strptime - dates formatted differently on different computers

Steven D'Aprano steve+comp.lang.python at
Tue Dec 11 03:07:51 CET 2012

On Mon, 10 Dec 2012 16:36:37 -0500, Dave Angel wrote:

> When accepting input from a user, consider their environment.  Perhaps
> they're in a different timezone than your program (or your native
> location), or use some other ordering for the date (for example, the
> Japanese sensibly put year first, then month, then day.  Other regions
> have different conventions.  If you can't detect the user environment,
> then you'd better tell them yours.  For example,by prompting for day,
> month, and year separately.


In a nutshell, you can't know ahead of time what the user will be using 
as a date format, or what their computer will be set to use as date 
format. Unless you control the operating system and can force a 
particular date format, you are at the OS's mercy.

Having stated that the problem is hard, what's the solution? I expect 
that it will depend on the OS. Presumably under Windows there is some way 
of asking Windows "What is the current date format?". I defer to Windows 
users for that. On Linux, and probably Mac OS X, I think this is the 
right way to get the system's preferred date format:

py> import locale
py> locale.setlocale(locale.LC_ALL, '')  # You MUST call this first.
py> locale.nl_langinfo(locale.D_FMT)

You can pass that string on to strptime:

py> import time
py> time.strptime("11/12/13", '%d/%m/%y')
time.struct_time(tm_year=2013, tm_mon=12, tm_mday=11, tm_hour=0, 
tm_min=0, tm_sec=0, tm_wday=6, tm_yday=346, tm_isdst=-1)


More information about the Python-list mailing list