App::datetime - Date and Time Considerations


Most Enterprise development includes processing of dates and times. There are many date and time modules on CPAN, and choosing the right one can be confusing. There are no special perl data types for dates and times, so some direction is needed.

The short answer is that we recommend the following for most common date and time operations.


However, other modules are appropriate in certain circumstances. So for the longer answer, read on.


The native Perl 5 datetime type is an integer. It is not different from other integers in any way other than how it is used. It represents the number of non-leap seconds since January 1, 1970 UTC (the "Epoch" at GMT). The following internal Perl function gets the current time.

 $current_time = time;
 $current_time = time();

Other Perl functions that return this "datetime" integer are

 ($dev, $ino, $mode, $nlink, $uid, $gid, $redev, $size,
  $atime, $mtime, $ctime, $blksize, $blocks) = stat($filename);
 ($dev, $ino, $mode, $nlink, $uid, $gid, $redev, $size,
  $atime, $mtime, $ctime, $blksize, $blocks) = lstat($filename);

where $atime, $mtime, and $ctime are the same kind of integers, representing the access time, modification time, and change time of a file.

These $time values may be converted to human-readable form using the following internal perl functions. (See the "perlfunc" man page for more information.)

 ($sec,$min,$hour,$mday,$mon,$year,$wday,$yday,$isdst) = gmtime($time);
 ($sec,$min,$hour,$mday,$mon,$year,$wday,$yday,$isdst) = localtime($time);

Furthermore, the current time zone needs to be accessed through the environment variable, "TZ".

 $timezone = $ENV{TZ};

This leaves the Perl developer with lots of work to do in order to process dates.

  • Formatting dates for output

  • Parsing dates on input

  • Comparing dates

  • Date math (addition, subtraction)

  • Other calendar-specific functions (i.e. holidays, days of week, etc)

Numerous modules have been posted to CPAN allowing the Perl developer to accomplish these tasks. However, they have pros and cons related to the following features.

  • Internationalization

  • Speed

  • Portability

  • Ranges of Dates Supported

  • Compliance with Perl Styleguide (function naming)


Modules exist to allow you to process integers like those returned by the time() function. They do not create "date" objects with methods. They simply provide functions that allow you do the required tasks.

Date::Parse, Date::Format

Very simple, clean functions for parsing text dates and formatting them for output in a variety of ways. The fact that these modules work with integers implies that you can do date comparisons and some degree of date math simply ($tomorrow = $today + 24*60*60;). (Beware of date math across days that change to or from daylight saving time.)

 * Parses many different formats of dates
 * Flexible formatting using POSIX strftime() format specifiers.
 * Limited internationalization support.
 * Limited date math support.
 * Unknown support for dates outside [1970-2038]


Powerful, fast manipulation of dates.

 * No explicit support for parsing or formatting dates.
 * Non-perlstyle function names (internal caps, as in Add_Delta_YMD())
 * Powerful, fast support for date math
 * Support for all A.D. dates [1-9999]


The most powerful and slowest (all perl, large) of date manipulation packages. Includes many obscure calendar-related functions.

 * Powerful parsing many different formats of dates
 * No explicit support for or formatting dates.
 * Non-perlstyle function names (internal caps, as in ParseDate())
 * Powerful support for date math (but slower than Date::Calc)
 * Support for all A.D. dates [1-9999]
 * Function support for holidays, business days, etc.


This module is part of the larger libwww-perl bundle. It seems to parse a wider variety of dates than Date::Parse, but it is focused on those date formats which occur in HTTP headers. It only formats dates in the format preferred by HTTP headers.


Completely separate from the modules above, which deal with dates, there is sometimes a need to deal with times at the sub-second level. Time::HiRes works in seconds and milliseconds. It is particularly useful in timing sections of code.


An alternative to the functional solutions described above is an object-oriented solution that involves creating and manipulating true "datetime" objects.


The latest significant entrant (and quite promising) in the perl date/time area is It attempts to be the definitive date/time module for perl, building on the work of Time::Piece and Class::Date.

Furthermore, the DateTime module is not alone. Rather, it is part of a project where many date/time developers collaborate for an entire framework of date/time modules.

 * OO interface
 * Parsing of dates provided by DateTime::Format::* modules
 * Flexible formatting using POSIX strftime() format specifiers.
   (formatting done automatically during object stringification)
 * Limited internationalization support.
 * Good date math support.
 * Unknown support for dates outside [1970-2038]
 * Moderate support on Win32 platform.

Time::Piece [Time::Object, Time::Seconds]

On the perl5-porters mailing Larry Wall described some thoughts on how dates and times might become part of the Perl language and sketched out an object-oriented interface.

This interface was implemented in the Time::Piece package.

 * OO interface
 * No explicit support for parsing dates.
 * Flexible formatting using POSIX strftime() format specifiers.
 * Limited internationalization support.
 * Limited date math support.
 * Unknown support for dates outside [1970-2038]
 * Unsupported on Win32 platform.

Class::Date, Class::Date::Rel

This class started with Time::Object and was enhanced.

 * Some native support for parsing dates.
 * Uses Date::Parse internally for extended date parsing
 * Better date math support.
 * Supported on Win32 platform.


This is a simple, object-oriented class that deals with dates only (not times at all).


Date::Calc has an object-oriented interface.


For further research on Date and Time modules in Perl, you can subscribe to the mailing list.

You can read up on future directions for Perl and date/time support here.

You can also start up the CPAN shell and look for other Date and Time modules.

 perl -MCPAN -e shell
 i /Date/
 i /Time/

Be warned. You may likely be overwhelmed. (That's why this document was written.)