Date and time manipulation is one of a few frequently-experienced challenges of developing web apps in PHP. And one of it's most prevalent issues is identifying time disparities and making them readable, such as "one hour ago".
However, handling dates and times, and issues such as this, is greatly simplified by using Carbon; it's a library which reduces lengthy hours of coding and debugging to only a few lines of code. This is because Carbon, created by Brian Nesbit, extends PHP's own DateTime class and makes it much simpler to use.
If you've not heard of it before, it is self-described as:
A basic PHP API extension for DateTime
In this tutorial, you will learn Carbon's core features and capabilities, giving you the ability to far more easily manipulate date and time in PHP.
To follow this tutorial you need the following components:
- PHP 7.4 or higher.
- Composer installed globally.
To install Carbon, first create a new project directory called carbon, change into the directory, and install the package, by executing the following commands:
mkdir carbon cd carbon composer require nesbot/carbon
Carbon is already included if you're using Laravel. If you are, have a look at the suggested Laravel settings and best practices. If you're using Symfony, have a look at the Symfony configuration and best-practices guidelines.
Format dates using Carbon
With Carbon installed, in your editor or IDE, create a new PHP file, named index.php in the root of your project directory. Then, add the code below to index.php to include Composer's Autoloader file, vendor/autoload.php, and imported Carbon's core class.
<?php require 'vendor/autoload.php'; use Carbon\Carbon;
Now that Carbon's installed, let's start working through some examples, starting with the most essential: printing out some dates. To do that, we'll use
carbon::today to retrieve today's date via Carbon, which you can see in the example below.
<?php require __DIR__ . "/vendor/autoload.php"; echo carbon::today() . "\n";
Add that to index.php and then run it.
The output, which you can see an example of above, returns the current date, with the time being blank. However, if you update index.php to use
carbon::now instead, which you can see in the example below, you can retrieve the time along with the date.
<?php require __DIR__ . "/vendor/autoload.php"; $now = carbon::now() echo "$now\n";
After updating index.php and running it, you should see output similar to the example below, in your terminal.
In contrast to
Carbon::now() which returns the current date and time, and
Carbon:today() which only returns the current date,
Carbon::tomorrow() generate Carbon instances for yesterday and tomorrow, respectively, as in the examples below.
tomorrow() are examples of common static instantiation helpers.
<?php require __DIR__ . "/vendor/autoload.php"; $yes = Carbon::yesterday(); echo "Yesterday: $yes\n"; $tomorrow = Carbon::tomorrow(); echo "Tomorrow: $tomorrow\n";
Create dates with precision
Carbon also allows us to generate dates and times based on a set of parameters. For example, to create a new
Carbon instance for a specific date use the
Carbon::createFromDate() method, passing in the year, month, day, and timezone, as in the following example.
<?php require __DIR__ . "/vendor/autoload.php"; $year = 2020; $month = 08; $day = 21; $timezone = 'Europe/Berlin'; Carbon::createFromDate($year, $month, $day, $timezone);
You can also specify the time, by calling
Carbon::create(), passing in the year, month, day, timezone, hour, minute, and second, as in the following example
<?php require __DIR__ . "/vendor/autoload.php"; $year = 2021; $month = 04; $day = 21; $timezone = 'Europe/Berlin'; $hour = 11; $minute = 11; $second = 11; Carbon::create($year, $month, $day, $hour, $minute, $second, $timezone);
If any one or more of
$second are set to
now() equivalent values will be used. If
$hour is not
null, however, then the default values for
$second will be
0. If you pass in
null for any of those attributes, it will default to the current date and time.
Update index.php in your editor or IDE to match the code below and run it to see an example of all of these functions.
<?php require __DIR__ . "/vendor/autoload.php"; use Carbon\Carbon; $date1 = Carbon::create(2021,10, 25, 12, 48, 00); echo $date1 . "\n"; $date2 = Carbon::create(2021, 8, 25, 22, 48, 00, 'Europe/Moscow'); echo $date2 . "\n"; $date3 = Carbon::createFromDate(2018, 8, 14, 'America/Chicago'); echo $date3 . "\n"; $date4 = Carbon::createFromDate(2021,10, 25, 'Africa/Lagos'); $date5 = Carbon::createFromTimestamp(1633703084); echo $date5. "\n";
create() function in the first variable creates a
Carbon instance from date and time components; A timezone was supplied on the constructor to the second variable.
A Carbon object was constructed using date components with
Carbon::createFromDate() when initializing the third and fourth variables. Doing so generates a
Carbon instance based on just on a date.
It's worth pointing out that if no timezone is specified, your default timezone is used. However, if a timezone other than yours is specified, the timezone's actual time is supplied. The current time is set in the time section.
The final variable, initialized using
Carbon::createFromTimestamp, generates a date based on a timestamp.
Another fantastic feature of Carbon is relative modifiers. These allow strings such as "next friday" or "a year ago" to be used when constructing
Carbon instances relative to the current date.
The following are examples of strings that are considered relative modifiers.
Modify the date and time
When working with dates, you'll need to do more than just get the date and time. You'll frequently need to modify the date or time as well, such as adding a day or a week or subtracting a month.
A good example of needing this functionality is when building an affiliate program. In this scenario you'll want the affiliate cookie which the user receives to expire after a specified period of time, making the referral invalid.
Let's assume a cookie has a 90-day lifespan. With Carbon's
subtract methods, we could compute that time quite trivially. The example below uses
addDays() to determine when the cookie expires.
<?php require __DIR__ . "/vendor/autoload.php"; $name = 'Affliate_Program'; $value = 'Referrer ID'; $path = '/'; $current = Carbon::now(); // add 90 days to the current time $time = $current->addDays(90); $expires = strtotime($time); setcookie($name, $value, $expires, $path);
It also uses some of the other
sub() methods which Carbon provides. If you're adding a single date, such as a day, you use
addDay(), but if you're adding several days, you use
addDays(). Using Carbon’s add and subtract methods can provide you with adjusted date and times.
Looking forward and back
Carbon also provides the
previous() functions which return the upcoming and previous occurrences of a particular weekday, which you can see an example of in the code below.
<?php require __DIR__ . "/vendor/autoload.php"; use Carbon\Carbon; $now = Carbon::now(); echo "$now\n"; $next_monday = $now->next(Carbon::MONDAY); echo "Next monday: $next_monday\n"; $prev_monday = $now->previous(Carbon::MONDAY); echo "Previous monday: $prev_monday\n";
Format the date and time
Yet another fantastic option Carbon provides is the ability to format dates and times in whatever format that you desire. As Carbon is an expanded version of PHP's built-in date and time functions, Carbon can use PHP's built-in date formats via the
format() function. In addition,
toXXXString() methods are available to display dates and times with predefined formatting.
<?php require __DIR__ . "/vendor/autoload.php"; $dt = Carbon::create(2021,10, 25, 12, 48, 00); echo $dt->toDateString();//2021-10-25 echo $dt->toFormattedDateString();//Oct 25, 2021 echo $dt->toTimeString();//12:48:00 echo $dt->toDateTimeString();//2021-10-25 12:48:00 echo $dt->toDayDateTimeString();//Mon, Oct 25, 2021 12:48 PM echo $dt->format('Y-m-d h:i:s A');//2021-10-25 12:48:00 PM
Other typical datetime formatting methods available to Carbon include the following.
<?php require __DIR__ . "/vendor/autoload.php"; $dt->toAtomString(); $dt->toCookieString(); $dt->toIso8601String(); $dt->toIso8601ZuluString(); $dt->toRfc822String(); $dt->toRfc850String(); $dt->toRfc1036String(); $dt->toRfc1123String(); $dt->toRfc3339String(); $dt->toRfc7231String(); $dt->toRssString(); $dt->toW3cString();
Calculate relative time
diffForHumans() functions in Carbon also allow us to represent time in relative terms. Datetime discrepancies are frequently displayed in a so-called humanized format, such as in one year or three minutes ago.
Let's assume we're developing an extension for a blog CMS and we want to display the article's publish time in "hours ago" or the comments publish time in "hours ago".
First, the time and date the article was published, as well as other parameters, would be recorded in a database field. As a result, we extract the date from the database in the format
Y-m-d H:i:s and store it in a variable. Let's call it
<?php $time = $row['articledate'];
If the date in our database is August 4th, 2021, such as in the example below, you would use the
carbonCreateFromFormat() function to produce a Carbon date, and then use
diffForHumans() to find the difference.
<?php require __DIR__ . "/vendor/autoload.php"; $row['articledate'] = 2021-08-04 16:19:49; $dt = Carbon::createFromFormat('Y-m-d H:i:s', $time); echo $dt->diffForHumans() . "\n";
If the date was saved as a timestamp, you can call
Carbon::createFromTimestamp. Carbon also provides user translator services. So if your site makes use of a user's language preferences, call the language. If you have a user that speaks French, for example, all you have to do is call the function before the code, as seen below.
<?php require __DIR__ . "/vendor/autoload.php"; Carbon::setLocale()'.Carbon::setLocale('fr'); echo $dt->diffForHumans() . "\n";
Output in this case would be, for example, 'il y a 2 mois'.
That's the essentials of managing dates and times in PHP using Carbon
In this tutorial, you learned how to install Carbon and its core functionality. However, Carbon has a great deal more functionality than has been covered in this tutorial. Check out their docs if you're keen to learn more about the available functionality.
Prosper Ugbovo is a webapp developer specializing in huge yet simple web apps. His writing strives to strike a balance between being instructive and meeting technological needs – but never at the price of being fun to read.
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