Flagrant Badassery

A JavaScript and regular expression centric blog

JavaScript Date Format

Update: The documentation below has been updated for the new Date Format 1.2. Get it now!

Although JavaScript provides a bunch of methods for getting and setting parts of a date object, it lacks a simple way to format dates and times according to a user-specified mask. There are a few scripts out there which provide this functionality, but I've never seen one that worked well for me… Most are needlessly bulky or slow, tie in unrelated functionality, use complicated mask syntaxes that more or less require you to read the documentation every time you want to use them, or don't account for special cases like escaping mask characters within the generated string.

When choosing which special mask characters to use for my JavaScript date formatter, I looked at PHP's date function and ColdFusion's discrete dateFormat and timeFormat functions. PHP uses a crazy mix of letters (to me at least, since I'm not a PHP programmer) to represent various date entities, and while I'll probably never memorize the full list, it does offer the advantages that you can apply both date and time formatting with one function, and that none of the special characters overlap (unlike ColdFusion where m and mm mean different things depending on whether you're dealing with dates or times). On the other hand, ColdFusion uses very easy to remember special characters for masks.

With my date formatter, I've tried to take the best features from both, and add some sugar of my own. It did end up a lot like the ColdFusion implementation though, since I've primarily used CF's mask syntax.

Before getting into further details, here are some examples of how this script can be used:

var now = new Date();

// Returns, e.g., 6/09/07

// Can also be used as a standalone function
dateFormat(now, "dddd, mmmm dS, yyyy, h:MM:ss TT");
// Saturday, June 9th, 2007, 5:46:21 PM

// You can use one of several named masks
// 2007-06-09T17:46:21

// ...Or add your own
dateFormat.masks.hammerTime = 'HH:MM! "Can\'t touch this!"';
// 17:46! Can't touch this!

// When using the standalone dateFormat function,
// you can also provide the date as a string
dateFormat("Jun 9 2007", "fullDate");
// Saturday, June 9, 2007

// Note that if you don't include the mask argument,
// dateFormat.masks.default is used
// Sat Jun 09 2007 17:46:21

// And if you don't include the date argument,
// the current date and time is used
// Sat Jun 09 2007 17:46:22

// You can also skip the date argument (as long as your mask doesn't
// contain any numbers), in which case the current date/time is used
// 5:46:22 PM EST

// And finally, you can convert local time to UTC time. Either pass in
// true as an additional argument (no argument skipping allowed in this case):
dateFormat(now, "longTime", true);
now.format("longTime", true);
// Both lines return, e.g., 10:46:21 PM UTC

// ...Or add the prefix "UTC:" to your mask.
now.format("UTC:h:MM:ss TT Z");
// 10:46:21 PM UTC

Following are the special characters supported. Any differences in meaning from ColdFusion's dateFormat and timeFormat functions are noted.

Mask Description
d Day of the month as digits; no leading zero for single-digit days.
dd Day of the month as digits; leading zero for single-digit days.
ddd Day of the week as a three-letter abbreviation.
dddd Day of the week as its full name.
m Month as digits; no leading zero for single-digit months.
mm Month as digits; leading zero for single-digit months.
mmm Month as a three-letter abbreviation.
mmmm Month as its full name.
yy Year as last two digits; leading zero for years less than 10.
yyyy Year represented by four digits.
h Hours; no leading zero for single-digit hours (12-hour clock).
hh Hours; leading zero for single-digit hours (12-hour clock).
H Hours; no leading zero for single-digit hours (24-hour clock).
HH Hours; leading zero for single-digit hours (24-hour clock).
M Minutes; no leading zero for single-digit minutes.
Uppercase M unlike CF timeFormat's m to avoid conflict with months.
MM Minutes; leading zero for single-digit minutes.
Uppercase MM unlike CF timeFormat's mm to avoid conflict with months.
s Seconds; no leading zero for single-digit seconds.
ss Seconds; leading zero for single-digit seconds.
l or L Milliseconds. l gives 3 digits. L gives 2 digits.
t Lowercase, single-character time marker string: a or p.
No equivalent in CF.
tt Lowercase, two-character time marker string: am or pm.
No equivalent in CF.
T Uppercase, single-character time marker string: A or P.
Uppercase T unlike CF's t to allow for user-specified casing.
TT Uppercase, two-character time marker string: AM or PM.
Uppercase TT unlike CF's tt to allow for user-specified casing.
Z US timezone abbreviation, e.g. EST or MDT. With non-US timezones or in the Opera browser, the GMT/UTC offset is returned, e.g. GMT-0500
No equivalent in CF.
o GMT/UTC timezone offset, e.g. -0500 or +0230.
No equivalent in CF.
S The date's ordinal suffix (st, nd, rd, or th). Works well with d.
No equivalent in CF.
'…' or "…" Literal character sequence. Surrounding quotes are removed.
No equivalent in CF.
UTC: Must be the first four characters of the mask. Converts the date from local time to UTC/GMT/Zulu time before applying the mask. The "UTC:" prefix is removed.
No equivalent in CF.

And here are the named masks provided by default (you can easily change these or add your own):

Name Mask Example
default ddd mmm dd yyyy HH:MM:ss Sat Jun 09 2007 17:46:21
shortDate m/d/yy 6/9/07
mediumDate mmm d, yyyy Jun 9, 2007
longDate mmmm d, yyyy June 9, 2007
fullDate dddd, mmmm d, yyyy Saturday, June 9, 2007
shortTime h:MM TT 5:46 PM
mediumTime h:MM:ss TT 5:46:21 PM
longTime h:MM:ss TT Z 5:46:21 PM EST
isoDate yyyy-mm-dd 2007-06-09
isoTime HH:MM:ss 17:46:21
isoDateTime yyyy-mm-dd'T'HH:MM:ss 2007-06-09T17:46:21
isoUtcDateTime UTC:yyyy-mm-dd'T'HH:MM:ss'Z' 2007-06-09T22:46:21Z

A couple issues:

  • In the unlikely event that there is ambiguity in the meaning of your mask (e.g., m followed by mm, with no separating characters), put a pair of empty quotes between your metasequences. The quotes will be removed automatically.
  • If you need to include literal quotes in your mask, the following rules apply:
    • Unpaired quotes do not need special handling.
    • To include literal quotes inside masks which contain any other quote marks of the same type, you need to enclose them with the alternative quote type (i.e., double quotes for single quotes, and vice versa). E.g., date.format('h "o\'clock, y\'all!"') returns "6 o'clock, y'all". This can get a little hairy, perhaps, but I doubt people will really run into it that often. The previous example can also be written as date.format("h") + "o'clock, y'all!".

Here's the code:

 * Date Format 1.2.3
 * (c) 2007-2009 Steven Levithan <stevenlevithan.com>
 * MIT license
 * Includes enhancements by Scott Trenda <scott.trenda.net>
 * and Kris Kowal <cixar.com/~kris.kowal/>
 * Accepts a date, a mask, or a date and a mask.
 * Returns a formatted version of the given date.
 * The date defaults to the current date/time.
 * The mask defaults to dateFormat.masks.default.

var dateFormat = function () {
	var	token = /d{1,4}|m{1,4}|yy(?:yy)?|([HhMsTt])\1?|[LloSZ]|"[^"]*"|'[^']*'/g,
		timezone = /\b(?:[PMCEA][SDP]T|(?:Pacific|Mountain|Central|Eastern|Atlantic) (?:Standard|Daylight|Prevailing) Time|(?:GMT|UTC)(?:[-+]\d{4})?)\b/g,
		timezoneClip = /[^-+\dA-Z]/g,
		pad = function (val, len) {
			val = String(val);
			len = len || 2;
			while (val.length < len) val = "0" + val;
			return val;

	// Regexes and supporting functions are cached through closure
	return function (date, mask, utc) {
		var dF = dateFormat;

		// You can't provide utc if you skip other args (use the "UTC:" mask prefix)
		if (arguments.length == 1 && Object.prototype.toString.call(date) == "[object String]" && !/\d/.test(date)) {
			mask = date;
			date = undefined;

		// Passing date through Date applies Date.parse, if necessary
		date = date ? new Date(date) : new Date;
		if (isNaN(date)) throw SyntaxError("invalid date");

		mask = String(dF.masks[mask] || mask || dF.masks["default"]);

		// Allow setting the utc argument via the mask
		if (mask.slice(0, 4) == "UTC:") {
			mask = mask.slice(4);
			utc = true;

		var	_ = utc ? "getUTC" : "get",
			d = date[_ + "Date"](),
			D = date[_ + "Day"](),
			m = date[_ + "Month"](),
			y = date[_ + "FullYear"](),
			H = date[_ + "Hours"](),
			M = date[_ + "Minutes"](),
			s = date[_ + "Seconds"](),
			L = date[_ + "Milliseconds"](),
			o = utc ? 0 : date.getTimezoneOffset(),
			flags = {
				d:    d,
				dd:   pad(d),
				ddd:  dF.i18n.dayNames[D],
				dddd: dF.i18n.dayNames[D + 7],
				m:    m + 1,
				mm:   pad(m + 1),
				mmm:  dF.i18n.monthNames[m],
				mmmm: dF.i18n.monthNames[m + 12],
				yy:   String(y).slice(2),
				yyyy: y,
				h:    H % 12 || 12,
				hh:   pad(H % 12 || 12),
				H:    H,
				HH:   pad(H),
				M:    M,
				MM:   pad(M),
				s:    s,
				ss:   pad(s),
				l:    pad(L, 3),
				L:    pad(L > 99 ? Math.round(L / 10) : L),
				t:    H < 12 ? "a"  : "p",
				tt:   H < 12 ? "am" : "pm",
				T:    H < 12 ? "A"  : "P",
				TT:   H < 12 ? "AM" : "PM",
				Z:    utc ? "UTC" : (String(date).match(timezone) || [""]).pop().replace(timezoneClip, ""),
				o:    (o > 0 ? "-" : "+") + pad(Math.floor(Math.abs(o) / 60) * 100 + Math.abs(o) % 60, 4),
				S:    ["th", "st", "nd", "rd"][d % 10 > 3 ? 0 : (d % 100 - d % 10 != 10) * d % 10]

		return mask.replace(token, function ($0) {
			return $0 in flags ? flags[$0] : $0.slice(1, $0.length - 1);

// Some common format strings
dateFormat.masks = {
	"default":      "ddd mmm dd yyyy HH:MM:ss",
	shortDate:      "m/d/yy",
	mediumDate:     "mmm d, yyyy",
	longDate:       "mmmm d, yyyy",
	fullDate:       "dddd, mmmm d, yyyy",
	shortTime:      "h:MM TT",
	mediumTime:     "h:MM:ss TT",
	longTime:       "h:MM:ss TT Z",
	isoDate:        "yyyy-mm-dd",
	isoTime:        "HH:MM:ss",
	isoDateTime:    "yyyy-mm-dd'T'HH:MM:ss",
	isoUtcDateTime: "UTC:yyyy-mm-dd'T'HH:MM:ss'Z'"

// Internationalization strings
dateFormat.i18n = {
	dayNames: [
		"Sun", "Mon", "Tue", "Wed", "Thu", "Fri", "Sat",
		"Sunday", "Monday", "Tuesday", "Wednesday", "Thursday", "Friday", "Saturday"
	monthNames: [
		"Jan", "Feb", "Mar", "Apr", "May", "Jun", "Jul", "Aug", "Sep", "Oct", "Nov", "Dec",
		"January", "February", "March", "April", "May", "June", "July", "August", "September", "October", "November", "December"

// For convenience...
Date.prototype.format = function (mask, utc) {
	return dateFormat(this, mask, utc);

Download it here (1.2 KB when minified and gzipped).

Note that the day and month names can be changed (for internationalization or other purposes) by updating the dateFormat.i18n object.

If you have any suggestions or find any issues, lemme know.

New library: Are you a JavaScript regex master, or want to be? Then you need my fancy XRegExp library. It adds new regex syntax (including named capture and Unicode properties); s, x, and n flags; powerful regex utils; and it fixes pesky browser inconsistencies. Check it out!

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