Background

I am implementing a system similar to SQL Agent Jobs and Windows Scheduled Tasks where I need to run some type of job on a recurring basis. I needed to store the recurring schedule (every 5 minutes, once a month, every 3 hours, etc.) in my database so my system knows when to fire the jobs.  At first I didn’t think this would be that big of a challenge to model but the deeper I got into the problem I realized it was a bit hairy. Think about it. How many fields do you need to store this info and how do you account for schedules such as “every 3 hours, Monday through Friday between 8AM-5PM”? Bit field for each day of the week, start/end time fields with another field that signifies a recurrence interval? It gets messy fast when you dig into it.

Fortunately, since I am familiar with Linux I have utilized cron on many occasions and know that a cron expression is a simple representation of a (potentially) complex recurring schedule.  I decided to simply store a cron schedule in 1 (only one!) database varchar field and leverage the excellent ncrontab (a cron parsing library for .NET) to read and work with it.

This left me with one residual challenge.  I needed to display the cron schedule in an interface for end users that will most likely not understand how to, nor should be expected to, interpret a cron schedule.  Looking around for a .NET friendly library that could convert a cron schedule like “15 11 * * 1-5″ into something like “At 11:15 AM, Monday-Friday”, I effectively found nothing.

So, I wrote my own.  Why not?  It turned out to be a fun programming challenge, actually, because it is quite challenging.

Introducing Cron Expression Descriptor

Cron Expression Descriptor is an open source C# library that converts cron expressions into human readable string.

Examples

expression Output
* * * * * Every minute, daily
*/5 * * * * Every 5 minutes, daily
*/5 15 * * MON-FRI Every 5 minutes, at 03:00 PM, Monday-Friday
* * * 3 * Every minute, daily, only in March
30 6,14,16 * * * At 06:30 AM, 02:30 PM, and 04:30 PM, daily
23 12 * * SUN At 12:23 PM, only on Sundays
0-10 11 * * * Every minute between 11:00 AM and 11:10 AM, daily

More Info / Download

To learn more about this project and to get information on downloading, visit the project page at http://cronexpressiondescriptor.azurewebsites.net/