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I made a script that should notify me when there's a new chapter of manga that I'm reading. I used the command notify-send to do this. The program works when I am trying to run it in terminal. The notification is showing. However, when I placed this in my crontab, the notification doesn't show. I'm pretty sure that the program is running since I made it to create a file for me. The file was created, but the notification didn't show.

Here's my script


#One Piece Manga reminder

#I created a file named .newop that contains the latest chapter.

let new=$(cat ~/.newop)

wget --read-timeout=30 -t20 -O .opreminder.txt http://www.mangareader.net/103/one-piece.html

if (( $(cat .opreminder.txt | grep "One Piece $new" | wc -l) >=1 ))


    (( new+=1 ))

    echo $new

    echo $new > ~/.newop

    notify-send "A new chapter of One Piece was released."


    notify-send "No new chapter for One Piece."

    notify-send "The latest chapter is still $new."



And here's what I wrote in my crontab

0,15,30,45 12-23 * * 3   /home/jchester/bin/opreminder.sh
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Just a reminder, all commands in crontab need to have their path in front of them as they run as root. Attaching script and line in crontab would help otherwise we are just guessing at your problem –  Meer Borg May 22 '13 at 11:44
Yeah, sorry. I just did. –  user158335 May 22 '13 at 12:01
This is a bad idea. Notifications are a "GUI" thing, cron is a "console" thing. There is no gaurentee that lib-notify will be able to find a way to display the message. Instead you should consider sending data to stdout and let cron's messaging take care of sending the info. Normally an email is sent. –  coteyr May 22 '13 at 12:53
In some cases setting the DISPLAY variable up may help as well, e.g.: export DISPLAY=:0. –  Glutanimate May 22 '13 at 14:50

5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Commands need to reference their location. So notify-send needs to be /usr/bin/notify-send

All commands need to have their full path.

Use the whereis notify-send command to see where your commands "live"

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Does that include cat, wget, if, let, grep, echo, etc? –  user158335 May 22 '13 at 12:10
If the whereis command returns a value yes, "if/echo/exit" is the exception as its internal to bash, you will note "whereis id" returns "if:" denoting internal command –  Meer Borg May 22 '13 at 12:12
Nice! Thank you very much Meer! –  user158335 May 22 '13 at 12:16
enable -a will show you the internal commands. –  l0b0 May 22 '13 at 14:25
At least on my system, notify-send is on the PATH even for a cron job. See my answer below. –  krlmlr Sep 17 '13 at 9:11

Things seem to be different on 13.04, at least in Gnome Shell.

First, this is what env prints when run from user zzyxy's (not root's) cron job:


To get notify-send to work, it seems to be necessary to set the DBUS_SESSION_BUS_ADDRESS environment variable, as per DahitiF's comment on ubuntuforums.org. Just prepend the following to your actual job description:

eval "export $(egrep -z DBUS_SESSION_BUS_ADDRESS /proc/$(pgrep -u $LOGNAME gnome-session)/environ)";

It doesn't seem to be necessary to set DISPLAY.

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Thanks, this is what finally worked for me. On Xubuntu, you have to change gnome-session to xfce4-session. –  shrx Feb 19 at 10:05
This is the only answer to work for 14.04, along with the obvious hint of the accepted one. –  Wtower yesterday

Command notify-send would not show the message on your screen when started by cron. Just add target display at the top of your script:

export DISPLAY=:0

Works for me with Ubuntu 14.04.

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This is what I had to do in 14.10 too. Otherwise I would get this error gdk_mir_display_open Failed to connect to Mir: Failed to connect to server socket: No such file or directory Option parsing failed: Cannot open display: –  Joelmob Oct 29 '14 at 23:43

First culprit is your crontab file, you also need to mention the user name with which the script has to be executed, better keep it as root

0,15,30,45 12-23 * * 3 root   /home/jchester/bin/opreminder.sh

and then you should use the user_name of the GUI user inside the script and prepend it to notify-send with "sudo or su" to execute the command as a user who owns the GUI

example :

su gnome_user_name -c 'notify-send "summary" "body"'


sudo -u gnome_user_name notify-send "summary" "body"

where gnome_user_name is the username of the user who started the GUI session it is you who logged in, and if you want to make it a dynamic pick, you can get it from

GNOME_USER=`ps -ef | grep gnome-session | grep -v grep | head -1 | cut -d ' ' -f1`

example :

su $GNOME_USER -c 'notify-send "summary" "body"'


sudo -u $GNOME_USER notify-send "summary" "body"
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For Ubuntu 14.04 at least, klrmr's response above is the correct answer. It does not appear to be necessary to set DISPLAY or articulate full paths for notify-send or anything otherwise normally in $PATH.

Below is a cron script I'm using to shutdown a virtual machine when a laptop's battery state becomes too low. The line setting DBUS_SESSION_BUS_ADDRESS in klrmr's response above is the modification that finally got the warnings working correctly.


# if virtual machine is running, monitor power consumption
if pgrep -x vmware-vmx; then
  if [ -e "$bat_path" ]; then
    bat_status=$(cat $bat_path/status)
    if [ "$bat_status" == "Discharging" ]; then
      bat_current=$(cat $bat_path/capacity)
      # halt vm if critical; notify if low
      if [ "$bat_current" -lt 10 ]; then
        echo "$( date +%Y.%m.%d_%T )" >> "/home/user/Desktop/VM Halt Low Battery"
        elif [ "$bat_current" -lt 15 ]; then
            eval "export $(egrep -z DBUS_SESSION_BUS_ADDRESS /proc/$(pgrep -u $LOGNAME gnome-session)/environ)";
            notify-send -i "/usr/share/icons/ubuntu-mono-light/status/24/battery-caution.svg"  "Virtual machine will halt when battery falls below 10% charge."

exit 0
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