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Z-cron 5.0

www.z-cron.com What you need: Win­dows 7, 8.1 or 10

‘Z-cron’ would make a great name for a sci-fi vil­lain – but ac­tu­ally this free pro­gram is more of a vir­tual ser­vant. It’s a ver­sa­tile al­ter­na­tive to Win­dows Task Sched­uler, able to carry around 50 bor­ing and repet­i­tive PC tasks ac­cord­ing to your cho­sen sched­ule. For ex­am­ple, you could set it to cre­ate a sys­tem re­store point once a week, empty the Re­cy­cle Bin ev­ery evening and take your PC’S tem­per­a­ture ev­ery morn­ing. You can also set a spe­cific task to run au­to­mat­i­cally when you launch Z-cron.

Z-cron has been around for a few years, but ver­sion 5.0 is the first new re­lease for Win­dows 10. It comes with sev­eral new pre­set ac­tions (‘Tools’), in­clud­ing con­nect­ing to a VPN (and dis­con­nect­ing), play­ing a folder of MP3 au­dio files on a loop, and cre­at­ing shadow copies of files and fold­ers. You can also cre­ate your own tasks (‘Cron­jobs’) from scratch, and add your own batch files if you want.

The pro­gram works well but its in­ter­face is not par­tic­u­larly easy to use. At first, all you see is an empty list of Planned Tasks. Those 50 tasks are buried be­hind a Tools but­ton on the win­dow that opens when you click Tasks – and, oddly, you have to click a line in the list be­fore you can choose a task to fill it. I strongly rec­om­mend read­ing the Help file first. Z-cron is straight­for­ward, even­tu­ally – it just hides it well.

To get it, click Down­load, then ‘zcron.zip’, and then ex­tract the ZIP. Run the in­staller (‘zcron.exe’) as ad­min­is­tra­tor. There are no un­wanted ex­tras. Af­ter click­ing Fin­ish you’ll see the mes­sage ‘Pro­gram start wasn’t con­fig­ured yet!’. Click OK to clear it or set the pro­gram to run at startup (see be­low).

1 The Planned Tasks list is empty at first. This is where all your se­lected tasks will ap­pear. To cre­ate a new one, click an empty row in the list, then click the Task but­ton.

2 Click­ing Task opens the new Set­tings Job win­dow. To con­fig­ure one of 50 pre­set tasks, click Tools, then browse the list. Se­lect one, then click OK.

3 To tell Z-cron when to ac­ti­vate the task and how of­ten, click Sched­uler then choose time set­tings. The Run As Set­tings tab lets you set a task for cer­tain users only.

4 To see and edit all tasks due to run to­day, click To­day. To set Z-cron to run at startup, click Pro­gram, then Start, and then tick ‘Run at sys­tem startup’.

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