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Get Utc Time Javascript: Javascript Explained

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Understanding UTC time and how to effectively use it with Javascript can be a confusing concept for many developers. In this article, we’ll explain what UTC is, why it’s beneficial to use it in Javascript, how to get and converstion local time to UTC with Javascript, and some common issues you might encounter when working with UTC and GMT time zones. By the end of this article, you’ll have a much better grasp on UTC time and how to use it in Javascript with confidence.

Understanding UTC Time and Its Relationship to Javascript

But first, let’s take a step back and look at the basics of what UTC time is. UTC stands for Coordinated Universal Time, and it is a type of global time that is used internationally. It is the international standard for time representation and is mainly used on webpages to keep a consistent view of time and date related information across all time zones.

It may be tempting to think of UTC as “local time”, but this isn’t accurate. Each local time zone can have up to an hour’s difference from UTC, so just because it’s the same day in both places does not mean that 11AM UTC is the same as 11AM locally. To accurately represent the same day in all time zones, UTC is used as the universal source of “truth” for when a particular day starts and ends.

Now let’s look at how UTC fits into Javascript. Javascript comes with an API called Date that allows developers to work with dates in an efficient, easy-to-use way. This API does the heavy lifting for converting dates into the user’s local time, so understanding UTC is key to working with Date in Javascript.

The Benefits of Using UTC Time in Javascript

Using UTC time in Javascript has several benefits that make it the preferred way of representing dates. Firstly, UTC allows us to accurately represent a particular time in all time zones without having to manually calculate time differences and convert dates locally. This makes it much easier to work with international dates in an efficient way.

Second, using UTC can lead to more efficient storage, as it allows for more consistent data. Records stored in UTC format are guaranteed to be displayed correctly regardless of browser or location, leading to better performance and fewer data issues down the line.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, UTC simplifies the process of dealing with Daylight Savings Time (DST). By keeping consistent dates regardless of whether or not DST is in effect, it eliminates any guesswork that would otherwise be needed in local time conversion. You can now rely on your systems understanding the exact date regardless of any DST issues.

How to Get UTC Time in Javascript

Now that we know why UTC is important, let’s look at how we can get the current UTC time in Javascript. The Date API includes a function called getUTC() which retrieves the current time as a Date object. This object can then be manipulated to retrieve only certain parts of the date (e.g. year, month, etc.) or it can be converted into other representations such as ISO 8601 format.

In addition to retrieving the current time, you can also use getUTC() to set a specific time in UTC as well. Using this method, you can easily set any date/time to a Date object that has already been converted to UTC.

Converting Local Time to UTC Time with Javascript

If you come across a date format that hasn’t already been converted to UTC, you can use the Date API’s getTimezoneOffset() method to convert it into UTC. This method takes your local timezone offset (i.e. how many hours ahead from UTC you’re currently located) and calculates the difference between them in minutes. You can then subtract this offset from your local Date object in order to convert it into a UTC Date object.

For example: If your local timezone offset is +1 hour (60 minutes), subtracting this offset from your local Date object will change it into a UTC Date object. You can then use this newly converted Date object for any purpose you need, such as international date comparisons or creating records or events in different countries.

Working with Date Objects in Javascript

Now that we’ve covered the basics of working with Time and Date in Javascript, let’s go beyond what we’ve already discussed and look at some more advanced features. The Date API comes with several helpful methods that make dealing with dates even easier than before.

For example, the setUTCOffset() method takes a given UTC Date object and adds or subtracts an offset (in minutes) to/from it. This allows you to easily calculate dates in different regions without needing to manually convert them. In addition, you have access to methods such as getUTCHours() which enables you to retrieve parts of the date individually, or getUTCDay() which gives you the day of the week for that particular date.

Difference Between UTC and GMT Time Zones in Javascript

It’s important to understand the difference between UTC and GMT when working with dates in Javascript. Although they are often used interchangeably, there is an important distinction that must be made. UTC stands for Coordinated Universal Time, while GMT stands for Greenwich Mean Time – as such, GMT is a specific type of UTC based on the prime meridian that runs through Greenwich, England.

UTC is agnostic towards any particular location and thus can be used globally; however, GMT is specific to certain regions and may not be applicable everywhere. If your application needs to utilize both UTC and GMT times concurrently, you will have to manually convert one into the other using the methods discussed earlier.

Examples of Using UTC and GMT Time Zones in Javascript Code

To get an idea of how you might use UTC and GMT in your code, let’s look at a brief example using some of the methods discussed above. Suppose we wanted to retrieve the current date in GMT for a webapp that requires accurate international date calculations. We could do that with just a few lines of code:

// Return a Date object set to current GMT timelet currentGMTTime = new Date().getTimezoneOffset() * -1;let date = new Date();date = date.setUTCOffset(currentGMTTime);console.log(date); // Prints the current GMT date.

As you can see, by simply making use of the Date API methods discussed here we can easily calculate exact dates regardless of their timezone.

Troubleshooting Common Issues When Working with UTC and GMT Time Zones in Javascript

It’s important to remember that UTC is a global standard, so any issues you might encounter when working with dates in Javascript are likely due to your own misunderstandings or mistakes when setting up your code rather than a bug in the Date API itself. Here are some common issues you might run into and their solutions:

  • Inconsistent times: Make sure you are always working with consistent dates regardless of their location by utilizing the getUTC() method discussed above.
  • Incorrect offsets: If you are getting incorrect offsets when calculating dates for different regions, make sure you are using setUTCOffset() instead of calculating each offset manually.
  • Incorrect display: If you are getting incorrect date/time displays when converted from UTC/GMT, make sure your browser is set up correctly for displaying international dates.

Conclusion

In conclusion, understanding and effectively using UTC time with Javascript is an invaluable skill that can save developers time, headache and effort when dealing with international dates and times on webpages and applications. By grasping the concepts covered here – what UTC is, why it’s beneficial to use it and how to do so correctly – you will be well on your way towards building accurate, scalable and reliable applications that deal gracefully with cross-timezone data.

Anand Das

Anand Das

Anand is Co-founder and CTO of Bito. He leads technical strategy and engineering, and is our biggest user! Formerly, Anand was CTO of Eyeota, a data company acquired by Dun & Bradstreet. He is co-founder of PubMatic, where he led the building of an ad exchange system that handles over 1 Trillion bids per day.

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