Monday, February 13, 2017

Where do you specify the Date Format Mask

When reviewing Oracle APEX applications I often see hardcoded date or timestamp formats.
You can define your date formats in multiple places in your application. In your item or column attributes, as part of your code e.g.TO_CHAR(sysdate, ‘DD-MON-YYYY HH24:MI’) or if you want to make it more reusable you might create a substitution string. That will all work, but you can make your life easier and for the ones looking or needing to maintain your code…

APEX itself provides in the Globalization attributes (Shared Components) a place where you can define your default date and format masks for your entire applications. I consider this a best practice to use those fields, as it’s defined in one logical place, so when you need to change your format, you do it once and you’re done. In your custom SQL and PL/SQL code you can also reference those format masks by predefined substitution strings:

  • APP_NLS_DATE_FORMAT
  • APP_DATE_TIME_FORMAT
  • APP_NLS_TIMESTAMP_FORMAT
  • APP_NLS_TIMESTAMP_TZ_FORMAT

e.g. TO_CHAR(sysdate, :APP_NLS_DATE_FORMAT)

Here’s a screenshot which shows which substitution string corresponds with which field:

Application Attributes - Globalization

You can define the format mask you want, or you can click the arrow to see most used format masks represented with an example. To make it a bit easier, I put the format mask (in red) next to it, so you see the underlying format mask more easily:

Possible date format masks defined in the pop-up

If you need to make the format mask dynamic, for example using different format masks for different language, APEX doesn’t allow you to translate that substitution string through Text Messages, but you can work around it by using your own substitution string and have that dynamically filled. In the Globalization Attributes you would add instead of a hardcoded format mask your own substitution string e.g. &MY_TRANSLATED_DATE.FORMAT.

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