON expression into some text that can be read and understood by humans.

CRON Translator on GitHub

It’s a simple input/output library and, once you’ve installed it through composer, you can use it like this.

use Lorisleiva\CronTranslator\CronTranslator;

CronTranslator::translate('* * * * *');       // => Every minute
CronTranslator::translate('30 22 * * *');     // => Every day at 10:30pm
CronTranslator::translate('0 16 * * 1');      // => Every Monday at 4:00pm
CronTranslator::translate('0 0 1 1 *');       // => Every year on January the 1st at 12:00am
CronTranslator::translate('0 0 1 * *');       // => The 1st of every month at 12:00am
CronTranslator::translate('0 * * * 1');       // => Once an hour on Mondays
CronTranslator::translate('* 1-20 * * *');    // => Every minute 20 hours a day
CronTranslator::translate('0,30 * * * *');    // => Twice an hour
CronTranslator::translate('0 1-5 * * *');     // => 5 times a day
CronTranslator::translate('0 1 1-5 * *');     // => 5 days a month at 1:00am
CronTranslator::translate('*/2 * * * *');     // => Every 2 minutes
CronTranslator::translate('* 1/3 2 * *');     // => Every minute of every 3 hours on the 2nd of every month
CronTranslator::translate('1-3/5 * * * *');   // => 3 times every 5 minutes
CronTranslator::translate('1,2 0 */2 1,2 *'); // => Twice an hour every 2 days 2 months a year at 12am

Note that the library currently supports a subset of the CRON features (e.g. no W and L) and tries to make sense of the expression without cramming too much information in order to stay human-friendly.

For example, the CRON expression * 0 * * 1,3,5 means it will only run on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays but translate to "Every minute 3 days a week at 12am". Whilst we lose the information regarding the exact days of the week, it keeps the translation concise and easier to reason with.

Why did I build this?

I’m currently working on a new course on building Single Page Applications (SPA) using Laravel, VueJS and TailwindCSS. During that course, I will be implementing a new SPA from scratch called Paparazzi — an app that schedules screenshots for any web page. I’m still working on the design but here is a current screenshot of the app we will be building.

Paparazzi app screenshot

As you can see, each "paparazzi" takes a screenshot at a certain frequency. Whilst we will leverage CRON expressions to define those frequencies, we need a human-friendly way to display that frequency to our users. Hence the CRON translator library.

This course will also use some of my other packages in order to provide additional documentation for them. That includes Laravel Actions, Javel, Laravel Deployer and TailwindCSS plugins.

I haven’t designed a landing page for the course just yet but when I do I’ll be notifying my blog’s subscribers so feel free to sign up in the meantime.

Thanks for reading this far and I hope you’ll see some use for that new CRON translator library. ⏰

CRON Translator on GitHub


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