remind is a classic command line unix utility. A very simple collection of text files hold all your reminders in a readable format. Let us make a quick cron job using this to send daily notification emails.'s project page is a good starter. However, to dive right into the capabilities, Diane Skoll's article is a must read.

Key Features

  • Fantastic DSL. Just check the cookbook to get a flavour!
  • Not just regular reminders, but repeated ones too.
  • Include files. You can have multiple reminder files and custom combinations of those included into other files.
  • You can run remind on any specific file. This makes it incredibily powerful to create custom usecases.

General principle is very simple - you add reminders with a very generous English like DSL to a file. Run remind to print applicable reminders from that file.

Fun - Daily Mail

Most companies have someone who sends emails on employee's anniversaries. This is such a piece of cake with remind.

Let us say the input data is a CSV file like below.

1Superman ClarkMale20 OCT 2010Lois Lanekrypton
2Spiderman ParkerMale03 MAR 2016Mary Janerooftop

We can easily create a joindates.rem reminder file from this like so.

REM Oct 20 MSG ANNIVERSARY Superman Clark (krypton) since 2010 %b %
REM MAR 03 MSG ANNIVERSARY Spiderman Parker (rooftop) since 2016 %b %

Now, when I run remind joindates.rem, I get the nice output like below.

Reminders for Tuesday, 3rd March, 2020 (today):

ANNIVERSARY Spiderman Parker (rooftop) since 2016 today 

By now, you would've figured out that the last %b in the reminder entry is for relative date (today in this case). We can also add a +3 after MSG to start reminding from 3 days prior - in that case %b will go like in 2 days, tomorrow, today etc.

We can easily write a quick python3 script to parse the CSV to generate the reminder file.

#!/usr/bin/env python3
with open("EmployeeData.csv") as tsvfile:
	tsvreader = csv.reader(tsvfile)
	lines = []
	for line in tsvreader:
  	(empid, name, gender, dt, mgr, dept) = line
		if empid == 'empid':
			joindt = datetime.datetime.strptime(dt, '%d %b %Y').date()
		lines.append([name, joindt, dept])
		reminder_date = joindt.strftime("%b %d")
		reminder_year = joindt.strftime("%Y")
		print("REM %s MSG ANNIVERSARY %s (%s) since %s %%b %%" % (reminder_date, name,  dept, reminder_year))

All we need now is a cron job that runs once a day.

remind joindates.rem > $t
SENDIT=`grep -c "No reminders." $t`
if [ $SENDIT -ne 1 ]; then
  cat $t | mailer #mailer is a script that uses mutt/mailx to mail the info
rm -f $t

Instead of CSV, have a Google sheet that has up to date employee information, we can easily download that and generate the reminder files every day.

Onboarding Stuff

Similarly, there can be lot more quick usecases. Typically, organizations have some X weeks for completion of probation period - that also can easily be handled by a remind entry like below. Let us say probation period is 1 month.

REM 2016-04-03 MSG 1mo completion Spiderman Parker (rooftop) since 2016-03-03 %b %

This will remind exactly once because we are giving a full date here; unlike ANNIVERSARY where we are not specifying year.


remind can also run programs!

REM MAR 03 RUN "Spiderman Parker" %

I will leave it to you to write an script to order and ship it :)

And a lot more. If you've free time, now is a good time to go do a man remind.

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