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Sullivan Beck

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Date::Manip::Misc - Miscellaneous information about Date::Manip

SHOULD I USE DATE::MANIP

If you look in CPAN, you'll find that there are a number of Date and Time packages. Is Date::Manip the one you should be using? In my opinion, the answer usually no. This may sound odd coming from the author of the software, but read on.

Date::Manip is written entirely in Perl. It's the most powerful of the date modules. It's also the biggest and probably the slowest.

Since Date::Manip is written entirely in Perl, and has very few dependencies on other module not in a standard Perl distribution, Date::Manip is easy to install. Other modules have dependencies on a C compiler or other Perl modules. Since it is fairly easy to satisfy these dependencies for anyone who is reasonably familiar with Perl modules, this is not a huge advantage that Date::Manip has.

On the other hand, simpler Perl modules tend to be faster than Date::Manip, and modules written in C are significantly faster than their Perl counterparts (at least if they're done right). The TimeDate and Time-modules modules are written in Perl, but are much simpler (and hence, faster) than Date::Manip. The Date::Calc module is written in C and is a good module for doing many date calculations much faster than Date::Manip. Between these three, most of your common date operations can be done.

Date::Manip is certainly the most powerful of the Date modules. To the best of my knowledge, it will do everything that any other date module will do (not just the ones I listed above), and there are a number of features that Date::Manip has that none of the other modules have. Date::Manip is the "Swiss Army Knife" of Date modules. I'm trying to build a library which can do _EVERY_ conceivable date/time manipulation that you'll run into in everyday life.

Although I am working on making Date::Manip faster, it will never be as fast as other modules. And before anyone asks, Date::Manip will never be translated to C (at least by me). I write C because I have to. I write Perl because I like to. Date::Manip is something I do because it interests me, not something I'm paid for.

Date::Manip is also big. It's true that Date::Manip will do almost every date operation you could imagine... but you rarely need all that power.

If you are going to be using the module in cases where performance is an important factor (started up in a CGI program being run by your web server 5,000 times a second), you should check out one of the other Date or Time modules in CPAN. If you're only doing fairly simple date operations (parsing common date formats, finding the difference between two dates, etc.), the other modules will almost certainly suffice. If you're doing one operation very repetitively (parsing 10,000 dates from a database), you are probably better off writing your own functions (perhaps bypassing all date modules entirely) designed specifically for your needs.

On the other hand, if you want one solution for all your date needs, don't need peak speed, or are trying to do more exotic date operations, Date::Manip is for you. Operations on things like business dates, foreign language dates, holidays and other recurring events, etc. are available more-or-less exclusively in Date::Manip.

YEAR 2000 AND YEAR 2007 DST CHANGE

Did Date::Manip have any problems with Y2K compliance? Did it have any problems with the revised daylight savings time changes made in 2007?

Date::Manip is basically just a parser. You give it a date and it'll manipulate it. Date::Manip does store the date internally as a 4 digit year, and performs all operations using this internal representation, so Date::Manip had no problems with the Y2K issue. Of course, applications written which stored the year as 2 digits (whether or not it used Date::Manip) may have had problems, but they were not because of this module.

Similarly for the 2007 changes in daylight savings time made in the United States, Date::Manip was not affected. Date::Manip makes use of the current time zone, but it gets that information from the operating system the application is running on. If the operating system knows about the new daylight saving time rules... so does Date::Manip.

WHAT DATES ARE DATE::MANIP USEFUL FOR?

Date::Manip applies to the Gregorian calendar, and stores the year as 4 digits.

The 4-digit limit is NOT a limitation due to the Gregorian calendar. I needed a way to store dates internally, and the 4-digit representation was chosen. I realize that the 4-digit limitation does create a time when it will break (quite similar to those who chose a 2-digit representation set themselves up for the Y2K problem). Frankly, I'm not too concerned about this since that date is 8000 years in the future! Date::Manip won't exist then. Perl won't exist then. And it's quite possible that the Gregorian calendar won't exist then. That's a much different situation than the Y2K choice in which programmers chose a representation that would break within the lifetime of the programs they were writing.

Given the 4-digit limitation, Date::Manip definitely can't handle BC dates, or dates past Dec 31, 9999. So Date::Manip works during the period Jan 1, 0001 to Dec 31, 9999. There are a few caveats:

Gregorian calendar issue

In practical terms, Date::Manip deals with the Gregorian calendar, and is most useful in the period that that calendar has been, or will be, in effect. The Gregorian calendar was first adopted by the Catholic church in 1582, but some countries were still using the Julian calendar as late as the early part of the 20th century. Also, at some point, the Gregorian system may need to be modified slightly (though since leap seconds exist, this may not need to happen for a very long time). So... in practical terms, Date::Manip is probably useful from around 1900 on, and will remain useful for the foreseeable future.

First/last week

In one part of the code (calculating week-of-year values), Date::Manip references dates one week after and one week before the date actually being worked on. As such, the first week in the year 0001 fail (because a week before is in the year 1 BC), and the last week in the year 9999 fail (because a week later is in 10,000).

No effort will be made to correct this because the added functionality is simply not that important (to me), especially since the Gregorian calendar doesn't really apply in either instance. To be absolutely safe, I will state that Date::Manip works as described in this manual during the period Feb 1, 0001 to Nov 30, 9999, and I will only support dates within that range (i.e. if you submit a bug using a date that is not in that range, I will will consider myself free to ignore it).

Leap seconds

Date::Manip does NOT make use of the leap seconds in calculating time intervals, so the difference between two times may not be strictly accurate due to the addition of a leap second.

Three-digit years

Date::Manip will parse both 2- and 4-digit years, but it will NOT handle 3 digit years. So, if you store the year as an offset from 1900 (which is 3 digits long as of the year 2000), these will NOT be parseable by Date::Manip. Since the perl functions localtime and gmtime DO return the year as an offset from 1900, the output from these will need to be corrected (probably by adding 1900 to the result) before they can be passed to any Date::Manip routine.

VERSION NUMBERS

A note about version numbers.

Prior to version 5.00, Date::Manip was distributed as a perl4 library. There were no numbering conventions in place, so I used a simple MAJOR.MINOR numbering scheme.

With version 5.00, I switched to a perl5 module and at that time switched to the perl5 numbering convention of a major version followed by a 2 digit minor version.

As of 5.41/5.42, all versions released to CPAN were even numbered. Odd numbered were development versions available from my web site. For example, after 5.40 was released, I started making changes, and called the development version 5.41. When released to CPAN, it was called 5.42.

As of 6.00, I'm abandoning the even/odd behavior started in 5.41. Every release meant changing the version number twice. I had to change it from the odd (development version) to the even (release version). Then I had to package it up. Then I had to change it to the next odd (development version). It's more error prone, and more of a nuisance, and I've seen no benefit from it.

FUTURE IDEAS

A number of changes are being considered for future inclusion in Date::Manip. As a rule, the changes listed below are not finalized, and are open to discussion.

Rewrite parsing for better language support

Currently, all of Date::Manip's parsing is based on English language forms of dates. Even if the words have been replaced by the equivalent in some other language.

I am considering rewriting the parsing routines in order to allow date forms that might be used in other languages but do not have a common English equivalent.

Making the primary interface OO

Currently, the Date::Manip module is the original functional interface (though it now uses all of the OO modules to do the actual work).

I am considering writing a primary OO interface. In this case, the functional interface will still be available, perhaps as Date::Manip::Compat.

When (and if) I do this, it will be in a new major-number release (i.e. Date::Manip 7.00 or higher).

I keep going back and forth on whether this would be useful, so at this point, there is no definite plan to make this change.

Adding granularity

The granularity of a time basically refers to how accurate you wish to treat a date. For example, if you want to compare two dates to see if they are identical at a granularity of days, then they only have to occur on the same day. At a granularity of an hour, they have to occur within an hour of each other, etc.

I'm not sure how useful this would be, but it's one of the oldest unimplemented ideas, so I'm not discarding it completely.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

There are many people who have contributed to Date::Manip over the years that I'd like to thank. The most important contributions have come in the form of suggestions and bug reports by users. I have tried to include the name of every person who first suggested each improvement or first reported each bug. These are included in the HISTORY file in the Date::Manip distribution in the order the changes are made. The list is simply too long to appear here, but I appreciate their help.

A number of people have made suggestions or reported bugs which are not mentioned in the HISTORY file. These include suggestions which have not been implemented and people who have made a suggestion or bug report which has already been suggested/reported by someone else. For those who's suggestions have not yet been implemented, they will be added to the HISTORY file when (if) their suggestions are implemented. For everyone else, thank you too. I'd much rather have a suggestion made twice than not at all.

Thanks to Alan Cezar and Greg Schiedler for paying me to implement the Events_List routine. They gave me the idea, and were then willing to pay me for my time to get it implemented quickly.

I'd also like to thank a couple of authors. Date::Manip has gotten some really good press in a couple of books. Since no one's paying me to write Date::Manip, seeing my module get a good review in a book written by someone else really makes my day. My thanks to Nate Padwardhan and Clay Irving (Programming with Perl Modules -- part of the O'Reilly Perl Resource Kit); and Tom Christiansen and Nathan Torkington (The Perl Cookbook). Also, thanks to any other authors who've written about Date::Manip who's books I haven't seen.

I'd also like to thank the people who are maintaining the zoneinfo database (and who replied quickly to several inquiries).

I have borrowed from other modules. I originally borrowed the code for determining if a year was a leap year from code written by David Muir Sharnoff. I borrowed many of the original date printf formats from code written by Terry McGonigal as well as the Solaris date command.

More recently, I borrowed the code to do time zone registry lookups on Windows from the DateTime-TimeZone module, though I rewrote it to work better with Date::Manip.

BUGS AND QUESTIONS

Please refer to the Date::Manip::Problems documentation for information on submitting bug reports or questions to the author.

SEE ALSO

Date::Manip - main module documentation

LICENSE

This script is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the same terms as Perl itself.

AUTHOR

Sullivan Beck (sbeck@cpan.org)