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5.7. Clocks and Timers

One of the most obvious libraries a programming language should have is one to deal with date and time. However, experience shows that such a library is harder to design than it sounds. The problem is the amount of flexibility and precision the library should provide. In fact, in the past, the interfaces to system time provided by C and POSIX switched from seconds to milliseconds, then to microseconds, and finally to nanoseconds. The problem was that for each switch, a new interface was provided. For this reason, a precision-neutral library was proposed for C++11. This library is usually called the chrono library because its features are defined in <chrono>.

In addition, the C++ standard library provides the basic C and POSIX interfaces to deal with calendar time. Finally, you can use the thread library, provided since C++11, to wait for a thread or the program (the main thread) for a period of time.

5.7.1. Overview of the Chrono Library

The chrono library was designed to be able to deal with the fact that timers and clocks might be different on different systems and improve over time in precision. To avoid having to introduce a new time type every 10 years or so—as happened with the POSIX time libraries, for example—the goal was to provide a precision-neutral concept by separating duration and point of time (“timepoint”) from specific clocks. As a result, the core of the chrono library consists of the following types or concepts, which serve as abstract mechanisms to specify and deal with points in and durations of time:

  • A duration of time is defined as a specific number of ticks over a time unit. One example is a duration such as “3 minutes” (3 ticks of a “minute”). Other examples are “42 milliseconds” or “86,400 seconds,” which represents the duration of 1 day. This concept also allows specifying something like “1.5 times a third of a second,” where 1.5 is the number of ticks and “a third of a second” the time unit used.
  • A timepoint is defined as combination of a duration and a beginning of time (the so-called epoch). A typical example is a timepoint that represents “New Year’s Midnight 2000,” which is described as “1,262,300,400 seconds since January 1, 1970” (this day is the epoch of the system clock of UNIX and POSIX systems).
  • The concept of a timepoint, however, is parametrized by a clock, which is the object that defines the epoch of a timepoint. Thus, different clocks have different epochs. In general, operations dealing with multiple timepoints, such as processing the duration/difference between two time-points, require using the same epoch/clock. A clock also provides a convenience function to yield the timepoint of now.

In other words, timepoint is defined as a duration before or after an epoch, which is defined by a clock (see Figure 5.4).

Figure 5.4

Figure 5.4. Epoch, Durations, and Timepoints

For more details about the motivation and design of these classes, see [N2661:Chrono].27 Let’s look into these types and concepts in detail.

Note that all identifiers of the chrono library are defined in namespace std::chrono.

5.7.2. Durations

A duration is a combination of a value representing the number of ticks and a fraction representing the unit in seconds. Class ratio is used to specify the fraction (see Section 5.6, page 140). For example:

std::chrono::duration<long,std::ratio<1,1000>> oneMillisecond(1);

Here, the first template argument defines the type of the ticks, and the optional second template argument defines the unit type in seconds. Thus, the first line uses seconds as unit type, the second line uses minutes (“60by1.jpg seconds”), and the third line uses milliseconds (“1by1000.jpg of a second”). For more convenience, the C++ standard library provides the following type definitions:

namespace std {
namespace chrono {
typedef duration<signed int-type >= 64 bits,nano>        nanoseconds;
typedef duration<signed int-type >= 55 bits,micro>       microseconds;
typedef duration<signed int-type >= 45 bits,milli>       milliseconds;
typedef duration<signed int-type >= 35 bits>             seconds;
typedef duration<signed int-type >= 29 bits,ratio<60>>   minutes;
typedef duration<signed int-type >= 23 bits,ratio<3600>> hours;

With them, you can easily specify typical time periods:

std::chrono::seconds      twentySeconds(20);
std::chrono::hours        aDay(24);
std::chrono::milliseconds oneMillisecond(1);

Arithmetic Duration Operations

You can compute with durations in the expected way (see Table 5.21):

  • You can process the sum, difference, product, or quotient of two durations.
  • You can add or subtract ticks or other durations.
  • You can compare two durations.

Table 5.21. Arithmetic Operations of durations



d1 + d2

Process sum of durations d1 and d2

d1 - d2

Process difference of durations d1 and d2

d * val

Return result of val times duration d

val * d

Return result of val times duration d

d / val

Return of the duration d divided by value val

d1 / d2

Compute factor between durations d1 and d2

d % val

Result of duration d modulo value val

d % d2

Result of duration d modulo the value of d2

d1 == d2

Return whether duration d1 is equal to duration d2

d1 != d2

Return whether duration d1 differs from duration d2

d1 < d2

Return whether duration d1 is shorter than duration d2

d1 <= d2

Return whether duration d1 is not longer than duration d2

d1 > d2

Return whether duration d1 is longer than duration d2

d1 <= d2

Return whether duration d1 is not shorter than duration d2

++ d

Increment duration d by 1 tick

d ++

Increment duration d by 1 tick

-- d

Decrement duration d by 1 tick

d --

Decrement duration d by 1 tick

d += d1

Extend the duration d by the duration d1

d -= d1

Shorten the duration d by the duration d1

d *= val

Multiply the duration d by val

d /= val

Divide the duration d by val

d %= val

Process duration d modulo val

d %= d2

Process duration d modulo the value of d2

The important point here is that the unit type of two durations involved in such an operation might be different. Due to a provided overloading of common_type<> (see Section 5.4.1, page 124) for durations, the resulting duration will have a unit that is the greatest common divisor of the units of both operands.

For example, after

chrono::seconds       d1(42);   // 42 seconds
chrono::milliseconds  d2(10);   // 10 milliseconds

the expression

d1 - d2

yields a duration of 41,990 ticks of unit type milliseconds (1by1000.jpg seconds).

Or, more generally, after

chrono::duration<int,ratio<1,3>> d1(1);   // 1 tick of 1/3 second
chrono::duration<int,ratio<1,5>> d2(1);   // 1 tick of 1/5 second

the expression

d1 + d2

yields 8 ticks of 1by15.jpg second and

d1 < d2

yields false. In both cases, d1 gets expanded to 5 ticks of 1by15.jpg second, and d2 gets expanded to 3 ticks of 1by15.jpg second. So the sum of 3 and 5 is 8, and 5 is not less than 3.

You can also convert durations into durations of different units, as long as there is an implicit type conversion. Thus, you can convert hours into seconds but not the other way around. For example:

std::chrono::seconds twentySeconds(20);  // 20 seconds
std::chrono::hours   aDay(24);           // 24 hours

std::chrono::milliseconds ms;            // 0 milliseconds
ms += twentySeconds + aDay;              // 86,400,000 milliseconds
--ms;                                    // 86,399,999 milliseconds
ms *= 2;                                 // 172,839,998 milliseconds
std::cout << ms.count() << " ms" << std::endl;
std::cout << std::chrono::nanoseconds(ms).count() << " ns" << std::endl;

These conversions result in the following output:

172839998 ms
172839998000000 ns

Other Duration Operations

In the preceding example, we use the member count() to yield the current number of ticks, which is one of the other operations provided for durations. Table 5.22 lists all operations, members, and types available for durations besides the arithmetic operations of Table 5.21. Note that the default constructor default-initializes (see Section 3.2.1, page 37) its value, which means that for fundamental representation types, the initial value is undefined.

Table 5.22. Other Operations and Types of durations



duration d

Default constructor; creates duration (default-initialized)

duration d(d2)

Copy constructor; copies duration (d2 might have a different unit type)

duration d(val)

Creates duration of val ticks of ds unit type

d = d2

Assigns duration d2 to d (implicit conversion possible)


Returns ticks of the duration d


Returns duration d explicitly converted into type D


Yields duration of zero length


Yields maximum possible duration of this type


Yields minimum possible duration of this type


Yields the type of the ticks


Yields the type of the unit type

You can use these members to define a convenience function for the output operator << for durations:28

template <typename V, typename R>
ostream& operator << (ostream& s, const chrono::duration<V,R>& d)
   s << "[" << d.count() << " of " << R::num << "/"
                                   << R::den << "]";
   return s;

Here, after printing the number of ticks with count(), we print the numerator and denominator of the unit type used, which is a ratio processed at compile time (see Section 5.6, page 140). For example,

std::chrono::milliseconds d(42);
std::cout << d << std::endl;

will then print:

[42 of 1/1000]

As we have seen, implicit conversions to a more precise unit type are always possible. However, conversions to a coarser unit type are not, because you might lose information. For example, when converting an integral value of 42,010 milliseconds into seconds, the resulting integral value, 42, means that the precision of having a duration of 10 milliseconds over 42 seconds gets lost. But you can still explicitly force such a conversion with a duration_cast. For example:

std::chrono::seconds sec(55);
std::chrono::minutes m1 = sec;      // ERROR
std::chrono::minutes m2 =
std::chrono::duration_cast<std::chrono::minutes>(sec);  // OK

As another example, converting a duration with a floating-point tick type also requires an explicit cast to convert it into an integral duration type:

std::chrono::duration<double,std::ratio<60>> halfMin(0.5);
std::chrono::seconds s1 = halfMin;   // ERROR
std::chrono::seconds s2 =
std::chrono::duration_cast<std::chrono::seconds>(halfMin);  // OK

A typical example is code that segments a duration into different units. For example, the following code segments a duration of milliseconds into the corresponding hours, minutes, seconds, and milliseconds (to output the first line starting with raw: we use the output operator just defined):

using namespace std;
using namespace std::chrono;
milliseconds ms(7255042);

// split into hours, minutes, seconds, and milliseconds
hours   hh = duration_cast<hours>(ms);
minutes mm = duration_cast<minutes>(ms % chrono::hours(1));
seconds ss = duration_cast<seconds>(ms % chrono::minutes(1));
milliseconds msec
           = duration_cast<milliseconds>(ms % chrono::seconds(1));

// and print durations and values:
cout << "raw: " << hh << "::" << mm << "::"
                << ss << "::" << msec << endl;
cout << "     " << setfill(’0’) << setw(2) << hh.count() << "::"
                                << setw(2) << mm.count() << "::"
                                << setw(2) << ss.count() << "::"
                                << setw(3) << msec.count() << endl;

Here, the cast


converts the milliseconds into hours, where the values are truncated, not rounded. Thanks to the modulo operator %, for which you can even pass a duration as second argument, you can easily process the remaining milliseconds with ms % std::chrono::hours(1), which is then converted into minutes. Thus, the output of this code will be as follows:

raw: [2 of 3600/1]::[0 of 60/1]::[55 of 1/1]::[42 of 1/1000]

Finally, class duration provides three static functions: zero(), which yields a duration of 0 seconds, as well as min() and max(), which yield the minimum and maximum value a duration can have.

5.7.3. Clocks and Timepoints

The relationships between timepoints and clocks are a bit tricky:

  • A clock defines an epoch and a tick period. For example, a clock might tick in milliseconds since the UNIX epoch (January 1, 1970) or tick in nanoseconds since the start of the program. In addition, a clock provides a type for any timepoint specified according to this clock.

    The interface of a clock provides a function now() to yield an object for the current point in time.

  • A timepoint represents a specific point in time by associating a positive or negative duration to a given clock. Thus, if the duration is “10 days” and the associated clock has the epoch of January 1, 1970, the timepoint represents January 11, 1970.

    The interface of a timepoint provides the ability to yield the epoch, minimum and maximum timepoints according to the clock, and timepoint arithmetic.


Table 5.23 lists the type definitions and static members required for each clock.

Table 5.23. Operations and Types of Clocks




Yields the duration type of the clock


Yields the type of the ticks (equivalent to clock::duration::rep)


Yields the type of the unit type (equivalent to clock::duration::period)


Yields the timepoint type of the clock


Yields true if the clock is steady


Yields a time_point for the current point in time

The C++ standard library provides three clocks, which provide this interface:

  1. The system_clock represents timepoints associated with the usual real-time clock of the current system. This clock also provides convenience functions to_time_t() and from_time_t() to convert between any timepoint and the C system time type time_t, which means that you can convert into and from calendar times (see Section 5.7.4, page 158).
  2. The steady_clock gives the guarantee that it never gets adjusted.29 Thus, timepoint values never decrease as the physical time advances, and they advance at a steady rate relative to real time.
  3. The high_resolution_clock represents a clock with the shortest tick period possible on the current system.

Note that the standard does not provide requirements for the precision, the epoch, and the range (minimum and maximum timepoints) of these clocks. For example, your system clock might have the UNIX epoch (January 1, 1970) as epoch, but this is not guaranteed. If you require a specific epoch or care for timepoints that might not be covered by the clock, you have to use convenience functions to find it out.

For example, the following function prints the properties of a clock:

// util/clock.hpp

#include <chrono>
#include <iostream>
#include <iomanip>

template <typename C>
void printClockData ()
    using namespace std;

    cout << "- precision: ";
    // if time unit is less or equal one millisecond
    typedef typename C::period P;// type of time unit
    if (ratio_less_equal<P,milli>::value) {
       // convert to and print as milliseconds
       typedef typename ratio_multiply<P,kilo>::type TT;
       cout << fixed << double(TT::num)/TT::den
            << " milliseconds" << endl;
    else {
        // print as seconds
        cout << fixed << double(P::num)/P::den << " seconds" << endl;
    cout << "- is_steady: " << boolalpha << C::is_steady << endl;

We can call this function for the various clocks provided by the C++ standard library:

// util/clock1.cpp

#include <chrono>
#include "clock.hpp"

int main()
    std::cout << "system_clock: " << std::endl;
    std::cout << "\nhigh_resolution_clock: " << std::endl;
    std::cout << "\nsteady_clock: " << std::endl;

The program might, for example, have the following output:

- precision: 0.000100 milliseconds
- is_steady: false

- precision: 0.000100 milliseconds
- is_steady: true

- precision: 1.000000 milliseconds
- is_steady: true

Here, for example, the system and the high-resolution clock have the same precision of 100 nanoseconds, whereas the steady clock uses milliseconds. You can also see that both the steady clock and high-resolution clock can’t be adjusted. Note, however, that this might be very different on other systems. For example, the high-resolution clock might be the same as the system clock.

The steady_clock is important to compare or compute the difference of two times in your program, where you processed the current point in time. For example, after

auto system_start = chrono::system_clock::now();

a condition to check whether the program runs more than one minute:

if (chrono::system_clock::now() > system_start + minutes(1))

might not work, because if the clock was adjusted in the meantime, the comparison might yield false, although the program did run more than a minute. Similarly, processing the elapsed time of a program:

auto diff = chrono::system_clock::now() - system_start;
auto sec = chrono::duration_cast<chrono::seconds>(diff);
cout << "this program runs:" << s.count() << " seconds" << endl;

might print a negative duration if the clock was adjusted in the meantime. For the same reason, using timers with other than the steady_clock might change their duration when the system clock gets adjusted (see Section 5.7.5, page 160, for details).


With any of these clocks—or even with user-defined clocks—you can deal with timepoints. Class time_point provides the corresponding interface, parametrized by a clock:

namespace std {
   namespace chrono {
     template <typename Clock,
               typename Duration = typename Clock::duration>
         class time_point;

Four specific timepoints play a special role:

  1. The epoch, which the default constructor of class time_point yields for each clock.
  2. The current time, which the static member function now() of each clock yields (see Section 5.7.3, page 149).
  3. The minimum timepoint, which the static member function min() of class time_point yields for each clock.
  4. The maximum timepoint, which the static member function max() of class time_point yields for each clock.

For example, the following program assigns these timepoints to tp and prints them converted into a calendar notation:

// util/chrono1.cpp

#include <chrono>
#include <ctime>
#include <string>
#include <iostream>

std::string asString (const std::chrono::system_clock::time_point& tp)
     // convert to system time:
     std::time_t t = std::chrono::system_clock::to_time_t(tp);
     std::string ts = std::ctime(&t);// convert to calendar time
     ts.resize(ts.size()-1);         // skip trailing newline
     return ts;

int main()
     // print the epoch of this system clock:
     std::chrono::system_clock::time_point tp;
     std::cout << "epoch: " << asString(tp) << std::endl;

     // print current time:
     tp = std::chrono::system_clock::now();
     std::cout << "now:   " << asString(tp) << std::endl;

     // print minimum time of this system clock:
     tp = std::chrono::system_clock::time_point::min();
     std::cout << "min:   " << asString(tp) << std::endl;

     // print maximum time of this system clock:
     tp = std::chrono::system_clock::time_point::max();
     std::cout << "max:   " << asString(tp) << std::endl;

After including <chrono>, we first declare a convenience function asString(), which converts a timepoint of the system clock into the corresponding calendar time. With

std::time_t t = std::chrono::system_clock::to_time_t(tp);

we use the static convenience function to_time_t(), which converts a timepoint into an object of the traditional time type of C and POSIX, type time_t, which usually represents the number of seconds since the UNIX epoch, January 1, 1970 (see Section 5.7.4, page 157). Then,

std::string ts = std::ctime(&t);

uses ctime() to convert this into a calendar notation, for which


removes the trailing newline character.

Note that ctime() takes the local time zone into account, which has consequences we will discuss shortly. Note also that this convenience function probably will work only for system_clocks, the only clocks that provide an interface for conversions to and from time_t. For other clocks, such an interface might also work but is not portable, because the other clocks are not required to have epoch of the system time as their internal epoch.

Note also that the output format for timepoints might better get localized by using the time_put facet. See Section 16.4.3, page 884, for details, and page 886 for an example.

Inside main(), the type of tp, declared as


is equivalent to:30


Thus, tp is declared as the timepoint of the system_clock. Having the clock as template argument ensures that only timepoint arithmetic with the same clock (epoch) is possible.

The program might have the following output:

  epoch: Thu Jan1 01:00:00 1970
  now:Sun Jul 24 19:40:46 2011
  min:Sat Mar5 18:27:38 1904
  max:Mon Oct 29 07:32:22 2035

Thus, the default constructor, which yields the epoch, creates a timepoint, which asString() converts into

Thu Jan 1 01:00:00 1970

Note that it’s 1 o’clock rather than midnight. This may look a bit surprising, but remember that the conversion to the calendar time with ctime() inside asString() takes the time zone into account. Thus, the UNIX epoch used here—which, again, is not always guaranteed to be the epoch of the system time—started at 00:00 in Greenwich, UK. In my time zone, Germany, it was 1 a.m. at that moment, so in my time zone the epoch started at 1 a.m. on January 1, 1970. Accordingly, if you start this program, your output is probably different, according to your time zone, even if your system uses the same epoch in its system clock.

To have the universal time (UTC) instead, you should use the following conversion rather than calling ctime(), which is a shortcut for asctime(localtime(...)) (see Section 5.7.4, page 157):

std::string ts = std::asctime(gmtime(&t));

In that case, the output of the program would be:

  epoch: Thu Jan1 00:00:00 1970
  now:Sun Jul 24 17:40:46 2011
  min:Sat Mar5 17:27:38 1904
  max:Mon Oct 29 06:32:22 2035

Yes, here, the difference is 2 hours for now(), because this timepoint is when summertime is used, which leads to a 2-hour difference to UTC in Germany.

In general, time_point objects have only one member, the duration, which is relative to the epoch of the associated clock. The timepoint value can be requested by time_since_epoch(). For timepoint arithmetic, any useful combination of a timepoint and another timepoint or duration is provided (see Table 5.24).

Table 5.24. Operations of time_points




timepoint t


Default constructor; creates a timepoint representing the epoch

timepoint t(tp2)


Creates a timepoint equivalent to tp2 (the duration unit might be finer grained)

timepoint t(d)


Creates a timepoint having duration d after the epoch



Converts tp into a timepoint with clock C and duration D (which might be more coarse grained)

tp += d


Adds duration d to the current timepoint tp

tp -= d


Subtracts duration d from the current timepoint tp

tp + d


Returns a new timepoint of tp with duration d added

d + tp


Returns a new timepoint of tp with duration d added

tp - d


Returns a new timepoint of tp with duration d subtracted

tp1 - tp2


Returns the duration between timepoints tp1 and tp2

tp1 == tp2


Returns whether timepoint tp1 is equal to timepoint tp2

tp1 != tp2


Returns whether timepoint tp1 differs from timepoint tp2

tp1 < tp2


Returns whether timepoint tp1 is before timepoint tp2

tp1 <= tp2


Returns whether timepoint tp1 is not after timepoint tp2

tp1 > tp2


Returns whether timepoint tp1 is after timepoint tp2

tp1 >= tp2


Returns whether timepoint tp1 is not before timepoint tp2



Returns the duration between the epoch and timepoint tp



Returns the first possible timepoint of type timepoint



Returns the last possible timepoint of type timepoint

Although the interface uses class ratio (see Section 5.6, page 140), which ensures that over-flows by the duration units yield a compile-time error, overflows on the duration values are possible. Consider the following example:

// util/chrono2.cpp

#include <chrono>
#include <ctime>
#include <iostream>
#include <string>
using namespace std;
string asString (const chrono::system_clock::time_point& tp)
    time_t t = chrono::system_clock::to_time_t(tp); // convert to system time
    string ts = ctime(&t);                         // convert to calendar time
    ts.resize(ts.size()-1);                        // skip trailing newline
    return ts;

int main()
   // define type for durations that represent day(s):
   typedef chrono::duration<int,ratio<3600*24>> Days;

   // process the epoch of this system clock
   chrono::time_point<chrono::system_clock> tp;
   cout << "epoch:" << asString(tp) << endl;

  // add one day, 23 hours, and 55 minutes
  tp += Days(1) + chrono::hours(23) + chrono::minutes(55);
  cout << "later:" << asString(tp) << endl;

  // process difference from epoch in minutes and days:
  auto diff = tp - chrono::system_clock::time_point();
  cout << "diff:"
       << chrono::duration_cast<chrono::minutes>(diff).count()
       << " minute(s)" << endl;
  Days days = chrono::duration_cast<Days>(diff);
  cout << "diff:" << days.count() << " day(s)" << endl;

  // subtract one year (hoping it is valid and not a leap year)
  tp -= chrono::hours(24*365);
  cout << "-1 year:" << asString(tp) << endl;

  // subtract 50 years (hoping it is valid and ignoring leap years)
  tp -= chrono::duration<int,ratio<3600*24*365>>(50);
  cout << "-50 years: " << asString(tp) << endl;

  // subtract 50 years (hoping it is valid and ignoring leap years)
  tp -= chrono::duration<int,ratio<3600*24*365>>(50);
  cout << "-50 years: " << asString(tp) << endl;

First, expressions, such as

tp = tp + Days(1) + chrono::hours(23) + chrono::minutes(55);


tp -= chrono::hours(24*365);

allow adjusting timepoints by using timepoint arithmetic.

Because the precision of the system clock usually is better than minutes and days, you have to explicitly cast the difference between two timepoints to become days:

auto diff = tp - chrono::system_clock::time_point();
Days days = chrono::duration_cast<Days>(diff);

Note, however, that these operation do not check whether a combination performs an overflow. On my system, the output of the program is as follows:

epoch:        Thu Jan1 01:00:00 1970
later:        Sat Jan3 00:55:00 1970
diff:         2875 minute(s)
diff:         1 day(s)
-1 year:      Fri Jan3 00:55:00 1969
-50 years:    Thu Jan 16 00:55:00 1919
-50 years:    Sat Mar5 07:23:16 2005

You can see the following:

  • The cast uses static_cast<> for the destination unit, which for ordinary integral unit types means that values are truncated instead of rounded. For this reason, a duration of 47 hours and 55 minutes converts into 1 day.
  • Subtracting 50 years of 365 days does not take leap years into account, so the resulting day is January 16 instead of January 3.
  • When deducting another 50 years the timepoint goes below the minimum timepoint, which is March 5, 1904 on my system (see Section 5.7.3, page 152), so the result is the year 2005. No error processing is required by the C++ standard library in this case.

This demonstrates that chrono is a duration and a timepoint but not a date/time library. You can compute with durations and timepoints but still have to take epoch, minimum and maximum timepoints, leap years, and leap seconds into account.

5.7.4. Date and Time Functions by C and POSIX

The C++ standard library also provides the standard C and POSIX interfaces to deal with date and time. In <ctime>, the macros, types, and functions of <time.h> are available in namespace std. The types and functions are listed in Table 5.25. In addition, the macro CLOCKS_PER_SEC defines the unit type of clock() (which returns the elapsed CPU time in 158fig00.jpg seconds). See Section 16.4.3, page 884, for some more details and examples using these time functions and types.

Table 5.25. Definitions in <ctime>




Type of numeric values of elapsed CPU time returned by clock()


Type of numeric values representing timepoints

struct tm

Type of “broken down” calendar time


Yields the elapsed CPU time in 158fig00.jpg seconds


Yields the current time as numeric value


Yields the difference of two time_t in seconds as double


Converts a time_t into a struct tm taking time zone into account


Converts a time_t into a struct tm not taking time zone into account


Converts a struct tm into a standard calendar time string


Converts a struct tm into a user-defined calendar time string


Converts a time_t into a standard calendar time string taking time zone into account (shortcut for asctime(localtime(t)))


Converts a struct tm into a time_t and queries weekday and day of the year

Note that time_t usually is just the number of seconds since the UNIX epoch, which is January 1, 1970. However, according to the C and C++ standard, this is not guaranteed.

Conversions between Timepoints and Calendar Time

The convenience function to transfer a timepoint to a calendar time string was already discussed in Section 5.7.3, page 153. Here is a header file that also allows converting calendar times into timepoints:

// util/timepoint.hpp

#include <chrono>
#include <ctime>
#include <string>

// convert timepoint of system clock to calendar time string
std::string asString (const std::chrono::system_clock::time_point& tp)
   // convert to system time:
   std::time_t t = std::chrono::system_clock::to_time_t(tp);
   std::string ts = ctime(&t);   // convert to calendar time
   ts.resize(ts.size()-1);       // skip trailing newline
   return ts;
// convert calendar time to timepoint of system clock
makeTimePoint (int year, int mon, int day,
               int hour, int min, int sec=0)
   struct std::tm t;
   t.tm_sec = sec;        // second of minute (0 .. 59 and 60 for leap seconds)
   t.tm_min = min;        // minute of hour (0 .. 59)
   t.tm_hour = hour;      // hour of day (0 .. 23)
   t.tm_mday = day;       // day of month (0 .. 31)
   t.tm_mon = mon-1;      // month of year (0 .. 11)
   t.tm_year = year-1900; // year since 1900
   t.tm_isdst = -1;       // determine whether daylight saving time
   std::time_t tt = std::mktime(&t);
   if (tt == -1) {
       throw "no valid system time";
   return std::chrono::system_clock::from_time_t(tt);

The following program demonstrates these convenience functions:

// util/timepoint1.cpp

#include <chrono>
#include <iostream>
#include "timepoint.hpp"

int main()
    auto tp1 = makeTimePoint(2010,01,01,00,00);
    std::cout << asString(tp1) << std::endl;

    auto tp2 = makeTimePoint(2011,05,23,13,44);
    std::cout << asString(tp2) << std::endl;

The program has the following output:

Fri Jan1 00:00:00 2010
Mon May 23 13:44:00 2011

Note again that both makeTimePoint() and asString() take the local time zone into account. For this reason, the date passed to makeTimePoint() matches the output with asString(). Also, it doesn’t matter whether daylight saving time is used (passing a negative value to t.tm_isdst in makeTimePoint() causes mktime() to attempt to determine whether daylight saving time is in effect for the specified time).

Again, to let asString() use the universal time UTC instead, use asctime(gmtime(...)) rather than ctime(...). For mktime(), there is no specified way to use UTC, so makeTimePoint() always takes the current time zone into account.

Section 16.4.3, page 884, demonstrates how to use locales to internationalize the reading and writing of time data.

5.7.5. Blocking with Timers

Durations and timepoints can be used to block threads or programs (i.e., the main thread). These blocks can be conditionless or can be used to specify a maximum duration when waiting for a lock, a condition variable, or another thread to end (see Chapter 18):

  • sleep_for() and sleep_until() are provided by this_thread to block threads (see Section 18.3.7, page 981).
  • try_lock_for() and try_lock_until() are provided to specify a maximum interval when waiting for a mutex (see Section 18.5.1, page 994).
  • wait_for() and wait_until() are provided to specify a maximum interval when waiting for a condition variable or a future (see Section 18.1.1, page 953 or Section 18.6.4, page 1010).

All the blocking functions that end with ..._for() use a duration, whereas all functions that end with ..._until() use a timepoint as argument. For example,


blocks the current thread, which might be the main thread, for 10 seconds, whereas

+ chrono::seconds(10));

blocks the current thread until the system clock has reached a timepoint 10 seconds later than now.

Although these calls look the same, they are not! For all ..._until() functions, where you pass a timepoint, time adjustments might have an effect. If, during the 10 seconds after calling sleep_until(), the system clock gets adjusted, the timeout will be adjusted accordingly. If, for example, we wind the system clock back 1 hour, the program will block for 60 minutes and 10 seconds. If, for example, we adjust the clock forward for more than 10 seconds, the timer will end immediately.

If you use a ..._for() function, such as sleep_for(), where you pass a duration, or if you use the steady_clock, adjustments of the system clock usually will have no effect on the duration of timers. However, on hardware where a steady clock is not available, and thus the platform gives no chance to count seconds independently of a possibly adjusted system time, time adjustments can also impact the ..._for() functions.

All these timers do not guarantee to be exact. For any timer, there will be a delay because the system only periodically checks for expired timers, and the handling of timers and interrupts takes some time. Thus, durations of timers will take their specified time plus a period that depends on the quality of implementation and the current situation.

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