Pretty Time – timestamp formatting made easy

It’s of the highest importance to present information in an understandable way. Users of applications shouldn’t waste their  valuable time figuring out the meaning of information. A great example is displaying date and time values to the user. Let’s assume you would like to show some operation took place just a couple of minutes ago, but you show: “2011-09-17 10:18” to the user. When users read this kind of information most of them won’t immediately realize it was just a couple of minutes ago. We will have to present the above date string into something like: “couple of minutes ago” and the user will instantly understand it.

Pretty formatting to present useful information

While working on the Android UI of a new application we wanted to achieve the above, therefore I made some quick research to find a library that supports pretty timestamp formatting. While googling (“pretty+time+in+java”) I found Pretty Time library and I gave it a try. By means of Maven it is just a matter of seconds to include this into your project. The only thing you have to do is adding the  following dependency to the POM file:
To format the date like nicely understandable information, one line of code does the job:
String prettyTimeString = new PrettyTime().format(new Date());
The result is: “moments ago”.

Pretty Time works really pretty

Pretty Time is really easy to use, fully configurable and I18n support is included. Just checkout the project page: and enjoy the ease of timestamp formating! If you wish to force formatting in English (default), you need to pass a locale object to the c-tor with the empty language value, like below. If you don’t do this you get the output in the language of the current locale settings.
String prettyTimeString = new PrettyTime(new Locale("")).format(new Date());
I hope you will be able to make use of this nice library. Do you maybe know a different or even better one? What are your favorite libraries? Feel free to share them below! This post has previously been posted on:

Development Manager and Java Developer at Goyello. Open source enthusiast, team leader, teacher, blogger and Twitter user @kolorobot

  • Nice blog !
    I’d prefer to use a client side library which dynamically updates the time information. 
    Fortunately we have one such library in open sourced..

    Enjoy !

  • Anonymous

    In some situation client-side may be better. Now always, though. It always depends.

  • Jonnyb

    Good library.. thanks!