How to customise Date and Time on your Mac

How to customise Date and Time on your Mac
Mac Tip #421, 27 January 2010

Do you prefer a 12 hour or 24 hour clock? Would you like the names of months abbreviated, spelled out in full, as numbers? Here’s how to customize how dates and times appear on your Mac.

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Date and Time confusions

Date and Time preferences are very personal. Some people like a 12 hour clock, with AM and PM, others prefer a 24 hour clock.

In the USA dates are written with the Month first, followed by the Day and then the Year, like this: 1/26/2010. In New Zealand we would write that as 26/1/2010.

Mind you, that’s confusing for an international audience either way, especially if the day is 12 or less: 5/1/2010 could be the 5th of January or the 1st of May.

It’s generally safer to write the month name in full, if you expect members of the public to be reading it.

Date and Time displays

Language and Text System Preference.

Language and Text System Preference.

Some software on the Mac, for example, provides a menu item to Insert date. What’s inserted though may not be quite what you want.

Make changes in System Preferences

To format the Date and Time to your own requirements you need to visit not the Date and Time System Preference but the Language & Text System Preference.

In versions of MacOS X before Snow Leopard it may have been called International or some other name.

Go to the Formats tab of the Language & Text System Preference. The Formats panel has a line for each of the Short, Medium, Long and Full formats.

Short, Medium, Long and Full date formats.

Short, Medium, Long and Full date formats.

Each line contains a mix of blue ‘capsules’ and optional text (including spaces).

Edit the capsules

Each blue capsule has a small white arrow at the right-hand end. Click on the arrow to reveal a menu with options for that type of capsule.

For example, when I click on the Month capsule I can choose from:

  1. the full month name
  2. a shortened version of the name
  3. the initial letter of the name
  4. the month’s number, as either one or two digits.

Each capsule has its own set of options.

Add and delete capsules

Delete capsules as you would any text — click to the right and press Delete.

To add a capsule, select it from the array in the lower part of the window and drag it into position.

Remember to click in the line and press the Spacebar between capsules, to avoid dates being jammed up without spaces.

If you wish you can add other text too.

Experiment with the formats until you find the ones that suit your preferences. And start noticing where they pop up after being automatically inserted.

Share your experiences with Date and Time below.

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  1. Miraz Jordan said:

    Hi Fred,

    thanks for drawing the video problem to my attention. I have now fixed it. Please try again.



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