Timestamps in the Shell (today)


Arumoy Shome


March 3, 2022


Creating timestamps in the terminal.

I often work with text files containing pros (such as blog posts and git commit messages) and require adding a timestamp containing the current date, day & time.

I wrote today, a shellscript which returns the current date in various formats. Here is the script as of 2022-03-09, the latest version can be found in my dotfiles.

#!/usr/bin/env bash

# today: return today's date in various formats

# Usage: today [OPTS]
# Without any options, today will print today's date in %Y-%m-%d
# format. Following are the supported options:
#    --with-day: %Y-%m-%d %a
#    --with-time: %Y-%m-%d %H:%M
#    -l | --long: %Y-%m-%d %a %H:%M
#    -h | --human: %a %b %d, %Y
#    -s | --stamp: enclose the date in square braces

# NOTE: when using both --with-day & --with-time, the order in which
# the options are passed matters. For example:
# today --with-day --with-time will produce
#    2022-03-03 Thu 02:20
# But today --with-time --with-day will produce
# 2022-03-03 02:21 Thu

# NOTE: when using --human option, all other options are ignored.

main() {
  local FMT='%Y-%m-%d'
  local STAMP_FLAG=1 # false

  while [[ "$1" =~ ^- && ! "$1" == "--" ]]; do
    case "$1" in
        FMT="$FMT %a"
        FMT="$FMT %H:%M"
      -s | --stamp)
        STAMP_FLAG=0 # true
      -l | --long) # short for --with-day --with-time
        FMT="$FMT %a %H:%M"
      -h | --human) # alternate format, ignore other flags
        FMT="%a %b %d, %Y"
        echo "Error: unknown option $1."
        return 1
    esac; shift # only shift here since we only pass flags

  local OUT=$(date +"$FMT")

  [[ "$STAMP_FLAG" -eq 0 ]] && OUT="[$OUT]"

  echo "$OUT"

main "$@"

Without any arguments, today prints the date in ‘%Y-%m-%d’ format. Using the following optional flags the output can be manipulated.

flag output
–with-day ‘%Y-%m-%d %a’
–with-time ‘%Y-%m-%d %H:%M’
–long ‘%Y-%m-%d %a %H:%M’
–human ‘%a %b %d, %Y’

The --stamp flag can be used to optionally wrap the output in square braces.

I frequently use this to add a timestamp to my git commit messages.

git commit -m "feat: timestamps from the shell $(today -l -s)"

Or insert a timestamp into the current buffer I am editing in vim.

:r! today -l -s
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