getdate.texi   [plain text]

@node Date input formats
@chapter Date input formats

@c Copyright 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001 Free Software
@c Foundation, Inc.

@c Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
@c under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1
@c or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation;
@c with no Invariant Sections, with no
@c Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
@c A copy of the license is included in the section entitled ``GNU
@c Free Documentation License''.

@cindex date input formats
@findex getdate

First, a quote:

Our units of temporal measurement, from seconds on up to months, are so
complicated, asymmetrical and disjunctive so as to make coherent mental
reckoning in time all but impossible.  Indeed, had some tyrannical god
contrived to enslave our minds to time, to make it all but impossible
for us to escape subjection to sodden routines and unpleasant surprises,
he could hardly have done better than handing down our present system.
It is like a set of trapezoidal building blocks, with no vertical or
horizontal surfaces, like a language in which the simplest thought
demands ornate constructions, useless particles and lengthy
circumlocutions.  Unlike the more successful patterns of language and
science, which enable us to face experience boldly or at least
level-headedly, our system of temporal calculation silently and
persistently encourages our terror of time.

@dots{}  It is as though architects had to measure length in feet, width
in meters and height in ells; as though basic instruction manuals
demanded a knowledge of five different languages.  It is no wonder then
that we often look into our own immediate past or future, last Tuesday
or a week from Sunday, with feelings of helpless confusion.  @dots{}

--- Robert Grudin, @cite{Time and the Art of Living}.
@end quotation

This section describes the textual date representations that @sc{gnu}
programs accept.  These are the strings you, as a user, can supply as
arguments to the various programs.  The C interface (via the
@code{getdate} function) is not described here.

@cindex beginning of time, for @sc{posix}
@cindex epoch, for @sc{posix}
Although the date syntax here can represent any possible time since the
year zero, computer integers often cannot represent such a wide range of
time.  On @sc{posix} systems, the clock starts at 1970-01-01 00:00:00
@sc{utc}: @sc{posix} does not require support for times before the
@sc{posix} Epoch and times far in the future.  Traditional Unix systems
have 32-bit signed @code{time_t} and can represent times from 1901-12-13
20:45:52 through 2038-01-19 03:14:07 @sc{utc}.  Systems with 64-bit
signed @code{time_t} can represent all the times in the known
lifetime of the universe.

* General date syntax::            Common rules.
* Calendar date items::            19 Dec 1994.
* Time of day items::              9:20pm.
* Time zone items::                @sc{est}, @sc{pdt}, @sc{gmt}, ...
* Day of week items::              Monday and others.
* Relative items in date strings:: next tuesday, 2 years ago.
* Pure numbers in date strings::   19931219, 1440.
* Authors of getdate::             Bellovin, Eggert, Salz, Berets, et al.
@end menu

@node General date syntax
@section General date syntax

@cindex general date syntax

@cindex items in date strings
A @dfn{date} is a string, possibly empty, containing many items
separated by whitespace.  The whitespace may be omitted when no
ambiguity arises.  The empty string means the beginning of today (i.e.,
midnight).  Order of the items is immaterial.  A date string may contain
many flavors of items:

@itemize @bullet
@item calendar date items
@item time of the day items
@item time zone items
@item day of the week items
@item relative items
@item pure numbers.
@end itemize

@noindent We describe each of these item types in turn, below.

@cindex numbers, written-out
@cindex ordinal numbers
@findex first @r{in date strings}
@findex next @r{in date strings}
@findex last @r{in date strings}
A few numbers may be written out in words in most contexts.  This is
most useful for specifying day of the week items or relative items (see
below).  Here is the list: @samp{first} for 1, @samp{next} for 2,
@samp{third} for 3, @samp{fourth} for 4, @samp{fifth} for 5,
@samp{sixth} for 6, @samp{seventh} for 7, @samp{eighth} for 8,
@samp{ninth} for 9, @samp{tenth} for 10, @samp{eleventh} for 11 and
@samp{twelfth} for 12.  Also, @samp{last} means exactly @math{-1}.

@cindex months, written-out
When a month is written this way, it is still considered to be written
numerically, instead of being ``spelled in full''; this changes the
allowed strings.

@cindex language, in dates
In the current implementation, only English is supported for words and
abbreviations like @samp{AM}, @samp{DST}, @samp{EST}, @samp{first},
@samp{January}, @samp{Sunday}, @samp{tomorrow}, and @samp{year}.

@cindex language, in dates
@cindex time zone item
The output of @command{date} is not always acceptable as a date string,
not only because of the language problem, but also because there is no
standard meaning for time zone items like @samp{IST}.  When using
@command{date} to generate a date string intended to be parsed later,
specify a date format that is independent of language and that does not
use time zone items other than @samp{UTC} and @samp{Z}.  Here are some
ways to do this:

$ LC_ALL=C TZ=UTC0 date
Fri Dec 15 19:48:05 UTC 2000
$ TZ=UTC0 date +"%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%SZ"
2000-12-15 19:48:05Z
$ date --iso-8601=seconds  # a GNU extension
$ date --rfc-822  # a GNU extension
Fri, 15 Dec 2000 11:48:05 -0800
$ date +"%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S %z"  # %z is a GNU extension.
2000-12-15 11:48:05 -0800
@end example

@cindex case, ignored in dates
@cindex comments, in dates
Alphabetic case is completely ignored in dates.  Comments may be introduced
between round parentheses, as long as included parentheses are properly
nested.  Hyphens not followed by a digit are currently ignored.  Leading
zeros on numbers are ignored.

@node Calendar date items
@section Calendar date items

@cindex calendar date item

A @dfn{calendar date item} specifies a day of the year.  It is
specified differently, depending on whether the month is specified
numerically or literally.  All these strings specify the same calendar date:

1972-09-24     # @sc{iso} 8601.
72-9-24        # Assume 19xx for 69 through 99,
               # 20xx for 00 through 68.
72-09-24       # Leading zeros are ignored.
9/24/72        # Common U.S. writing.
24 September 1972
24 Sept 72     # September has a special abbreviation.
24 Sep 72      # Three-letter abbreviations always allowed.
Sep 24, 1972
@end example

The year can also be omitted.  In this case, the last specified year is
used, or the current year if none.  For example:

sep 24
@end example

Here are the rules.

@cindex @sc{iso} 8601 date format
@cindex date format, @sc{iso} 8601
For numeric months, the @sc{iso} 8601 format
@samp{@var{year}-@var{month}-@var{day}} is allowed, where @var{year} is
any positive number, @var{month} is a number between 01 and 12, and
@var{day} is a number between 01 and 31.  A leading zero must be present
if a number is less than ten.  If @var{year} is 68 or smaller, then 2000
is added to it; otherwise, if @var{year} is less than 100,
then 1900 is added to it.  The construct
@samp{@var{month}/@var{day}/@var{year}}, popular in the United States,
is accepted.  Also @samp{@var{month}/@var{day}}, omitting the year.

@cindex month names in date strings
@cindex abbreviations for months
Literal months may be spelled out in full: @samp{January},
@samp{February}, @samp{March}, @samp{April}, @samp{May}, @samp{June},
@samp{July}, @samp{August}, @samp{September}, @samp{October},
@samp{November} or @samp{December}.  Literal months may be abbreviated
to their first three letters, possibly followed by an abbreviating dot.
It is also permitted to write @samp{Sept} instead of @samp{September}.

When months are written literally, the calendar date may be given as any
of the following:

@var{day} @var{month} @var{year}
@var{day} @var{month}
@var{month} @var{day} @var{year}
@end example

Or, omitting the year:

@var{month} @var{day}
@end example

@node Time of day items
@section Time of day items

@cindex time of day item

A @dfn{time of day item} in date strings specifies the time on a given
day.  Here are some examples, all of which represent the same time:

20:02-0500      # In @sc{est} (U.S. Eastern Standard Time).
@end example

More generally, the time of the day may be given as
@samp{@var{hour}:@var{minute}:@var{second}}, where @var{hour} is
a number between 0 and 23, @var{minute} is a number between 0 and
59, and @var{second} is a number between 0 and 59.  Alternatively,
@samp{:@var{second}} can be omitted, in which case it is taken to
be zero.

@findex am @r{in date strings}
@findex pm @r{in date strings}
@findex midnight @r{in date strings}
@findex noon @r{in date strings}
If the time is followed by @samp{am} or @samp{pm} (or @samp{a.m.}
or @samp{p.m.}), @var{hour} is restricted to run from 1 to 12, and
@samp{:@var{minute}} may be omitted (taken to be zero).  @samp{am}
indicates the first half of the day, @samp{pm} indicates the second
half of the day.  In this notation, 12 is the predecessor of 1:
midnight is @samp{12am} while noon is @samp{12pm}.
(This is the zero-oriented interpretation of @samp{12am} and @samp{12pm},
as opposed to the old tradition derived from Latin
which uses @samp{12m} for noon and @samp{12pm} for midnight.)

@cindex time zone correction
@cindex minutes, time zone correction by
The time may alternatively be followed by a time zone correction,
expressed as @samp{@var{s}@var{hh}@var{mm}}, where @var{s} is @samp{+}
or @samp{-}, @var{hh} is a number of zone hours and @var{mm} is a number
of zone minutes.  When a time zone correction is given this way, it
forces interpretation of the time relative to
Coordinated Universal Time (@sc{utc}), overriding any previous
specification for the time zone or the local time zone.  The @var{minute}
part of the time of the day may not be elided when a time zone correction
is used.  This is the best way to specify a time zone correction by
fractional parts of an hour.

Either @samp{am}/@samp{pm} or a time zone correction may be specified,
but not both.

@node Time zone items
@section Time zone items

@cindex time zone item

A @dfn{time zone item} specifies an international time zone, indicated
by a small set of letters, e.g., @samp{UTC} or @samp{Z}
for Coordinated Universal
Time.  Any included periods are ignored.  By following a
non-daylight-saving time zone by the string @samp{DST} in a separate
word (that is, separated by some white space), the corresponding
daylight saving time zone may be specified.

Time zone items other than @samp{UTC} and @samp{Z}
are obsolescent and are not recommended, because they
are ambiguous; for example, @samp{EST} has a different meaning in
Australia than in the United States.  Instead, it's better to use
unambiguous numeric time zone corrections like @samp{-0500}, as
described in the previous section.

@node Day of week items
@section Day of week items

@cindex day of week item

The explicit mention of a day of the week will forward the date
(only if necessary) to reach that day of the week in the future.

Days of the week may be spelled out in full: @samp{Sunday},
@samp{Monday}, @samp{Tuesday}, @samp{Wednesday}, @samp{Thursday},
@samp{Friday} or @samp{Saturday}.  Days may be abbreviated to their
first three letters, optionally followed by a period.  The special
abbreviations @samp{Tues} for @samp{Tuesday}, @samp{Wednes} for
@samp{Wednesday} and @samp{Thur} or @samp{Thurs} for @samp{Thursday} are
also allowed.

@findex next @var{day}
@findex last @var{day}
A number may precede a day of the week item to move forward
supplementary weeks.  It is best used in expression like @samp{third
monday}.  In this context, @samp{last @var{day}} or @samp{next
@var{day}} is also acceptable; they move one week before or after
the day that @var{day} by itself would represent.

A comma following a day of the week item is ignored.

@node Relative items in date strings
@section Relative items in date strings

@cindex relative items in date strings
@cindex displacement of dates

@dfn{Relative items} adjust a date (or the current date if none) forward
or backward.  The effects of relative items accumulate.  Here are some

1 year
1 year ago
3 years
2 days
@end example

@findex year @r{in date strings}
@findex month @r{in date strings}
@findex fortnight @r{in date strings}
@findex week @r{in date strings}
@findex day @r{in date strings}
@findex hour @r{in date strings}
@findex minute @r{in date strings}
The unit of time displacement may be selected by the string @samp{year}
or @samp{month} for moving by whole years or months.  These are fuzzy
units, as years and months are not all of equal duration.  More precise
units are @samp{fortnight} which is worth 14 days, @samp{week} worth 7
days, @samp{day} worth 24 hours, @samp{hour} worth 60 minutes,
@samp{minute} or @samp{min} worth 60 seconds, and @samp{second} or
@samp{sec} worth one second.  An @samp{s} suffix on these units is
accepted and ignored.

@findex ago @r{in date strings}
The unit of time may be preceded by a multiplier, given as an optionally
signed number.  Unsigned numbers are taken as positively signed.  No
number at all implies 1 for a multiplier.  Following a relative item by
the string @samp{ago} is equivalent to preceding the unit by a
multiplier with value @math{-1}.

@findex day @r{in date strings}
@findex tomorrow @r{in date strings}
@findex yesterday @r{in date strings}
The string @samp{tomorrow} is worth one day in the future (equivalent
to @samp{day}), the string @samp{yesterday} is worth
one day in the past (equivalent to @samp{day ago}).

@findex now @r{in date strings}
@findex today @r{in date strings}
@findex this @r{in date strings}
The strings @samp{now} or @samp{today} are relative items corresponding
to zero-valued time displacement, these strings come from the fact
a zero-valued time displacement represents the current time when not
otherwise changed by previous items.  They may be used to stress other
items, like in @samp{12:00 today}.  The string @samp{this} also has
the meaning of a zero-valued time displacement, but is preferred in
date strings like @samp{this thursday}.

When a relative item causes the resulting date to cross a boundary
where the clocks were adjusted, typically for daylight-saving time,
the resulting date and time are adjusted accordingly.

@node Pure numbers in date strings
@section Pure numbers in date strings

@cindex pure numbers in date strings

The precise interpretation of a pure decimal number depends
on the context in the date string.

If the decimal number is of the form @var{yyyy}@var{mm}@var{dd} and no
other calendar date item (@pxref{Calendar date items}) appears before it
in the date string, then @var{yyyy} is read as the year, @var{mm} as the
month number and @var{dd} as the day of the month, for the specified
calendar date.

If the decimal number is of the form @var{hh}@var{mm} and no other time
of day item appears before it in the date string, then @var{hh} is read
as the hour of the day and @var{mm} as the minute of the hour, for the
specified time of the day.  @var{mm} can also be omitted.

If both a calendar date and a time of day appear to the left of a number
in the date string, but no relative item, then the number overrides the

@node Authors of getdate
@section Authors of @code{getdate}

@cindex authors of @code{getdate}

@cindex Bellovin, Steven M.
@cindex Salz, Rich
@cindex Berets, Jim
@cindex MacKenzie, David
@cindex Meyering, Jim
@cindex Eggert, Paul
@code{getdate} was originally implemented by Steven M. Bellovin
(@email{}) while at the University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill.  The code was later tweaked by a couple of people on
Usenet, then completely overhauled by Rich $alz (@email{})
and Jim Berets (@email{}) in August, 1990.  Various
revisions for the @sc{gnu} system were made by David MacKenzie, Jim Meyering,
Paul Eggert and others.

@cindex Pinard, F.
@cindex Berry, K.
This chapter was originally produced by Fran@,{c}ois Pinard
(@email{}) from the @file{getdate.y} source code,
and then edited by K.@: Berry (@email{}).