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What's a simple way to run a command, say, 8 hours from now? I can think of this way:

nohup bash -c "sleep 28800 ; ./" &

Is there a more "proper" way?

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Is there something wrong with nohup + sleep? Why is it "improper"? – Cyprian Guerra Nov 24 '15 at 13:32
up vote 66 down vote accepted

You can use the at command. The at execute commands at a later time. The at utility shall read commands from standard input and group them together as an at-job, to be executed at a later time.

at is not installed by default and can be installed via:

sudo apt-get install at

For more information, options, examples, and others see the Ubuntu Manpage Repository


at now +8 hours -f ~/

You can also use convenient shorthands, like tomorrow or noon, as in

echo "tweet fore" | at teatime 

The example also demonstrates how you can pipe actions into at. at -c is the way you can examine scheduled actions, which you can conveniently list with their number, as with:

at -c 3
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It might be helpful to add a simple usage example that addresses the original poster's question more specifically e.g. at now +8 hours -f ~/ – steeldriver Aug 30 '13 at 12:12
In addition, there is at 8:00 to run the command at an absolute time, and batch for "when it looks like the computer is idle" – Simon Richter Aug 30 '13 at 18:09
In case anyone was wondering, teamtime is at 4pm. For some reasons it's not mentioned in but it is in man at and here – Dan Sep 6 '13 at 7:53
Wow, batch looks like a really useful command (although its mode of operation is weird - no arguments.) – Steve Bennett Sep 9 '13 at 12:34
Maybe we can mention that "at" utility is not installed by default and if anyone else want to get it simply install the "at" package? Edit: Anyway, i simply edited the answer (also fixed the manpage link). – heartsmagic Feb 12 '14 at 10:11

Yes, you can set a cron job.

For example if now the time is 14:39:00 and today is friday, 30 august, you can add the following cron job (to be executed after 8 hours) in your crontab file using crontab -e command:

39 22 30 8 5  /path/to/

More about:

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Ok, yes, I should have mentioned I know about Cron jobs. This is even messier because then it sits around in the crontab indefinitely, right? – Steve Bennett Aug 30 '13 at 12:55
@SteveBennett As in my example, no: 5 means friday, 8 means august, 30, means today. – Radu Rădeanu Aug 30 '13 at 12:58
@RaduRădeanu: with cron, careful that it could fire again in a few years (when there is another 30th of August occuring on a friday) ... – Olivier Dulac Aug 30 '13 at 13:12
@OlivierDulac The current version of Ubuntu will be probably EOF at that time (30 august 2019) :) – Radu Rădeanu Aug 30 '13 at 13:13
This is a clever hack. However 'at' is a much better way. What would happen if the computer was turned off at 14:39? – emory Aug 30 '13 at 14:47

Use the Gnome-based GUI for cron, at, and the like:

The introduction of the CronHowto suggests using the gnome-schedule gui, which is much nicer than typing all the garbage into the terminal (esp. for "average" Ubuntu users who are not "power" *nix/bsd users.)

Run it by using the Unity Dash (or other applications menu) to look for Scheduled Tasks or running gnome-schedule.

On Gnome-based Ubuntu systems Gnome Scheduled tasks tool (from the gnome-schedule package) in Applications --> System Tools provides a graphical interface with prompting for using Cron. The project website is at; the software is installable from the Software Center or by typing

sudo apt-get install gnome-schedule

in a terminal.

Using gnome-schedule, for a script in your home directory, a new "at" command would be set up using this type of window:

enter image description here

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I figured out a quick and dirty way to do this before I found out at was a thing.

Say you want your script to run at noon:

until date | fgrep -q "12:00:"; do 
    sleep 10

Say you want it to run tomorrow at noon (today is Nov 24 for me):

until date | fgrep -q "25 12:00:"; do 
    sleep 30
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