Actually, the date format I use is not supported by Apple. The first part of it could be done, but in my experience it makes a number of applications act really weird if you go with a very unconventional date format. Especially applications which have date entry fields (like Checkbook). While they’ll show the date correctly in some cases, you certainly cannot type it in that way, and trying to type in a normal date results in weirdly inaccurate results. So my system timestamp is a little ditty that I picked up from Boswell: YYMM-DD-HHMM. I like it because the middle portion which is the part of the date that is most “locally” important is accentuated. It also sorts very well because it is descending rather than the U.S. YY DD MM, which sorts horribly.
The one I use for pretty much everything not system generated is pretty basic: YYDDD-FFF. Two digits for the year, three digits for the day of the year, and three digits for fraction of a day (a resolution of thousandths of a day works out to roughly 1 minute and 26 seconds). Middle of the day is .500, midnight is .000. Anyone familiar with the old Swatch “Internet time” concept will recognise those numbers. The punctuation separating the day from the time lets me know at a glance the week-day. Saturday’s symbol is ‘’ for example, so today’s time and date is “08348\892”, or the 348th day of 2008, nearly 0.9 over. So, almost the 349th day. It’s eight digits (excluding punctuation), has a nearly one-per-minute resolution, and is very readable once you get your mind around the concept of days in a year and fractions of a day instead of the weird archaic counters we typically use. I use it in three formats:
08348\892 — In places where readability is the only intent; on paper; in descriptive comments.
08348-892 — The hyphen is not a punctuation in the day cycle. It’s just another readable format that I use sometimes when I don’t care (or know) about the day, and the hyphen is much more portable in terms of file names.
08348892 — Is the format I use in file names. It’s double-clickable, sorts perfectly, is compact,
To get the date I have a script I wrote. I can call this with LaunchBar to generate a new datestamp and insert it into the pasteboard from anywhere, but since it is a script I can also embed it into other applications that support shell execution, like TextMate. MMD header templates can automatically generate a timestamp into the Date meta-data field, for example. So even though the date itself isn’t supported by the system, access to it is nearly universal, and since the time bit is based on Swatch—I can use menubar applications written for it, and even wear a Swatch that tells that time.
I could make the format more “universal” by switching to 9 digits and using HM in the time area. But I wanted to get something as compact as possible, and after years of reading and using time in fractions like this, it’s really second nature. I even catch the train by fractional time these days, ha.
So, it is readily do-able, if anybody wants the script drop me a PM. Even if you don’t use the time as an all out timestamp, it still is a very nice way of generating IDs. I use them copiously. Nearly everything gets an ID number. This makes cross-referencing aspects of my life rather simple. If I watch a film, it gets an ID. Then I can refer to that film in my diary by the ID number, which links back to a file with a detail review of the film, if I wrote one, or just a title in some cases.