The Java™ Tutorials
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Customizing Formats
Trail: Internationalization
Lesson: Formatting
Section: Dates and Times

Customizing Formats

Version note: This Date and Time section uses the date and time APIs in the java.util package. The java.time APIs, available in the JDK 8 release, provides a comprehensive date and time model that offers significant improvements over the java.util classes. The java.time APIs are described in the Date Time trail. The Legacy Date-Time Code page might be of particular interest.

The previous section, Using Predefined Formats, described the formatting styles provided by the DateFormat class. In most cases these predefined formats are adequate. However, if you want to create your own customized formats, you can use the SimpleDateFormat class.

The code examples that follow demonstrate the methods of the SimpleDateFormat class. You can find the full source code for the examples in the file named SimpleDateFormatDemo.

About Patterns

When you create a SimpleDateFormat object, you specify a pattern String. The contents of the pattern String determine the format of the date and time. For a full description of the pattern's syntax, see the tables in Date Format Pattern Syntax.

The following code formats a date and time according to the pattern String passed to the SimpleDateFormat constructor. The String returned by the format method contains the formatted date and time that are to be displayed.

Date today;
String output;
SimpleDateFormat formatter;

formatter = new SimpleDateFormat(pattern, currentLocale);
today = new Date();
output = formatter.format(today);
System.out.println(pattern + " " + output);

The following table shows the output generated by the previous code example when the U.S. Locale is specified:

Customized Date and Time Formats
Pattern Output
dd.MM.yy 30.06.09
yyyy.MM.dd G 'at' hh:mm:ss z 2009.06.30 AD at 08:29:36 PDT
EEE, MMM d, ''yy Tue, Jun 30, '09
h:mm a 8:29 PM
H:mm 8:29
H:mm:ss:SSS 8:28:36:249
K:mm a,z 8:29 AM,PDT
yyyy.MMMMM.dd GGG hh:mm aaa 2009.June.30 AD 08:29 AM

Patterns and Locale

The SimpleDateFormat class is locale-sensitive. If you instantiate SimpleDateFormat without a Locale parameter, it will format the date and time according to the default Locale. Both the pattern and the Locale determine the format. For the same pattern, SimpleDateFormat may format a date and time differently if the Locale varies.

In the example code that follows, the pattern is hardcoded in the statement that creates the SimpleDateFormat object:

Date today;
String result;
SimpleDateFormat formatter;

formatter = new SimpleDateFormat("EEE d MMM yy", currentLocale);
today = new Date();
result = formatter.format(today);
System.out.println("Locale: " + currentLocale.toString());
System.out.println("Result: " + result);

When the currentLocale is set to different values, the preceding code example generates this output:

Locale: fr_FR
Result: mar. 30 juin 09
Locale: de_DE
Result: Di 30 Jun 09
Locale: en_US
Result: Tue 30 Jun 09

Date Format Pattern Syntax

You can design your own format patterns for dates and times from the list of symbols in the following table:

Symbol Meaning Presentation Example
G era designator Text AD
y year Number 2009
M month in year Text & Number July & 07
d day in month Number 10
h hour in am/pm (1-12) Number 12
H hour in day (0-23) Number 0
m minute in hour Number 30
s second in minute Number 55
S millisecond Number 978
E day in week Text Tuesday
D day in year Number 189
F day of week in month Number 2 (2nd Wed in July)
w week in year Number 27
W week in month Number 2
a am/pm marker Text PM
k hour in day (1-24) Number 24
K hour in am/pm (0-11) Number 0
z time zone Text Pacific Standard Time
' escape for text Delimiter (none)
' single quote Literal '

Characters that are not letters are treated as quoted text. That is, they will appear in the formatted text even if they are not enclosed within single quotes.

The number of symbol letters you specify also determines the format. For example, if the "zz" pattern results in "PDT," then the "zzzz" pattern generates "Pacific Daylight Time." The following table summarizes these rules:

Presentation Number of Symbols Result
Text 1 - 3 abbreviated form, if one exists
Text >= 4 full form
Number minimum number of digits is required shorter numbers are padded with zeros (for a year, if the count of 'y' is 2, then the year is truncated to 2 digits)
Text & Number 1 - 2 number form
Text & Number 3 text form

Previous page: Using Predefined Formats
Next page: Changing Date Format Symbols