Chainable date/time helper for convenient work with integer timestamps

1.1.0 2015-01-13 22:08 UTC


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This date/time helper tries to make date/time management in PHP less prickly, by providing a chainable helper that can be accessed via a global function datetime().

I wanted a convenient way to work with timestamps, which would provide the same convenience (and IDE support) as e.g. DateTime, but without the problems.

The global datetime() function takes an integer timestamp as argument, or a valid date/time string compatible with strtotime(), applies it to the helper, and returns it.

$time = datetime('1975-07-07')->time; // parse date/time string to timestamp

$str = datetime(time())->datetime; // timestamp to 'YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS' format

The helper has a configuration object that defines global date/time formats and a default timezone, which is UTC by default, regardless of any environment settings - since timestamps (unlike DateTime) do not carry around timezone information, the default timezone can be changed, but you can also switch to different timezones for easy string output.

$a = datetime()->utc()->long; // system date/time in long format

$b = datetime()->timezone('EST')->short; // short date/time in EST timezone

The helper implements __toString() and will format itself using the 'default' format, which is also configurable. You can define as many formats as you want, or specify the format directly, and you can render these using ->format() at the end of a chain. Default formats like 'short', 'long', 'string' and 'date' are also supported directly as (dynamic) properties.

datetime()->config->formats['weekday'] = 'l';

echo datetime()->timezone('PST')->format('weekday'); // current weekday in PST

Basic computations can also be performed using plain english:

$today = datetime()->date()->time; // date() resets the time to 00:00:00

$this_month = datetime()->month()->time; // month() resets to start of the month

$next_week = datetime()->add('1 week')->time;

$whenever = datetime()->add('1 month')->sub('3 days 2 hours 1 minute')->time;

One word of caution: unless you echo the result (invoking __toString()) your call-chains should always end with a property rather than a method () call - the properties of the helper-class never return the helper object, always a value.

$bad = datetime(); // reference to DateTimeHelper !

$wrong = datetime()->timezone('EST')->add('1 week'); // oh noes!

There's a bunch of other features, go ahead and check out the unit-test for examples of every possible operation, or play around using auto-complete in your IDE.

Why not objects?

Nobody doesn't love objects, but DateTime is trouble - watch:

$today = new DateTime();
$yesterday = $today->modify('-1 day');

echo "today: " . $today->format('Y-m-d') . "\n";
echo "yesterday: " . $yesterday->format('Y-m-d');

If you understand how DateTime works, you might be prepared for this nonsense:

today: 2013-03-21
yesterday: 2013-03-21

Methods like modify(), add() and sub() modify the DateTime object, rather than returning a new DateTime instance.

And sure, you got DateTimeImmutable in more recent versions of PHP (and before it, dozens of third-party immutable date/time object implementations in userland) but you're still working with objects.

A timestamp is a value - when dealing with timestamps, I therefore want a value type, not an object, which is more complicated to handle when dealing with e.g. serialization, object/relational-mapping, etc.

When dealing with timezones, I don't want the timezone attached to the timestamp, because the timestamp and timezone do not actually have a meaningful relationship: timestamps are absolute, and that doesn't change when you attach it to a timezone; the only time that isn't true, is when you want the date/time as a string, but it's often more confusing to carry around the timezone information with the value for later use, since, when it finally gets turned into a string, it may not be obvious what timezone is being used - this can make programs rather confusing and difficult to read.