AT(1P) POSIX Programmer's Manual AT(1P)PROLOG
This manual page is part of the POSIX Programmer's Manual. The Linux
implementation of this interface may differ (consult the corresponding
Linux manual page for details of Linux behavior), or the interface may
not be implemented on Linux.
NAMEat — execute commands at a later time
SYNOPSISat [−m] [−f file] [−q queuename] −t time_arg
at [−m] [−f file] [−q queuename] timespec...
at −r at_job_id...
at −l −q queuename
at −l [at_job_id...]
The at utility shall read commands from standard input and group them
together as an at-job, to be executed at a later time.
The at-job shall be executed in a separate invocation of the shell,
running in a separate process group with no controlling terminal,
except that the environment variables, current working directory, file
creation mask, and other implementation-defined execution-time
attributes in effect when the at utility is executed shall be retained
and used when the at-job is executed.
When the at-job is submitted, the at_job_id and scheduled time shall be
written to standard error. The at_job_id is an identifier that shall be
a string consisting solely of alphanumeric characters and the <period>
character. The at_job_id shall be assigned by the system when the job
is scheduled such that it uniquely identifies a particular job.
User notification and the processing of the job's standard output and
standard error are described under the −m option.
Users shall be permitted to use at if their name appears in the file
at.allow which is located in an implementation-defined directory. If
that file does not exist, the file at.deny, which is located in an
implementation-defined directory, shall be checked to determine whether
the user shall be denied access to at. If neither file exists, only a
process with appropriate privileges shall be allowed to submit a job.
If only at.deny exists and is empty, global usage shall be permitted.
The at.allow and at.deny files shall consist of one user name per line.
The at utility shall conform to the Base Definitions volume of
POSIX.1‐2008, Section 12.2, Utility Syntax Guidelines.
The following options shall be supported:
−f file Specify the pathname of a file to be used as the source of
the at-job, instead of standard input.
−l (The letter ell.) Report all jobs scheduled for the invoking
user if no at_job_id operands are specified. If at_job_ids
are specified, report only information for these jobs. The
output shall be written to standard output.
−m Send mail to the invoking user after the at-job has run,
announcing its completion. Standard output and standard error
produced by the at-job shall be mailed to the user as well,
unless redirected elsewhere. Mail shall be sent even if the
job produces no output.
If −m is not used, the job's standard output and standard
error shall be provided to the user by means of mail, unless
they are redirected elsewhere; if there is no such output to
provide, the implementation need not notify the user of the
Specify in which queue to schedule a job for submission. When
used with the −l option, limit the search to that particular
queue. By default, at-jobs shall be scheduled in queue a. In
contrast, queue b shall be reserved for batch jobs; see
batch. The meanings of all other queuenames are implementa‐
tion-defined. If −q is specified along with either of the −t
time_arg or timespec arguments, the results are unspecified.
−r Remove the jobs with the specified at_job_id operands that
were previously scheduled by the at utility.
Submit the job to be run at the time specified by the time
option-argument, which the application shall ensure has the
format as specified by the touch −t time utility.
The following operands shall be supported:
at_job_id The name reported by a previous invocation of the at utility
at the time the job was scheduled.
timespec Submit the job to be run at the date and time specified. All
of the timespec operands are interpreted as if they were sep‐
arated by <space> characters and concatenated, and shall be
parsed as described in the grammar at the end of this sec‐
tion. The date and time shall be interpreted as being in the
timezone of the user (as determined by the TZ variable),
unless a timezone name appears as part of time, below.
In the POSIX locale, the following describes the three parts
of the time specification string. All of the values from the
LC_TIME categories in the POSIX locale shall be recognized in
a case-insensitive manner.
time The time can be specified as one, two, or four dig‐
its. One-digit and two-digit numbers shall be taken
to be hours; four-digit numbers to be hours and
minutes. The time can alternatively be specified as
two numbers separated by a <colon>, meaning
hour:minute. An AM/PM indication (one of the values
from the am_pm keywords in the LC_TIME locale cate‐
gory) can follow the time; otherwise, a 24-hour
clock time shall be understood. A timezone name can
also follow to further qualify the time. The
acceptable timezone names are implementation-
defined, except that they shall be case-insensitive
and the string utc is supported to indicate the
time is in Coordinated Universal Time. In the
POSIX locale, the time field can also be one of the
midnight Indicates the time 12:00 am (00:00).
noon Indicates the time 12:00 pm.
now Indicates the current day and time.
Invoking at <now> shall submit an at-job
for potentially immediate execution (that
is, subject only to unspecified schedul‐
date An optional date can be specified as either a month
name (one of the values from the mon or abmon key‐
words in the LC_TIME locale category) followed by a
day number (and possibly year number preceded by a
comma), or a day of the week (one of the values
from the day or abday keywords in the LC_TIME
locale category). In the POSIX locale, two special
days shall be recognized:
today Indicates the current day.
tomorrow Indicates the day following the current
If no date is given, today shall be assumed if the
given time is greater than the current time, and
tomorrow shall be assumed if it is less. If the
given month is less than the current month (and no
year is given), next year shall be assumed.
increment The optional increment shall be a number preceded
by a <plus-sign> ('+') and suffixed by one of the
following: minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or
years. (The singular forms shall also be
accepted.) The keyword next shall be equivalent to
an increment number of +1. For example, the follow‐
ing are equivalent commands:
at 2pm + 1 week
at 2pm next week
The following grammar describes the precise format of timespec in the
POSIX locale. The general conventions for this style of grammar are
described in Section 1.3, Grammar Conventions. This formal syntax
shall take precedence over the preceding text syntax description. The
longest possible token or delimiter shall be recognized at a given
point. When used in a timespec, white space shall also delimit tokens.
An hr24clock_hr_min is a one, two, or four-digit number. A one-digit
or two-digit number constitutes an hr24clock_hour. An hr24clock_hour
may be any of the single digits [0,9], or may be double digits, ranging
from [00,23]. If an hr24clock_hr_min is a four-digit number, the
first two digits shall be a valid hr24clock_hour, while the last two
represent the number of minutes, from [00,59].
A wallclock_hr_min is a one, two-digit, or four-digit number.
A one-digit or two-digit number constitutes a wallclock_hour.
A wallclock_hour may be any of the single digits [1,9], or may
be double digits, ranging from [01,12]. If a wallclock_hr_min
is a four-digit number, the first two digits shall be a valid
wallclock_hour, while the last two represent the number of
minutes, from [00,59].
A minute is a one or two-digit number whose value can be [0,9]
A day_number is a number in the range appropriate for the particular
month and year specified by month_name and year_number, respectively.
If no year_number is given, the current year is assumed if the given
date and time are later this year. If no year_number is given and
the date and time have already occurred this year and the month is
not the current month, next year is the assumed year.
A year_number is a four-digit number representing the year A.D., in
which the at_job is to be run.
The inc_number is the number of times the succeeding increment
period is to be added to the specified date and time.
The name of an optional timezone suffix to the time field, in an
One of the values from the mon or abmon keywords in the LC_TIME
One of the values from the day or abday keywords in the LC_TIME
One of the values from the am_pm keyword in the LC_TIME locale
timespec : time
| time date
| time increment
| time date increment
nowspec : "now"
| "now" increment
time : hr24clock_hr_min
| hr24clock_hr_min timezone_name
| hr24clock_hour ":" minute
| hr24clock_hour ":" minute timezone_name
| wallclock_hr_min am_pm
| wallclock_hr_min am_pm timezone_name
| wallclock_hour ":" minute am_pm
| wallclock_hour ":" minute am_pm timezone_name
date : month_name day_number
| month_name day_number "," year_number
increment : "+" inc_number inc_period
| "next" inc_period
inc_period : "minute" | "minutes"
| "hour" | "hours"
| "day" | "days"
| "week" | "weeks"
| "month" | "months"
| "year" | "years"
The standard input shall be a text file consisting of commands accept‐
able to the shell command language described in Chapter 2, Shell Com‐
mand Language. The standard input shall only be used if no −f file
option is specified.
See the STDIN section.
The text files at.allow and at.deny, which are located in an implemen‐
tation-defined directory, shall contain zero or more user names, one
per line, of users who are, respectively, authorized or denied access
to the at and batch utilities.
The following environment variables shall affect the execution of at:
LANG Provide a default value for the internationalization vari‐
ables that are unset or null. (See the Base Definitions vol‐
ume of POSIX.1‐2008, Section 8.2, Internationalization Vari‐
ables for the precedence of internationalization variables
used to determine the values of locale categories.)
LC_ALL If set to a non-empty string value, override the values of
all the other internationalization variables.
LC_CTYPE Determine the locale for the interpretation of sequences of
bytes of text data as characters (for example, single-byte as
opposed to multi-byte characters in arguments and input
Determine the locale that should be used to affect the format
and contents of diagnostic messages written to standard error
and informative messages written to standard output.
NLSPATH Determine the location of message catalogs for the processing
LC_TIME Determine the format and contents for date and time strings
written and accepted by at.
SHELL Determine a name of a command interpreter to be used to
invoke the at-job. If the variable is unset or null, sh shall
be used. If it is set to a value other than a name for sh,
the implementation shall do one of the following: use that
shell; use sh; use the login shell from the user database; or
any of the preceding accompanied by a warning diagnostic
about which was chosen.
TZ Determine the timezone. The job shall be submitted for execu‐
tion at the time specified by timespec or −t time relative to
the timezone specified by the TZ variable. If timespec speci‐
fies a timezone, it shall override TZ. If timespec does not
specify a timezone and TZ is unset or null, an unspecified
default timezone shall be used.
When standard input is a terminal, prompts of unspecified format for
each line of the user input described in the STDIN section may be writ‐
ten to standard output.
In the POSIX locale, the following shall be written to the standard
output for each job when jobs are listed in response to the −l option:
"%s\t%s\n", at_job_id, <date>
where date shall be equivalent in format to the output of:
date +"%a %b %e %T %Y"
The date and time written shall be adjusted so that they appear in the
timezone of the user (as determined by the TZ variable).
In the POSIX locale, the following shall be written to standard error
when a job has been successfully submitted:
"job %s at %s\n", at_job_id, <date>
where date has the same format as that described in the STDOUT section.
Neither this, nor warning messages concerning the selection of the com‐
mand interpreter, shall be considered a diagnostic that changes the
Diagnostic messages, if any, shall be written to standard error.
The following exit values shall be returned:
0 The at utility successfully submitted, removed, or listed a job
>0 An error occurred.
CONSEQUENCES OF ERRORS
The job shall not be scheduled, removed, or listed.
The following sections are informative.
The format of the at command line shown here is guaranteed only for the
POSIX locale. Other cultures may be supported with substantially dif‐
ferent interfaces, although implementations are encouraged to provide
comparable levels of functionality.
Since the commands run in a separate shell invocation, running in a
separate process group with no controlling terminal, open file descrip‐
tors, traps, and priority inherited from the invoking environment are
Some implementations do not allow substitution of different shells
using SHELL. System V systems, for example, have used the login shell
value for the user in /etc/passwd. To select reliably another command
interpreter, the user must include it as part of the script, such as:
$ at 1800
job ... at ...
1. This sequence can be used at a terminal:
at −m 0730 tomorrow
sort < file >outfile
2. This sequence, which demonstrates redirecting standard error to a
pipe, is useful in a command procedure (the sequence of output re‐
direction specifications is significant):
at now + 1 hour <<!
diff file1 file2 2>&1 >outfile | mailx mygroup
3. To have a job reschedule itself, at can be invoked from within the
at-job. For example, this daily processing script named my.daily
runs every day (although crontab is a more appropriate vehicle for
# my.daily runs every day
at now tomorrow < my.daily
4. The spacing of the three portions of the POSIX locale timespec is
quite flexible as long as there are no ambiguities. Examples of
various times and operand presentation include:
at 0815am Jan 24
at 8 :15amjan24
at now "+ 1day"
at 5 pm FRIday
The at utility reads from standard input the commands to be executed at
a later time. It may be useful to redirect standard output and standard
error within the specified commands.
The −t time option was added as a new capability to support an interna‐
tionalized way of specifying a time for execution of the submitted job.
Early proposals added a ``jobname'' concept as a way of giving submit‐
ted jobs names that are meaningful to the user submitting them. The
historical, system-specified at_job_id gives no indication of what the
job is. Upon further reflection, it was decided that the benefit of
this was not worth the change in historical interface. The at function‐
ality is useful in simple environments, but in large or complex situa‐
tions, the functionality provided by the Batch Services option is more
The −q option historically has been an undocumented option, used mainly
by the batch utility.
The System V −m option was added to provide a method for informing
users that an at-job had completed. Otherwise, users are only informed
when output to standard error or standard output are not redirected.
The behavior of at <now> was changed in an early proposal from being
unspecified to submitting a job for potentially immediate execution.
Historical BSD at implementations support this. Historical System V
implementations give an error in that case, but a change to the System
V versions should have no backwards-compatibility ramifications.
On BSD-based systems, a −u user option has allowed those with appropri‐
ate privileges to access the work of other users. Since this is primar‐
ily a system administration feature and is not universally implemented,
it has been omitted. Similarly, a specification for the output format
for a user with appropriate privileges viewing the queues of other
users has been omitted.
The −f file option from System V is used instead of the BSD method of
using the last operand as the pathname. The BSD method is ambiguous—
at 1200 friday
mean the same thing if there is a file named friday in the current
The at_job_id is composed of a limited character set in historical
practice, and it is mandated here to invalidate systems that might try
using characters that require shell quoting or that could not be easily
parsed by shell scripts.
The at utility varies between System V and BSD systems in the way time‐
zones are used. On System V systems, the TZ variable affects the at-job
submission times and the times displayed for the user. On BSD systems,
TZ is not taken into account. The BSD behavior is easily achieved with
the current specification. If the user wishes to have the timezone
default to that of the system, they merely need to issue the at command
immediately following an unsetting or null assignment to TZ. For exam‐
TZ= at noon ...
gives the desired BSD result.
While the yacc-like grammar specified in the OPERANDS section is lexi‐
cally unambiguous with respect to the digit strings, a lexical analyzer
would probably be written to look for and return digit strings in those
cases. The parser could then check whether the digit string returned is
a valid day_number, year_number, and so on, based on the context.
The Base Definitions volume of POSIX.1‐2008, Chapter 8, Environment
Variables, Section 12.2, Utility Syntax Guidelines
Portions of this text are reprinted and reproduced in electronic form
from IEEE Std 1003.1, 2013 Edition, Standard for Information Technology
-- Portable Operating System Interface (POSIX), The Open Group Base
Specifications Issue 7, Copyright (C) 2013 by the Institute of Electri‐
cal and Electronics Engineers, Inc and The Open Group. (This is
POSIX.1-2008 with the 2013 Technical Corrigendum 1 applied.) In the
event of any discrepancy between this version and the original IEEE and
The Open Group Standard, the original IEEE and The Open Group Standard
is the referee document. The original Standard can be obtained online
at http://www.unix.org/online.html .
Any typographical or formatting errors that appear in this page are
most likely to have been introduced during the conversion of the source
files to man page format. To report such errors, see https://www.ker‐
IEEE/The Open Group 2013 AT(1P)