Python strftime()

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Python provides a powerful set of tools for date and time manipulation. One of the most utilized functions for transforming datetime objects into readable strings is strftime(), which stands for “string format time”. This function can be found in the datetime module and is essential for those wishing to customize the presentation of dates and times in their applications. This article delves deep into the strftime() function, exploring its capabilities, syntax, and usage.

1. Introduction to strftime( )

Dates and times are commonly used in almost every kind of software application, from web applications that track user activity to scientific simulations that record timestamps. While Python’s datetime objects are perfect for manipulation and arithmetic, they are not inherently formatted for human readability. Enter strftime(), a method designed to convert these objects into human-readable strings based on a specified format.

2. Basic Syntax and Parameters

The strftime() method is available on date, time, and datetime objects from the datetime module. Its basic syntax is:

  • datetime: This is an instance of the date, time, or datetime class.
  • format: This is a string that determines how the resulting string should be formatted. It comprises format codes (explained below) that dictate the placement and format of year, month, day, hour, minute, second, etc.

3. Common Usage Patterns and Examples of strftime( )

Python’s strftime() method is indispensable when you need to present datetime information in a human-readable format. Understanding the myriad ways it can be used will empower developers to represent time in ways best suited for their applications.

Basic Date Formatting:

Objective: To display just the date without time information.

from datetime import datetime

now =

# Format as Year-Month-Day
formatted_date = now.strftime('%Y-%m-%d')
print(formatted_date)  # Outputs: "2023-04-15" (assuming this is the current date)

In this example, %Y represents the full year, %m stands for the month, and %d denotes the day of the month. The dashes - between them are literals and will appear as-is in the output.

Time Formatting:

Objective: To represent time without date information.

# Format as Hour:Minute:Second
formatted_time = now.strftime('%H:%M:%S')
print(formatted_time)  # Outputs: "14:25:36" (assuming this is the current time)

Here, %H gives the hour (24-hour clock), %M the minute, and %S the second. The colons : are literals that separate these components in the output.

Full Datetime Formatting:

Objective: To display a full datetime, combining both date and time.

# Format as Year-Month-Day Hour:Minute:Second
formatted_datetime = now.strftime('%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S')
print(formatted_datetime)  # Outputs: "2023-04-15 14:25:36" (assuming this is the current datetime)

This format is particularly useful in applications that require precise logging or representation of timestamps.

Day and Month Names Formatting:

Objective: Displaying named months or days can enhance readability.

# Format as DayName, MonthName Day, Year
formatted_named_date = now.strftime('%A, %B %d, %Y')
print(formatted_named_date)  # Outputs: "Saturday, April 15, 2023"

Using %A fetches the full weekday name, while %B brings in the full month name. This format is user-friendly and can be seen in interfaces that prioritize clarity over brevity.

Locale-Specific Formatting:

Different cultures and languages have different ways of representing dates and times. strftime() offers a way to format datetime based on the system’s locale settings.

# Format according to locale's appropriate date and time representation
locale_formatted = now.strftime('%c')
print(locale_formatted)  # Might output: "Sat Apr 15 14:25:36 2023" depending on the locale

With %c, the method automatically picks a format that’s customary for the system’s current locale. This feature is handy when building applications for international audiences.

4. Comprehensive List of Format Codes for strftime( )

Format codes are special directives used within the format string of strftime() to specify how individual components of the date and time should be displayed. Here are the list of all format codes:

Date Components:

  • %a: Abbreviated weekday name (e.g., “Sun”, “Mon”, …).
  • %A: Full weekday name (e.g., “Sunday”, “Monday”, …).
  • %w: Weekday as a decimal number, where Sunday is 0 and Monday is 1.
  • %d: Day of the month as a zero-padded decimal number (e.g., “01” to “31”).
  • %b: Abbreviated month name (e.g., “Jan”, “Feb”, …).
  • %B: Full month name (e.g., “January”, “February”, …).
  • %m: Month as a zero-padded decimal number (e.g., “01” for January, “12” for December).
  • %y: Last two digits of the year (e.g., “99” for 1999, “03” for 2003).
  • %Y: Full year (e.g., “1999”, “2003”).

Time Components:

  • %H: Hour (24-hour clock) as a zero-padded decimal number (e.g., “00” to “23”).
  • %I: Hour (12-hour clock) as a zero-padded decimal number (e.g., “01” to “12”).
  • %p: Either “AM” or “PM” based on the given time value. Note: There are locales where lowercase is used.
  • %M: Minute as a zero-padded decimal number (e.g., “00” to “59”).
  • %S: Second as a zero-padded decimal number (e.g., “00” to “59”).
  • %f: Microsecond, zero-padded on the left (e.g., “000000” to “999999”).


  • %z: UTC offset in the form +HHMM or -HHMM.
  • %Z: Time zone name (e.g., “UTC”, “EST”).

Locale’s Date and Time (vary based on locale):

  • %c: Locale’s appropriate date and time representation.
  • %x: Locale’s appropriate date representation.
  • %X: Locale’s appropriate time representation.


  • %j: Day of the year as a zero-padded decimal number (e.g., “001” to “366”).
  • %U: Week number of the year (Sunday as the first day of the week) as a zero-padded decimal number (e.g., “00” to “53”).
  • %W: Week number of the year (Monday as the first day of the week) as a zero-padded decimal number.
  • %%: A literal ‘%’ character.

By combining these format codes in different ways, you can customize the appearance of date and time strings to fit nearly any desired format.

5. Conclusion

strftime() is a potent tool in Python’s datetime arsenal, offering a flexible way to represent dates and times as human-readable strings. By understanding its various format codes and nuances, developers can enhance the readability and user-friendliness of their applications. Whether you’re formatting timestamps for logs or displaying user-friendly dates in a UI, strftime() has got you covered.

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