TIP: Put the date in the menu bar

Since the dawn of OS X, I’ve been annoyed that, while the time still shows in the menu bar, the date does not. I suppose there’s some utility out there that takes care of that, but I’m all about the built-in OS capabilities, especially when it come to writing about techniques for others to use.

I played with the Time and Date settings many times, hoping for a way to get that date in the menu bar (instead of just in a dropdown menu from the time-who wants to mouse up and click on the time to get the date?), and finally (accidentally) found the missing step in the procedure.

1. Open the International Preference Pane (Apple menu » System Preferences), and click the Format tab.

2. Click Customize in the Date area, and customize the date to the way you want it (best keep it brief, not “Saturday, May 23, 2009”).

3. Drag across the elements in field where you’ve constructed the date, selecting all the blue ovals, and Command-C to copy them.

4. Close the Customize Date dialog.

5. Click Customize in the Time area. Here’s the part that I’ve missed all these years, and no wonder, what with the stupid constraint: select Medium from the Show menu in dialog. Now, I don’t know about you, but my Medium default includes seconds, an element that doesn’t show on my laptop menu bar without going to the Date & Time pref pane to turn it on. But, no matter: Click at the end of field that shows the Time format, and paste in the Date format that you copied. [editing note: original post, to which Andy replied, swapped references to”Time format” and “Date format”… gee, only a slightly misleading typo.]

6. Set the formatting the way you want it by dragging the appropriate blue lozenges into the format field; when I added the date, I took away the space between the minutes and the AM/PM element, but I also made the AM/PM lowercase since it was butting up against the time. Type at least one space between your time elements and the date elements – maybe even type two spaces.

The two very odd things about working with this preference pane is that adding the date doesn’t seem to affect the menu bar unless you use the Medium setting from the Show menu, which makes absolutely no sense at all. (Spock would be rolling over in his grave at the illogic of it… wait, did he die in another movie? Or, even if he did, can we not say he’s dead because the upcoming one shows him not only alive, but as a young man?)

The second odd thing is not the inability to show the seconds as a time element when you set them from the International pane… that’s a bug, not an oddity; I’ve tried several machines/screens, and I’ve tried clearing the menu bar of other items, to no avail. No, the second odd thing is the interaction between this and the Date & Time preference pane. Unless you check the Show AM/PM box in the Clock tab of the Date & Time preference pane, no amount of time formatting in the International pane is going to put those markers in your menu bar! Same goes for the seconds in the time readout: edit all you want in International, but without the OK from Date & Time, you don’t see the seconds.

dateMenubar

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9 Responses to TIP: Put the date in the menu bar

  1. Andy Baird says:

    I’m puzzled. Right now my menubar is showing “Tue 10:31”. I have the time format set to “Short,” not “Medium”. And I don’t have “Show AM/PM” checked, because I have “Use a 24-hour clock” checked instead. I’m running Mac OS X 10.5.5, but my date/time display has been set this way for years. In short, my system has always behaved the way one would expect it to behave. Is it possible that some third-party add-on is interfering with your system’s date/time displays?

  2. mactipster says:

    No third-party stuff for me when I write about this stuff . And, what I didn’t put in this tip re Short vs Medium setting is more info re the interaction between Date & Time pref pane settings and those in International pref pane. [For instance, adding “seconds” in International makes no difference if you haven’t turned on “Display the time with seconds” in Date & Time.” Ugh… a feel a (somewhat dull) book chapter coming on!
    Main point, however, is that even with Date & Time set to “Show date and time in menu bar” the date doesn’t come up unless you play with things in the International pane. Do you get the date? I don’t on any of the 3 Macs I checked here (I do have 2 others, but I thought 3 was the charm…) That’s what I’d expect without the International pane cut-and-paste rigmarole, and of course, pre OS X, the date was in the menu bar. (uh… was that when it changed?)
    – – –
    I’ve just noticed that WordPress’s auto “linker” is suggesting some possibly related links to this entry, one of which is “Wedding Date Stars Chart.” I guess the words “date” “menu” and “bar” are triggering thoughts of wedding receptions.

  3. mactipster says:

    To Andy: Small (cosmically speaking) error in original post may (or may not) have affected your post – In Step 5, I swapped the references to Time and Date formats so I referred to the wrong ones: ‘paste the Time format in the Date field” instead of the other way around. I called it a typo, but it wasn’t my fingers that made the mistake… more of a brain-o.

  4. Andy Baird says:

    “Do you get the date?”

    Yes, as I said: right now it shows “Tue 16:44” in my menubar.

    “Main point, however, is that even with Date & Time set to ‘Show date and time in menu bar’ the date doesn’t come up unless you play with things in the International pane.”

    I can’t vouch for this because I have no Macs in plain-vanilla condition, with the OS freshly installed and all settings at default. All I can say is that as far as I can tell from looking at the current settings, and as far as I can remember, I’ve made no changes in the International prefpane. I’ve certainly never needed to do the cut-and-paste routine you described.

    Incidentally, I tried setting the custom date format to “Long” and “Full” instead of
    “Short,” but it made no difference in the menubar date display: it always shows the abbreviation for the day, plus hours and minutes.

  5. mactipster says:

    But Tue 16:44 is day and time (4:44pm) – not the *date*?? Mine right now says Tue 8:32pm Dec 16… Default for OS X seems to be only a click on the time in order to get the date.
    Is our discussion hinged on that misunderstanding – day vs date?

  6. Michael Heller says:

    Great Tip! I also had a problem getting it to work as expected with “Medium” selected but it worked with Long as long as I made sure there was no trailing colon (;). Thanks for the tip!

  7. Andy Baird says:

    “Is our discussion hinged on that misunderstanding – day vs date?”

    Urk! Ummmm… yes… (cowering in shame)…

  8. goldilocks says:

    Hello Dr. Zardetto,

    It’s me… one of your font patients here!

    Just wanted you to know that I shared your “missing date” pet peeve for years! Was reluctant at first to try your ‘fix’, but my curiosity won out, and YOUR FIX WORKS!
    Thank You!!!

  9. liamascorcaigh says:

    On my Mac this option is included already. Go to system preferences > Date/Time > Clock. Under “Date Options” click “Show Date”.

    I guess this has been included in a software update (Snow Leopard maybe) since this post. However I didn’t know it was there until I went about trying the above tip, so may thanx. And you’re so right, the lack of a displayed date was both a pain and a mystery.

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