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13Apr/090

Django Datetime Snippets

I've started posting over at Django snippets, which is a great resource for finding useful bits of functionality. My first set of snippets is focused on datetime conversions.

The Snippets

FuzzyDateTimeField is a drop in replacement for the standard DateTimeField that uses dateutil.parser with fuzzy=True to clean the value, allowing the parser to be more liberal with the input formats it accepts.

The isoutc template filter produces an ISO format UTC datetime string from a timezone aware datetime object.

The timeto template filter is a more compact version of django's timeuntil filter that only shows hours & minutes, such as "1hr 30min".

JSON encode ISO UTC datetime is a way to encode datetime objects as ISO strings just like the isoutc template filter.

JSON decode datetime is a simplejson object hook for converting the datetime attribute of a JSON object to a python datetime object. This is especially useful if you have a list of objects that all have datetime attributes that need to be decoded.

Use Case

Imagine you're making a time based search engine for movies and/or events. Because your data will span many timezones, you decide that all dates & times should be stored on the server as UTC. This pushes local timezone conversion to the client side, where it belongs, simplifying the server side data structures and search operations. You want your search engine to be AJAX enabled, but you don't like XML because it's so verbose, so you go with JSON for serialization. You also want users to be able to input their own range based queries without being forced to use specific datetime formats. Leaving out all the hard stuff, the above snippets can be used for communication between a django webapp and a time based search engine.

2Apr/090

Dates and Times in Python and Javascript

If you are dealing with dates & times in python and/or javascript, there are two must have libraries.

  1. Datejs
  2. python-dateutil

Datejs

Datejs, being javascript, is designed for parsing and creating human readable dates & times. It's powerful parse() function can handle all the dates & times you'd expect, plus fuzzier human readable date words. Here are some examples from their site.

Date.parse("February 20th 1973");
Date.parse("Thu, 1 July 2004 22:30:00");
Date.parse("today");
Date.parse("next thursday");

And if you are programmatically creating Date objects, here's a few functions I find myself using frequently.

// get a new Date object set to local date
var dt = Date.today();
// get that same Date object set to current time
var dt = Date.today().setTimeToNow();

// set the local time to 10:30 AM
var dt = Date.today().set({hour: 10, minute: 30});
// produce an ISO formatted datetime string converted to UTC
dt.toISOString();

There's plenty more in the documentation; pretty much everything you need for manipulation, comparison, and string conversion. Datejs cleanly extends the default Date object, has been integrated into a couple date pickers, and supports culture specific parsing for i18n.

python-dateutil

Like Datejs, dateutil also has a powerful parse() function. While it can't handle words like "today" or "tomorrow", it can handle nearly every (American) date format that exists. Here's a few examples.

>>> from dateutil import parser
>>> parser.parse("Thu, 4/2/09 09:00 PM")
datetime.datetime(2009, 4, 2, 21, 0)
>>> parser.parse("04/02/09 9:00PM")
datetime.datetime(2009, 4, 2, 21, 0)
>>> parser.parse("04-02-08 9pm")
datetime.datetime(2009, 4, 2, 21, 0)

An option that comes especially in handy is to pass in fuzzy=True. This tells parse() to ignore unknown tokens while parsing. This next example would raise a ValueError without fuzzy=True.

>>> parser.parse("Thurs, 4/2/09 09:00 PM", fuzzy=True)

It don't know how well it works for international date formats, but parse() does have options for reading days first and years first, so I'm guessing it can be made to work.

dateutil also provides some great timezone support. I've always been surprised at python's lack of concrete tzinfo classes, but dateutil.tz more than makes up for it (there's also pytz, but I haven't figured out why I need it instead of or in addition to dateutil.tz). Here's a function for parsing a string and returning a UTC datetime object.

from dateutil import parser, tz
def parse_to_utc(s):
    dt = parser.parse(s, fuzzy=True)
    dt = dt.replace(tzinfo=tz.tzlocal())
    return dt.astimezone(tz.tzutc())

dateutil does a lot more than provide tzinfo objects and parse datetimes; it can also calculate relative deltas and handle iCal recurrence rules. I'm sure a whole calendar application could be built based on dateutil, but my interest is in parsing and converting datetimes to and from UTC, and in that respect dateutil excels.

   
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