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How to change the format of the date & time displayed in top panel ?

I've been using computers for too long. The "human" display of the date/time in the panel looks a bit strange to me these days.

I am quite happy with the more functional and sortable digits-and-dots-and-dashes approach. Give me YYYY-MM-DD hh.nn.ss any day! (with leading zeroes)

I am a recent refugee from land of Windows, where one consolation was a nice tray clock (TClockEx)which had free-form layouts for both the tray-display and the copy-to-clipboard.

Although I like the general features of the standard-issue clock, I really do want a free-form digital clock (preferably with clipboard-out)... and my calendar week starts on Monday (not Sunday, as per the panel-clock)

I often need a sortable digital date/time prefix for file names. The clock is handy for this.

Can the standard Ubuntu clock do this? I couldn't find anything.
... or is there another clock which can?


The GNOME Clock is actually very customizable once you dig into the gconf settings.

Launch gconf-editor from the terminal or the "Run Application" dialog (Alt-F2).

Navigate to /apps/panel/applets/clock_screen0/prefs/custom_format


Take a look at man strftime for the different variables you can use there.

You also need to set /apps/panel/applets/clock_screen0/prefs/format to custom for your changes to take effect.

  • Great... It seems that I need to become more attuned to this mysterious and wonderful "gconf-editor"... Thanks. – Peter.O Oct 7 '10 at 0:06

Yes, you can do this with the standard Ubuntu clock.

Open the gconf-editor and navigate to apps -> panel -> applets -> clock_screen0 -> prefs. You can then set the key custom_format to any format you want, e.g. %Y-%m-%d %H.%M.%S should give the format you want. You also have to set the key named format to custom so that your custom format is used.

The custom format can also contain HTML formatting, so you could use something fancy like <b>%Y-%m-%d</b> %H.%M.<span color=”#888888″>%S</span> to display the date in bold and the seconds in grey...

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