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How do I convert an epoch timestamp to a human readable format on the cli? I think there's a way to do it with date but the syntax eludes me (other ways welcome).

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whats the problem with the date syntax? you don't like the formatting options? I think a date -d @TIMESTAMP is really simple... – echox Oct 11 '10 at 13:57
@echox I was completely not seeing the @TIMESTAMP in the docs. – xenoterracide Oct 11 '10 at 13:59
ah, ok, that explains it :-) – echox Oct 11 '10 at 14:00

7 Answers 7

up vote 71 down vote accepted

On *BSD:

date -r 1234567890

On Linux (specifically, with GNU coreutils ≥5.3):

date -d @1234567890

With older versions of GNU date, you can calculate the relative difference to the UTC epoch:

date -d '1970-01-01 UTC + 1234567890 s'

If you need portability, you're out of luck. The only time you can format with a POSIX shell command (without doing the calculation yourself) line is the current time. In practice, Perl is often available:

perl -le 'print scalar localtime $ARGV[0]' 1234567890
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+1 for the comment about the lack of portability (why doesn't the POSIX spec include a way to do this? grr) – Richard Hansen Feb 1 '12 at 22:50
What does the @ mean in date -d @1234567890? man date made no reference to that... – Chris Markle Jan 14 '13 at 21:10
@ChrisMarkle GNU man pages are often woefully incomplete. “The date string format is more complex than is easily documented here but is fully described in the info documentation.” To wit:… – Gilles Jan 14 '13 at 21:56

date -d @1190000000 Replace 1190000000 with your epoch

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Assuming GNU date, that is. – Gilles Oct 11 '10 at 18:14
$ echo 1190000000 | perl -pe 's/(\d+)/localtime($1)/e' 
Sun Sep 16 20:33:20 2007

This can come in handy for those applications which use epoch time in the logfiles:

$ tail -f /var/log/nagios/nagios.log | perl -pe 's/(\d+)/localtime($1)/e'
[Thu May 13 10:15:46 2010] EXTERNAL COMMAND: PROCESS_SERVICE_CHECK_RESULT;HOSTA;check_raid;0; OK (Unit 0 on Controller 0 is OK)
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With bash-4.2 or above:

printf '%(%F %T)T\n' 1234567890

(where %F %T is the strftime()-type format)

That syntax is inspired from ksh93.

In ksh93 however, the argument is taken as a date expression where various and hardly documented formats are supported.

For a Unix epoch time, the syntax in ksh93 is:

printf '%(%F %T)T\n' '#1234567890'

ksh93 however seems to use its own algorithm for the timezone and can get it wrong. For instance, in Britain, it was summer time all year in 1970, but:

$ TZ=Europe/London bash -c 'printf "%(%c)T\n" 0'
Thu 01 Jan 1970 01:00:00 BST
$ TZ=Europe/London ksh93 -c 'printf "%(%c)T\n" "#0"'
Thu Jan  1 00:00:00 1970
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The two I frequently use are:

$ perl -leprint\ scalar\ localtime\ 1234567890
Sat Feb 14 00:31:30 2009


$ tclsh
% clock format 1234567890
Sa Feb 14 00:31:30 CET 2009
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With zsh you could use the strftime builtin:

strftime format epochtime

      Output the date denoted by epochtime in the format specified.


zmodload zsh/datetime
strftime '%A, %d %b %Y' 1234567890
Saturday, 14 Feb 2009
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Custom format with GNU date:

date -d @1234567890 +'%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S'

Or with GNU awk:

awk 'BEGIN { print strftime("%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S", 1234567890); }'

Linked SO question:

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Only works for GNU date and GNU awk. Neither awk nor nawk support strftime. – DarkHeart Jul 28 '14 at 3:56

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