On Windows I use the PSPad editor which has a nice ALT-D timestamp which you can edit the format of, e.g. yyyy-mm-dd hh:mm:ss.

When working outside an editor, e.g. Google Docs, I have Autohotkey which I have programmed CTRL-D to insert a yyyy-mm-dd hh:mm:ss timestamp.

I am now working on a Mac mostly using TextWrangler as my editor but I can't find a timestamp hotkey in its features.

What is the easiest way to get a yyyy-mm-dd hh:mm:ss hotkey on Mac, either in a (free) text editor or a (free) autohotkey equivalent?

  • Please comment on my answer if it doesn't work for you.
    – Daniel Beck
    Apr 24, 2011 at 9:00

5 Answers 5


One option is to use a shell script or Python/Perl/Ruby script.

One option, using Python:

#!/usr/bin/env python
import time
t = time.localtime()
# yyyy-mm-dd hh:mm:ss
print '%d-%02d-%02d %02d:%02d:%02d' % (t.tm_year, t.tm_mon, t.tm_mday, t.tm_hour, t.tm_min, t.tm_sec)

Another, shorter, by @NReilingh, using date (shell script):

date "+%Y-%m-%d %T"

Use /Applications/Automator.app to create a Service that executes this script. Add the Run Shell Script Automator action and insert the code above. Select no input in any application and replaces selected text. Then save.

It will be placed in the Services menu which is accessible from any application's menu bar by selecting the menu with the application's name. It might look something like this when you use it:

alt text

Assign keyboard shortcuts in the Keyboard preference pane in System Preferences.

alt text

The no longer free TextExpander has a feature similar to what you want. It's an application designed for snippet insertion, e.g. for partial email templates.

TextMate is an extensible, commercial editor that allows you to easily define custom commands, again in shell or scripting languages, and assign keyboard shortcuts to them.

  • If I do say so myself, $ date "+%Y-%m-%d %T" is a bit more compact... but I can't get either of these to work the way I want. How is one supposed to get an automator action to insert text at the current text input?
    – NReilingh
    Dec 30, 2010 at 9:09
  • Okay, figured it out: the "Replaces selected text" up at the top MUST be checked for raw shell script output to be inserted. Damn thing took me half an hour to figure out--I was about to post an answer using AppleScript keystroke instead. Also, make sure to define "Service receives no input in any application" up at the top if you want the service to be universally accessible.
    – NReilingh
    Dec 30, 2010 at 9:40
  • @NReilingh Sorry about that, but I was in a hurry as I posted this, with the intent to improve it once I had the chance (which is in a few minutes now).
    – Daniel Beck
    Dec 30, 2010 at 10:42
  • I'd like to add that you must select usr/bin/env Python or something like that (the one that has Python) from the drop down menu, otherwise whatever application calls the Service script won't know to recognize that its Python, I think. At least it didn't work for me until I did that.
    – user119510
    Feb 21, 2012 at 21:29
  • How can I unselect the text afterwards?
    – schmunk
    Mar 17, 2015 at 13:00

There's a bug in 10.7 and 10.8 where shortcuts for Automator services don't always work until the services menu has been shown from the menu bar. There's also a noticeable delay before services are run. Another option would be to assign a shortcut to a script like this:

set old to the clipboard as record
set the clipboard to (do shell script "date '+%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S'")
tell application "System Events" to keystroke "v" using command down
delay 0.05
set the clipboard to old

keystroke doesn't ignore held down modifier keys, so add a small delay to the start if you run the script with a shortcut that has other modifier keys than command. FastScripts waits until modifier keys are released before running scripts that contain keystroke or key code commands.

  • What's the purpose of Cmd-C between storing the old clipboard and setting new clipboard contents?
    – Daniel Beck
    Jun 18, 2011 at 17:36
  • Using the clipboard is a mess, particularly if the user is using ClipMenu or something similar. Dec 22, 2012 at 23:07
  • @Yar Alfred ignores "transient" clipboards, and keystroke doesn't know how to insert colons with my keyboard layout (but it's a bit of an edge case). keystroke might be better for inserting short ASCII-only strings like this though.
    – Lri
    Dec 23, 2012 at 10:00
  • Whew just checked with Spanish, thought maybe my Applescript wouldn't work. Glad it's ok, sorry that certain languages aren't given the same precedence. This is why scripting is so much more annoying than programming ;) Will check into using AlfredApp for that. They probably deserve the $$$ Dec 23, 2012 at 14:45

You can install a Freeware add-on called WordService that adds this functionality as a service, for which you can assign a keyboard shortcut in System Preferences -> Keyboard -> Shortcuts.

Here is an article about it from Mac OSX Tips - http://www.macosxtips.co.uk/index_files/automatically-insert-date-and-time.php

Download from http://www.devontechnologies.com/download/products.html or from App Store http://appstore.com/mac/wordservice


Lauri's solution is way more elegant than mine, but here's my AppleScript-only solution. Is it faster than running through the clipboard and using a shell script? Maybe.

Anyway: There are a lot of solutions to get it assigned to a key, but I've found that the easiest is Quicksilver SparkFastScripts. Spark can just use the scpt directly, which is what the AppleScript solution saves.

Date and Timestamp Trigger in OSX

-- yar2050 (Dan Rosenstark)'s favorite date format 
-- 2017-08-03 update
on fillInZero(int)
    if (int < 10) then set int to "0" & int
    return int as string
end fillInZero

set theDate to (current date)
set theHour to fillInZero(hours of (theDate) as integer)
set theMinutes to fillInZero(minutes of (theDate) as integer)
tell theDate to get (its month as integer)
set theMonth to fillInZero(result)
set theDay to fillInZero(day of theDate)
tell (theDate) to get (its year as integer) & "-" & (theMonth) & "-" & theDay & " " & (theHour) & ":" & theMinutes
set date_ to (result as string)
tell application "System Events"
    set frontmostApplication to name of the first process whose frontmost is true
end tell

tell application frontmostApplication
    delay 0.2 -- I have no idea why this is necessary
    tell application "System Events"
        if (frontmostApplication = "Evernote") then
            keystroke "h" using {command down, shift down}
            keystroke "b" using {command down}
            keystroke date_
            keystroke "b" using {command down}
            keystroke date_
        end if
    end tell
end tell

As an update to this question, users of OS X El Capitan might find the following AppleScript useful.

set the clipboard to (do shell script "date +%Y-%m-%d\" \"%H:%M:%S")
tell application "System Events"
    keystroke "v" using command down
end tell

Users can create a Run AppleScript workflow as described in the above answer by @daniel-beck. The example I created is shown below:

screenshot of applescript in automator

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