For a long time now (Actually, almost since forever), we have been stuck with the DateTime type in .NET. By “stuck”, it hasn’t been like it’s always been a problem, and you can go months, if not years of using DateTime without any issue. But every now and again, those gremlins creep in when trying to use DateTime as either only a Date, or only a Time.
In the case of using only a Date, this is extremely common when storing things such as birthdays, anniversary dates, or really any calendar date that doesn’t have a specific time associated with it. But in .NET, you were forced to use a DateTime object, often with a time portion of midnight. While this worked, often the time portion would get in the way when comparing dates or wanting to manipulate a date without really worrying about the time. It was especially weird when working with a SQL database that has the concept of a “date” type (with no time), but when loading the data into C#, you had to deal with a DateTime.
If you only wanted to store a time, then you were really in trouble. Imagine wanting to set an alarm for a recurring time, every day. What type would you use? Your best bet was of course to use the “TimeSpan” type, but this was actually designed to store elapsed time, not a particular clock time. As an example, a TimeSpan can have a value of 25 hours because it’s a measure of time, not the actual time of day. Another problem was time wrapping. If something started at 11PM, and went for 2 hours. How would you know to “wrap” the end time around to be 1AM? This often meant using some sort of rinky dink DateTime object that now ignored the date portion, ugh.
And that’s why .NET 6 has introduced DateOnly and TimeOnly!
Getting Setup With .NET 6 Preview
At the time of writing, .NET 6 is in preview, and is not currently available in general release. That doesn’t mean it’s hard to set up, it just means that generally you’re not going to have it already installed on your machine if you haven’t already been playing with some of the latest fandangle features.
To get set up using .NET 6, you can go and read out guide here : https://dotnetcoretutorials.com/2021/03/13/getting-setup-with-net-6-preview/
Remember, this feature is *only* available in .NET 6. Not .NET 5, not .NET Core 3.1, or any other version you can think of. 6.
Using DateOnly is actually pretty easy. I mean.. Check the following code out :
DateOnly date = DateOnly.MinValue; Console.WriteLine(date); //Outputs 01/01/0001 (With no Time)
An important distinction to make is that a DateOnly object never has a Timezone component. After all, if your birthday is on the 10th of May, it’s the 10th of May no matter where in the world you are. While this might seem insignificant, there are things like DateTimeKind and DateTimeOffset dedicated to solving timezone problems, of which, when we are using DateOnly we are uninterested in.
The thing to note here is that even if you didn’t intend to deal with timezones previously, you might have been conned into it. For example :
DateTime date = DateTime.Now; Console.WriteLine(date.Kind); //Outputs "Local"
The “Kind” of our DateTime object is “Local”. While this may seem insignificant, it could actually become very painful when converting the DateTime, or even serializing it.
All in all, DateOnly gives us a way to give a very precise meaning to a date, without being confused about timezones or time itself.
While DateOnly had fairly simple examples, TimeOnly actually has some nifty features that suddenly make this all the more a needed feature.
But first, a simple example :
TimeOnly time = TimeOnly.MinValue; Console.WriteLine(time); //Outputs 12:00 AM
Nice and simple right! What about if we use our example from above, and we check how time is wrapped. For example :
TimeOnly startTime = TimeOnly.Parse("11:00 PM"); var hoursWorked = 2; var endTime = startTime.AddHours(hoursWorked); Console.WriteLine(endTime); //Outputs 1:00 AM
As we can see, we no longer have to account for “overflows” like we would when using a TimeSpan object.
Another really cool feature is the “IsBetween” method on a TimeOnly object. As an example :
TimeOnly startTime = TimeOnly.Parse("11:00 PM"); var hoursWorked = 2; var endTime = startTime.AddHours(hoursWorked); var isBetween = TimeOnly.Parse("12:00 AM").IsBetween(startTime, endTime); //Returns true.
This is actually very very significant. In a recent project I was working on, we needed to send emails only in a select few hours in the evening. To check whether the current time was between two other datetimes is actually significantly harder than you may think. What would often happen is that we would have to take the time, and assign it to an arbitrary date (For example, 01/01/0001), and then do the comparison. But then the midnight wrap around would always choke us in the end.
In my view DateOnly and TimeOnly are significant additions to .NET, and ones that I think will be used right from release. On top of this, it doesn’t mean DateTime will be a relic of the past, instead, DateTime can be used only when you want to point to a specific date and time past, present or future, and not one or the other.