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Ivan's picture

Date and time in the menubar

date in menubarI frequently refer to the date and time in the menubar. I was looking for the option to put the date next to time, so that I can avoid clicking the date to bring up the drop-down menu which shows the date. There is no easy straightforward way, but I found a small trick that enables me to customize the field fully without much interference to the system. See the example of my menubar above.

international system preferences

First you have to open System Preferences/ International and choose the Formats tab. If you click customize at Times you will find several formats of time that can be customized: short, medium, long, full. What is shown in the menubar is the medium format, so we gonna have to choose that from the drop-down menu. Here you can simply drag and drop the Time elements from below to create your custom time format.

date customization

You will soon discover that date and day of the week is not among the options. The trick is that you need to copy the required fields from the Dates window.

You need to close the Time window for now and open the Dates customize window and choose any format that contains the type of display for date and time that you require. Now, simply select and copy the required part from the sample line. Close the window and go back to Time customize and paste in the code from the clipboard to the appropriate place. You can also add any punctuation marks and spaces to fine tune the look.

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Jammo's picture
-4 pencils

Ivan, thank you!!

Its one of those things that I think... damnit I wish that a date was up there - but never got round to looking into how to change it.

I have a feeling this article will be linked to quite a bit from other sites.

nice one buddy!

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Waleed's picture
540 pencils

I guess it's time to upgrade to Tiger, hehe..

bwahahax's picture
2 pencils

I followed your instructions, but I'm still not sure what needs to be done to actually have the date appear in the menu bar. What changes need to be made Date & Time preference pane?

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Ivan's picture

Do you see the line under Show: Medium in the last screenshot? It says: 7:08:09 PM | Jan 5. The part | Jan 5 was added by me.

scottymac's picture
2 pencils

No I think he means how do you get the changes to take effect in the menubar. I made all the correct changes and my menubar time looks the same. Do you have to logout?

Ivan's picture

Make sure you are change the medium format. If you change the short format that appears by default, nothing will happen in the menubar.

bloodthirstyrobot's picture
2 pencils

I use the highly effective but awkwardly named MenuCalendarClock.

dhayn's picture
179 pencils

i've still got the old (free) CalendarClock 1.0b1. the iCal integration just stopped working a little while ago so I turned it off.

Emen Mali's picture
2 pencils

I couldn't get it to display like in the photo also. I even restarted and that didn't help.

wedgin's picture
267 pencils

I just finished tweaking the date on my computer, so now it's there when I need it. Well everyday I do my time sheet and need to look up what day it is, given I never think of it off the top of my head. In a flash my hand guides the mouse to the dropdown menu to display the date, all before I realize that I just installed the date tweak and don't even need to use the menu anymore. Shows how old habits will die hard.

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bwahahax's picture
2 pencils

Took a lot of fiddling. Changing certain preferences under Dates would cause the time zone to appear, even when it wasn't specified. Just play around with it a lot. You shouldn't have to logout or restart.

alfresco80's picture
1 pencil

I spent quite a bit of time playing around with this as well--for the longest time I couldn't get the date & time to display in the menu bar as posted above. The frustrating thing was when I looked in Time > Customize it had all the combined date/time elements right there.

Here's the solution:
1. Go to Time > Customize...
2. Select the format you used before to combine your date & time elements. In my case, I have to go to "full"
3. Now for the trick... COPY the entire line under "Full" (or whichever format you're using), DELETE the entire line, PASTE your combined date & time preferences and VIOLA! the menu bar will update

I have NO IDEA why it has to be this complicated, but it works every time!! The Copying, clearing and pasting totally does the trick. No restart or logout required. Enjoy!!

kispot's picture
2 pencils

I wanted the date on top for the longest and my only solution was to install MenuCalendarClock. Now, I can do without... cause i'm sick of constantly upgrading MenuCalendarClock. Thanks man.

afterglow's picture
571 pencils

Nice one...I've had iClock installed for a while which does the same thing.
It even lets you embed desktop calendars and world clocks if you can't remember where or when you live ;) Not as free and not as purty.

jltnol's picture
1 pencil

Actually, since the TIME shows in the menu bar, you must add the DATE elements into the TIME fields.

The way the instructions read, it sounds like you must add the TIME elements into the DATE field.. which is not correct.

Copy the DATE elements into the TIME elements, and your home free

Navstar's picture
3 pencils

That's soooo clever... I wanna puke! Very very cool! Thanks for the tip!

ttaylor's picture
78 pencils

I can only get it when I select medium. This way it spells out "December" instead of "Dec" like I want..

onetruth's picture
1 pencil

I used MenuCalendarClock simply because it let me tweak the date/time display. :)

Mine looks like this now...

Sat 00:53 | 12.3.05

Thanks for the great tip. :)

Rylow's picture
2 pencils

The rest I got to work just like your example.
But previously I had the seconds displayed.
Now even though they are in my custom setting,
they will not appear. Any ideas?

tuqqer's picture
1 pencil

Nice tip. Be sure to also check out the free wClock. I've used for years since first upgrading to X.

Waleed's picture
540 pencils

Neat, thanks..

eggzakt's picture
3 pencils

Well, I don't mean to sound, well... mean, but if you guys who are having problems would have carefully read the orignal post, he makes it quite clear to copy from the date section and paste into the time section. You will need to hit "ok" inbetween, but it worked for me in the first try. I'm not that smart, but I am methodical.

By the way, I found that I could also drag any of the elements into any order I want in the field. This way I could make the menu bar read "Sat Dec 3 1:49am" instead of having the date stuck at the end.

Also, if you roll your mouse over the little pill-shaped elements, you'll see a little arrow. That's where you can change how the month is displayed.

This is a great tip! I have always hated how you "couldn't have the date in the menu bar all the time". Now I realize that like all the other problems I've run across over the years - it's again user error.

iClock is a great program, but it tries to do too much. I installed iClock just so I could get the date in the menu bar all the time. What I got was that, but plus 99 other things I could give 1.87 craps for. This is better for me.

Thanks again!

Ivan's picture

Apparently as a commenter pointed out at TUAW somebody figured this trick out already in May at Macosxhints. Damn, I thought I had something original. I feel like Quark must have felt like when they found out their new logo has been done by a dozen different companies before.

Rylow's picture
2 pencils

After you do all the pasting above, you have to go back
to the date and time settings and check the seconds again.

Sveinn's picture
17 pencils

It only works sometimes, I change the region from Icelandic to US and it worked, but when I tryed to change it back to Icelandic and then it didn't work, even if I tryed to change it again to US region.. this is spookey :)

Pete's picture
52 pencils

You hacker, you - nice work - no more floating window date thingie for me!

texG5's picture
1 pencil

Have wanted to fix that ever since switching completely to Mac OS X... excellent tip!

fidel's picture
337 pencils

Ivan you are breaking some die hard Maccers with your tip.


This is a dutch site with some good and some minor maccers. I just told them that in the future they have to show respect when they say they found something. Anyway in Holland you are already a hero... Respect

Ivan's picture


greid's picture
1 pencil

One problem with this approach is that the time format is used other places besides the menu bar. One notable example is in the Info display in iPhoto. Select a photo and look at the Info area, and your new customized time format now includes the date too, which may not be what you want:
screen shot

• Glenn Reid

Ivan's picture

That is correct. It will appear everywhere where the med format is used.

Carter's picture
1 pencil

I was having the same problem with it not appearing in my menubar, but when I finally (in exasperation) tried putting the date AFTER the time, and not before (as I prefer), it worked perfectly. Also I found that if I removed the "seconds" from my sample line in International:Formats, then the menubar reverted back to the default - with the timezone inexplicably added at the end.

This is a great tip, but it does take some fiddling.

sfernandes's picture
45 pencils

Just goes to show, there is always something new to learn!

Print and Mac troubleshooting

fidel's picture
337 pencils

There were some tips going around with this end, but found the following warning:


Be careful with this in 10.4.2 This can cause major problems w/ SystemUIServer
Authored by: vgz on Wed, Aug 3 '05 at 05:07PM

If you use this and get the timezone appended to the date it isn't a problem, but actually getting the modified string to show up in the menubar under 10.4.2 seems to cause the entire SystemUIServer to stop redrawing itself. I also encountered a problem where the menus would close before I could make any selection, even if I clicked and held. Looking in the console shows the following:
2005-08-03 16:52:15.207 SystemUIServer[21702] *** -[NSCFString rangeOfString:options:range:]: nil argument

It may just be a problem on my system, but since this is a clean install w/ only the default menuextras running, I'm leaning toward a bug in .2

So be careful

Ivan's picture

Why not upgrade to 10.4.3?

fidel's picture
337 pencils

But some people are realy reluctant to do upgrades and wait until they are very, very, very sure that there are no more bugs wandering around. Anyway a warning is never wrong

tmx's picture
1 pencil

I'm running 10.4.3 on a Mini and I still can't get this to work. I've gone through all of the posts above and tried all of the tricks and fiddling tips given above (except for installing a new program), as well as the instructions from Macosxhints.

In Preferences>Date & Time>International>Formats>Customize, the date, day and time show up fine in the elements windows, just how I want them, but it doesn't appear like that in my menu bar.

The changes don't get applied, even by clicking OK or cancel, restarting, dragging & dropping and cutting & pasting over and over, and cursing. I want the menu bar to say "Friday, Jan 7 - 1:10 PM" and that's what shows in the preferences window, but the menu bar still says "Fri 1:10 PM PST". Since then I've restarted several times, and after like the fifth time, the menu bar went back to "SAT 4:46 PM" without the PST at the end.

I'm at a total loss and I don't understand why it doesn't work for me!

helun's picture
1 pencil

I'm using 10.4.5 on a MacBook Pro and apparently need to use the "long" format to modify the appearance in the menu bar.
Anyways, no need to delete everything etc. as someone suggested; you can basically write what you wish (granted: the "non-time modules" must be copied from date setup) and the menu bar updates as soon as you press ok.

iansumuk's picture
1 pencil

You don't have to copy the date components and then paste. You can simply type after the time format, I typed " | dd/Mon" to get the day and month to appear after the time.

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