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21.1.4 Padding and other flags

Unless otherwise specified, date normally pads numeric fields with zeros, so that, for example, numeric months are always output as two digits. Seconds since the epoch are not padded, though, since there is no natural width for them.

As a GNU extension, date recognizes any of the following optional flags after the ‘%’:


(hyphen) Do not pad the field; useful if the output is intended for human consumption.


(underscore) Pad with spaces; useful if you need a fixed number of characters in the output, but zeros are too distracting.


(zero) Pad with zeros even if the conversion specifier would normally pad with spaces.


Use upper case characters if possible.


Use opposite case characters if possible. A field that is normally upper case becomes lower case, and vice versa.

Here are some examples of padding:

date +%d/%m -d "Feb 1"
⇒ 01/02
date +%-d/%-m -d "Feb 1"
⇒ 1/2
date +%_d/%_m -d "Feb 1"
⇒  1/ 2

As a GNU extension, you can specify the field width (after any flag, if present) as a decimal number. If the natural size of the output of the field has less than the specified number of characters, the result is written right adjusted and padded to the given size. For example, ‘%9B’ prints the right adjusted month name in a field of width 9.

An optional modifier can follow the optional flag and width specification. The modifiers are:


Use the locale’s alternate representation for date and time. This modifier applies to the ‘%c’, ‘%C’, ‘%x’, ‘%X’, ‘%y’ and ‘%Y’ conversion specifiers. In a Japanese locale, for example, ‘%Ex’ might yield a date format based on the Japanese Emperors’ reigns.


Use the locale’s alternate numeric symbols for numbers. This modifier applies only to numeric conversion specifiers.

If the format supports the modifier but no alternate representation is available, it is ignored.

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