Date formating in R

April 18, 2014

(This article was first published on The R Trader » R, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

As I often manipulate time series from different sources, I rarely come across the same date format twice. Having to reformat the dates every time is a real waste of time because I never remember the syntax of the as.Date function. I put below a few examples that turn strings into standard R date format.

Besides the usual transformations, two tricks are worth mentioning:

  • When dates are given in two digits format, R century has to be adjusted depending on whether it is before or after 1969 (example 4 below).
  • When data is coming from Excel as an integer number (I am on Windows, it might be different for Mac users) the origin has to be specified in the as.Date function (example 9 below).

I usually refer to those examples when I have to create R dates. The code below is self explanatory.

rawDate1 <- "6aug2005"
date1 <- as.Date(rawDate1, format = "%d%B%Y")

rawDate2 <- "aug061999"
date2 <- as.Date(rawDate2, format = "%B%d%Y")

rawDate3 <- "12-05-2001"
date3 <- as.Date(rawDate3, format = "%m-%d-%Y")

rawDate4 <- "05/27/25"
## if you mean 2025
date4 <- as.Date(rawDate4, format = "%m/%d/%y")
## if you mean 1925
date4 <- as.Date(format(as.Date(rawDate4, format = "%m/%d/%y"), "19%y/%m/%d"),"%Y/%m/%d")

rawDate5 <- "May 27 1984"
date5 <- as.Date(rawDate5, format = "%B %d %Y")

rawDate6 <- "1998-07-22"
date6 <- as.Date(rawDate6, format = "%Y-%m-%d")

rawDate7 <- "20041024"
date7 <- as.Date(rawDate7, format = "%Y%m%d")

rawDate8 <- "22.10.2004"
date8 <- as.Date(rawDate8, format = "%d.%m.%Y")

## Excel on windows date format (origin as of December 30, 1899)
rawDate9 <- 36529
date9 <- as.Date(rawDate9, origin = "1899-12-30")

For those of you who wish to go further, I recommend the following link: Dates and Times in R. It is also worth mentioning the lubridate package and the date package. Both of them provide advanced functions for handling dates and times.

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