The Write Stuff: A Hot Date - Embedded.com

The Write Stuff: A Hot Date

Rummaging through my desk the other day, I ran across a receipt dated 07/07/07. This slot machine roll on the calendar made me smile; not just for its winning jackpot quality, but because this is the one date that would be read the same way on every continent on Earth.

No doubt you adhere to some convention for expressing a date, but which one? Much of the world including Europe, Asia, Australia, and Latin America uses a “little-endian” format: day, month, year. The convention followed in China and Japan may be thought of as “big-endian”: year, month, day. If you hail from one of those places, you might think two formats are more than enough. Alas, the US — determined not to be left out of the “dating” scene — uses something that might be called “middle-endian”: month, day, year.

What's a mother to do?

Putting a date on material is something most everyone does. It's an easy and obvious way of tracking progress and versions. The format I use for this borrows from little-endian ordering, but uses alpha characters to express the month. Written in that style, the triple-seven date would be 07Jul2007.

I like this for several reasons: this is an extremely compact form and uses no spaces or special characters. It is completely unambiguous; it's understood around the world; and is never confused with another date. It makes a very reliable date stamp.

Since I use Microsoft Word to create a number of documents, it's handy to have Word express dates in this format and update them automatically. For that you need “Fields” (Microsoft's term for variables). In the latest version of Word, you can find them using Insert > Quick Parts > Field… As you will see, there are dozens of fields, but the ones required for this task come from the collection of “Date and Time” fields — I find Date and SaveDate to be the most useful.

All it takes to make this work is the formatting code that Word uses to express dates. Select the SaveDate field in the Field tool and enter ddMMMyyyy , where dd = two digits for the day; MMM = month using three alpha characters; and yyyy = four digits for the year.

I suspect most people already have a convention they use with their documents and are not inclined to change their date formats at this late date (pun intended — sorry). However, there's one trick many people might find handy: in the copyright statement — often in the page footer or disclaimer page — I use the Date field with just the year specified as yyyy . If any of these documents are opened after January 1, the date in the copyright will already show the new year (Click Here to see a walk-through of the Word GUI used to set this up).

How about you? What date format(s) do you use and how do you employ it/them?

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14 thoughts on “The Write Stuff: A Hot Date

  1. “I have a humongous number of files on my system, including multiple articles from multiple writers. The way I organize them is to have a folder for each publication (Embedded.com, EETimes.com, etc.).nnUnder these folders I have folders for each writer b

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  2. “Like Max, I strongly prefer a date style that is sortable and tend to use YYMMDD. This is favored by people in Sweden and Japan and is also the basis of the ISO date format, I believe.”

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  3. “All this presumes a universality of date. According to Simon Winchester (in his book “Pacific”)until 1950 the Japanese all celebrated their birthdays on 1 January. In another chapter he points out that the North Korean years are counted from the birth o

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  4. “The Reason I prefer YYYY-MM-DD to YY-MM-DD is that I don't want all my files to get jumbled up when the next millennium rolls around:nn99-12-31 to 00-01-01 will leave 00-01-01 on topnn2099-12-31 to 2100-01-01 will leave everything as God (or my mom —

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  5. “Arggh — not millennium — I mean the next century — I plan to have departed this plane of existence by the turn of the next millennium”

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  6. “For File naming, I usually use the big-endian format preferred by Max although I've found that I'm not always consistent. Fortunately I don't have as many files as Max does to keep track of.nnFor dates within documents I usually use dd MMM yyyy. That is

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  7. “What Colin said. I've been naming my folders and files with the format:nnYYMMDD_someTextDescription.xxxnnfor many years after realizing how convenient it was to have them sorted in chronological order when viewed in a file browser. And unlike Max, I

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  8. “I date as YYYYMMDD using numbers and for single digits add a zero fill Example, “July 4, 1776″ would be written 17760704. When labeling files, I'll use this type of date as a prefix.”

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  9. “If I have to think about it then I would plumb for the engineering standard standard ISO format.nnFrom the Python docs: ISO 8601 format, YYYY-MM-DDTHH:MM:SS.mmmmmm or, if microsecond is 0, YYYY-MM-DDTHH:MM:SS “

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  10. “most useful for sorting is IMHO:nnhttp://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~mgk25/iso-time.htmlnhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_8601nnHowever a sorted birthday_list would prefernthe american format mm/dd/yyyy , of course.nn”

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  11. “Say, did anyone try my trick of setting up part of your copyright statement with “Date = yyyy”. If you did, then your copyright came up automatically with the current year. E.g.: Copyright 2004-2017.nSet this up in your docs (headers/footers, boilerpl

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  12. “I did try this by just entering the formula and I struggled to get anything to work. nnI managed to get just the year by going to Quick Parts| Field | Date | 1/11/2017 (or whatever the current date is) and then “M/d/yyyy” appears in the space belo

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