I am using a fresh installation of Ubuntu 16.04 LTS.
Whenever I type:

sudo crontab -e


sudo -u www-data crontab -e

The command prints some number and nothing else. And whatever you do to try to exit from it, by any means, you are not able to do.


  • First of all, How to exit from above command? I am just stuck.
  • Why the command is not showing the crontab entries?
  • How to make the above command to show crontab entries?

I have chosen the editor as vim.basic with:

sudo update-alternatives --config editor

But when I do echo $EDITOR prints empty.

crontab -e -> works fine
sudo -u www-data crontab -e -> stuck as mentioned above

  • CROSS POST? This is the only place I have posted. – MagePsycho Feb 24 '19 at 7:46
  • IRC n Forums are two different entities. – MagePsycho Feb 24 '19 at 8:03
  • @MagePsycho If it responds to ESC and then : type of key sequence, then it's vim, so use ESC then : then q to exit. – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Feb 24 '19 at 8:19
  • Stupid question: Why didn't you install Ubuntu 18.04 LTS? – Freddy Feb 24 '19 at 8:43
  • This is in the production server. And I have running my sites on 16.04 LTS. Will try 18.04 though in future. – MagePsycho Feb 24 '19 at 8:57

I would guess that your default editor is not set and is defaulting to ed.

What do you get if you run:

env | egrep 'EDITOR|VISUAL'

sudo env | egrep 'EDITOR|VISUAL'

sudo -u www-data env | egrep 'EDITOR|VISUAL'

The way to quit from ed is to type: qCR

To set a different editor, you could do:

sudo -u www-data EDITOR=$EDITOR crontab -e
| improve this answer | |
  • It shows blank in both the cases. – MagePsycho Feb 24 '19 at 8:12
  • CR? You don't mean carriage return (\r), right? Shouldn't that be "enter"? – terdon Feb 24 '19 at 14:18
  • I mean the key with the down-left arrow but I don't know how the html for that arrow. Also known as the return key. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enter_key – jhnc Feb 25 '19 at 3:27

First of all, How to exit from above command? I am just stuck.

We don't know what editor you are using. Try Esc :q (vim) or Ctrl-x (nano) or Ctrl-x Ctrl-c (emacs) or q (ed).

  • Run command select-editor and choose an editor you want to use
  • Alternative: set environment variable EDITOR or VISUAL to an editor of your liking.
    Example: export EDITOR=emacs to use emacs or export EDITOR=nano for nano.
  • Then, run crontab -e to edit your crontab
  • Use crontab -l to show the content of your crontab
| improve this answer | |
  • I am logged in as sudo user. echo $EDITOR -> gives blank. – MagePsycho Feb 24 '19 at 8:04
  • Yes, that's the default. What does select-editor tell you? – Freddy Feb 24 '19 at 8:05
  • I have added more details. Please check. – MagePsycho Feb 24 '19 at 8:08
  • 1
    Login as www-data and add the environment variable to ~/.profile using echo -e "\nexport EDITOR=vim" >> ~/.profile. Then logout. Then try sudo -u www-data crontab -e again. – Freddy Feb 24 '19 at 8:21
  • I have many users for crontab entries. Is there a way to set the default for all (system wide)? – MagePsycho Feb 24 '19 at 8:23

I have applied the following commands

# Interactive way
update-alternatives --config editor
# And choose 3 (vim.basic)

# Non Interactive way
sudo update-alternatives --set editor /usr/bin/vim.basic

# Verify as
sudo update-alternatives --query editor

Alternatively, you can add it in ~/.bashrc or ~/.bash_profile file and reload to reflect the changes.

export VISUAL=vim

For crontab for www-data user, I am using as:

sudo crontab -u www-data -e

And this fixed the issue.

| improve this answer | |

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