Date Formatters – Part 1

December 30, 2008

Sometimes all you’re really looking for is a basic chunk of code to get something done. For example, I was working on an application yesterday and needed to display the current date in text format: October 29, 2008. A simple concept for sure, however, with the many nuances of date formatters, it takes some time to pull together the “right” code.

So, to save you some time, here are several simple examples for displaying date information:

 // <strong>Output ->  Date: 10/29/08</strong>
 NSDate *today = [NSDate dateWithTimeIntervalSinceNow:0];
 NSDateFormatter *dateFormat = [[[NSDateFormatter alloc] init] autorelease];
 [dateFormat setDateStyle:NSDateFormatterShortStyle];
 NSString *dateString = [dateFormat stringFromDate:today];
 NSLog(@"Date: %@", dateString);

Notice above how the style of the output is set using NSDateFormatterShortStyle. There are additional canned formats as well such as NSDateFormatterFullStyle and NSDateFormatterNoStyle.

 // <strong>Output ->  Date: 10/29/2008 08:28pm</strong>  
 NSDate *today = [NSDate date];
 NSDateFormatter *dateFormat = [[[NSDateFormatter alloc] 
   initWithDateFormat:@"%m/%d/%Y %I:%M%p" allowNaturalLanguage:NO] autorelease];
 NSString *dateString = [dateFormat stringFromDate:today];
 NSLog(@"Date: %@", [dateString lowercaseString]);

Notice in the above example how I convert the string to lowercase to get “pm” rather than the default “PM”. Obviously, if the date contains text (e.g. October) this wouldn’t be a good approach.

 //<strong>Output -> Date: Thursday, October 30, 2008</strong>
 NSDate *today = [NSDate date];
 NSDateFormatter *dateFormat = [[[NSDateFormatter alloc] 
   initWithDateFormat:@"%A, %B %d, %Y" allowNaturalLanguage:NO] autorelease];
 NSString *dateString = [dateFormat stringFromDate:today];
 NSLog(@"Date: %@", dateString);

The above example is similar to the previous, simply using different specifiers to write out the date with full weekday and month.

 // <strong>Output ->  Date: 10/29/2008 08:29PM</strong>    
 NSDate *today = [NSDate date];
 NSDateFormatter *dateFormat = [[NSDateFormatter alloc] init];
 [dateFormat setDateFormat:@"MM/dd/yyyy hh:mma"];
 NSString *dateString = [dateFormat stringFromDate:today];
 NSLog(@"date: %@", dateString);
 [dateFormat release];

The example above shows how you can manage memory without using autorelease.

These examples merely skim the surface of what you can do when working with dates. Look at the documentation for specifics on how to tweak the specifier strings to create variations of the date output.

One comment

Great post!

About three weeks ago I was looking for this exact information. I was very surprised how awkward working with dates was in this language.

One other thing that I have found problematic is that I am trying to store dates in a SQLite database and so I am trying to store the number itself (while converting it to a date inside the program itself). However, I have been noticing that I get multiple dates back for the same day when I am trying to execute a group by query against the database.

I suspect this is because the number stored also represents the time as well as the date. Although I have not yet confirmed this. Does anyone know of a way to get the number representation of the date without the time? Or does anyone know of a better way to store dates in a database?

by MattjDrake on Dec 31, 2008 at 9:43 am. Reply #

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