By date and time format, we mean the specific way in which we write the data and time. In other words, we follow a protocol or a format to mention a standard date and time in a format string uses. As the specifier in the format, we use a single character for defining the representation textually. That textual representation is referred to as a DateTimeOffset value or a DateTime format. 

Any string that contains the date and time has more than one character, including the white spaces in between the characters. This whole sequence containing the particulars is interpreted as a customized date and time format string. Here, we will discuss the ISO 8601 date time format.

What is ISO 8601 date time format?

ISO 8601 format is a specific standard for writing the date and time. The ISO 8601 displays the date and time by starting with – 

  • 4-digits Year
  • 2-digits Month
  • 2-digits Day of the month
  • The date and time delimiter, commonly "T"
  • 2-digit Hour, 24 hours
  • 2-digits Minute
  • 2-digits Second
  • 3-digits Milliseconds
  • Time zone (+-HH:mm)

An ISO 8601 date format example is shown here. Like today’s date and time are 26th October 2022, 17:30 hours, 00 seconds, and 00 milliseconds. For Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), this will be written as 2022-10-26T17:30:00.000-04:00. The delimiter (‘T’ in this case) has to be added. This time that is mentioned, it is mentioned in the local time for that area. You can also add the time zone offset.

Advantages of the ISO 8601 standard as compared to other date time formats

What are the advantages of the ISO 8601 format? The notations of standard date, when it is compared to other variants that are commonly used variants are:

  • ISO 8601 is the universally accepted DateTime standard.
  • Multiple programming languages like Java, JavaScript, and Python support the ISO 8601 DateTime format.
  • It aids in the reduction of date time misinterpretation for inter-country communications in a remote team.
  • ISO 8601 DateTime is also used by the systems in NASA GDS (ground data system) which creates systems for enabling the data processing and broadcasting between various spaceship units like satellites and spacecraft. It is also used by various ground control teams which are handling specific responsibilities. In such operations, time coordination and synchronization is of utmost importance.
  • The World Wide Web Consortium uses the IETF (International Engineering Task Force Standard) which uses the ISO 8601 date time format. It reduces the chances of error and makes the online software less complex to use or to be synthesized. 
  • The ISO 8601 DateTime format is also used on commercial packaging so that if any error is caused, it can be readily traced.
  • Digital Radio, TVs, and other forms of online media use electronic program guides that treat ISO 8601 DateTime format or its subsets as a standard.  
  • Many countries, including the USA, use ISO 8601 date time format as a national standard.

In what situations do I need ISO 8601 format?

The standard ISO 8601 notation aids in avoiding confusion. It helps in synchronizing international communication. For example, there are different date-time formats that are used in Europe, the USA or Asia. This means that there would be multiple notations used by different nations. To increase the computer UI portability, ISO 8601 notation is used. So it aids computer usage in multiple ways. If there are different notations to be followed, then it would result in a bit of development chaos. 

When to use date time ISO 8601 format? 

When you want to show date time format in API responses, document metadata, titles used internally in any of the documents, or any other form of communication between two machines, then ISO 8601 is the mandate

  • metadata in documents
  • internal document titles
  • any other machine-to-machine communication

There are many advantages of using ISO 8601 format, but it would be better if it also covered the names of days because some people find it difficult to read the numbers, especially one with learning difficulties. But there are several organizations like the NHS in the UK who have made it a standard. 

How to convert a date-time object into ISO 8601 format?

If you are using Google Workspace, then it is easy to change the date and time format easily. For that, you need to first go to any of the services that you are using in the Workspace. For example, let’s say you are using sheets and you want to change the date time object into ISO 8601 format; then you need to:

  1. First of all, you need to look at the menu that is given under the name of the sheet file you are using. The date time cell before the format change will be different.
  2. Click on the Format option at the top of the menu.
  3. When you click on Format, then a drop-down menu is displayed.
  4. Click on the Number option and then click on the Custom date and time option. 
  5. A pop-up appears where you see the drop-down icon beside the date time object fields. You can add the fields as per your requirement. Make sure you add the delimiter and the time zone as well.
  6. After that, click on Apply button to apply settings.
  7. As you can see now the format has been changed to ISO 8601 DateTime format. 

Foresight also uses ISO 8601 time format

Foresight has users all around the world. So, to avoid confusion regarding date and time, Foresight mandatorily uses the ISO 8601 format, when integrated with the Google Admin Console. Foresight brings automation to the managing of Google Workspace. So, you can now delegate the tasks that are repetitive and require time, and invest it in other areas of your business. And, you don’t need to know coding to implement this process, only a few clicks is responsible for implementing this process. As a result, with optimal resource management, you will be able to grow your organization as well.

Wrapping it up

Implementing the ISO 8601 date time format is a great way to manage data in any workspace. This format brings its own set of advantages, and you don’t need to change the date and time in any datasheet as it is a globally accepted format. So, even if you are forwarding information to your clients or offices in other countries, you can skip this hassle of changing the date and time.