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Last modified 7 years ago Last modified on 08/22/07 13:45:04

Date Formatting

When working with date and time information in Python, you commonly use the classes date, datetime and/or time from the datetime package. Babel provides functions for locale-specific formatting of those objects in its dates module:

>>> from datetime import date, datetime, time
>>> from babel.dates import format_date, format_datetime, format_time

>>> d = date(2007, 4, 1)
>>> format_date(d, locale='en')
u'Apr 1, 2007'
>>> format_date(d, locale='de_DE')

As this example demonstrates, Babel will automatically choose a date format that is appropriate for the requested locale.

The format_*() functions also accept an optional format argument, which allows you to choose between one of four format variations:

  • short,
  • medium (the default),
  • long, and
  • full.

For example:

>>> format_date(d, format='short', locale='en')
>>> format_date(d, format='long', locale='en')
u'April 1, 2007'
>>> format_date(d, format='full', locale='en')
u'Sunday, April 1, 2007'

1   Pattern Syntax

While Babel makes it simple to use the appropriate date/time format for a given locale, you can also force it to use custom patterns. Note that Babel uses different patterns for specifying number and date formats compared to the Python equivalents (such as time.strftime()), which have mostly been inherited from C and POSIX. The patterns used in Babel are based on the Locale Data Markup Language specification (LDML), which defines them as follows:

A date/time pattern is a string of characters, where specific strings of characters are replaced with date and time data from a calendar when formatting or used to generate data for a calendar when parsing. […]

Characters may be used multiple times. For example, if y is used for the year, yy might produce "99", whereas yyyy produces "1999". For most numerical fields, the number of characters specifies the field width. For example, if h is the hour, h might produce "5", but hh produces "05". For some characters, the count specifies whether an abbreviated or full form should be used […]

Two single quotes represent a literal single quote, either inside or outside single quotes. Text within single quotes is not interpreted in any way (except for two adjacent single quotes).

For example:

>>> d = date(2007, 4, 1)
>>> format_date(d, "EEE, MMM d, ''yy", locale='en')
u"Sun, Apr 1, '07"
>>> format_date(d, "EEEE, d.M.yyyy", locale='de')
u'Sonntag, 1.4.2007'
>>> t = time(15, 30)
>>> format_time(t, "hh 'o''clock' a", locale='en')
u"03 o'clock PM"
>>> format_time(t, 'H:mm a', locale='de')
u'15:30 nachm.'
>>> dt = datetime(2007, 4, 1, 15, 30)
>>> format_datetime(dt, "yyyyy.MMMM.dd GGG hh:mm a", locale='en')
u'02007.April.01 AD 03:30 PM'

The syntax for custom datetime format patterns is described in detail in the the Locale Data Markup Language specification. The following table is just a relatively brief overview.

1.1   Date Fields

Field Symbol Description
Era G Replaced with the era string for the current date. One to three letters for the abbreviated form, four lettersfor the long form, five for the narrow form
Year y Replaced by the year. Normally the length specifies the padding, but for two letters it also specifies the maximum length.
Y Same as y but uses the ISO year-week calendar.
u ??
Quarter Q Use one or two for the numerical quarter, three for the abbreviation, or four for the full name.
q Use one or two for the numerical quarter, three for the abbreviation, or four for the full name.
Month M Use one or two for the numerical month, three for the abbreviation, or four for the full name, or five for the narrow name.
L Use one or two for the numerical month, three for the abbreviation, or four for the full name, or 5 for the narrow name.
Week w Week of year.
W Week of month.
Day d Day of month.
D Day of year.
F Day of week in month.
g ??
Week day E Day of week. Use one through three letters for the short day, or four for the full name, or five for the narrow name.
e Local day of week. Same as E except adds a numeric value that will depend on the local starting day of the week, using one or two letters.
c ??

1.2   Time Fields

Field Symbol Description
Period a AM or PM
Hour h Hour [1-12].
H Hour [0-23].
K Hour [0-11].
k Hour [1-24].
Minute m Use one or two for zero places padding.
Second s Use one or two for zero places padding.
S Fractional second, rounds to the count of letters.
A Milliseconds in day.
Timezone z Use one to three letters for the short timezone or four for the full name.
Z Use one to three letters for RFC 822, four letters for GMT format.
v Use one letter for short wall (generic) time, four for long wall time.
V Same as z, except that timezone abbreviations should be used regardless of whether they are in common use by the locale.

2   Time-zone Support

Many of the verbose time formats include the time-zone, but time-zone information is not by default available for the Python datetime and time objects. The standard library includes only the abstract tzinfo class, which you need appropriate implementations for to actually use in your application. Babel includes a tzinfo implementation for UTC (Universal Time).

For real time-zone support, it is strongly recommended that you use the third-party package pytz, which includes the definitions of practically all of the time-zones used on the world, as well as important functions for reliably converting from UTC to local time, and vice versa:

>>> from datetime import time
>>> from pytz import timezone, utc
>>> dt = datetime(2007, 04, 01, 15, 30, tzinfo=utc)
>>> eastern = timezone('US/Eastern')
>>> format_datetime(dt, 'H:mm Z', tzinfo=eastern, locale='en_US')
u'11:30 -0400'

The recommended approach to deal with different time-zones in a Python application is to always use UTC internally, and only convert from/to the users time-zone when accepting user input and displaying date/time data, respectively. You can use Babel together with pytz to apply a time-zone to any datetime or time object for display, leaving the original information unchanged:

>>> british = timezone('Europe/London')
>>> format_datetime(dt, 'H:mm zzzz', tzinfo=british, locale='en_US')
u'16:30 British Summer Time'

Here, the given UTC time is adjusted to the "Europe/London" time-zone, and daylight savings time is taken into account. Daylight savings time is also applied to format_time, but because the actual date is unknown in that case, the current day is assumed to determine whether DST or standard time should be used.

2.1   Localized Time-zone Names

While the Locale class provides access to various locale display names related to time-zones, the process of building a localized name of a time-zone is actually quite complicated. Babel implements it in separately usable functions in the babel.dates module, most importantly the get_timezone_name function:

>>> from pytz import timezone
>>> from babel import Locale
>>> from babel.dates import get_timezone_name

>>> tz = timezone('Europe/Berlin')
>>> get_timezone_name(tz, locale=Locale.parse('pt_PT'))
u'Hor\xe1rio Alemanha'

You can pass the function either a datetime.tzinfo object, or a datetime.date or datetime.datetime object. If you pass an actual date, the function will be able to take daylight savings time into account. If you pass just the time-zone, Babel does not know whether daylight savings time is in effect, so it uses a generic representation, which is useful for example to display a list of time-zones to the user.

>>> from datetime import datetime

>>> dt = tz.localize(datetime(2007, 8, 15))
>>> get_timezone_name(dt, locale=Locale.parse('de_DE'))
u'Mitteleurop\xe4ische Sommerzeit'
>>> get_timezone_name(tz, locale=Locale.parse('de_DE'))

3   Parsing Dates

Babel can also parse date and time information in a locale-sensitive manner:

>>> from babel.dates import parse_date, parse_datetime, parse_time


Date/time parsing is not properly implemented yet

See also: User Guide, Documentation