Displaying a date in the correct locale with cakePHP

The easiest way to display a date in a given format is to use a combination of strftime() and strtotime().

Sometimes, you also need your date to be displayed in a specific language. For example, for a french website, I needed a date to be displayed as "mardi 03 août 2010" instead of "Wednesday, August 3rd".

Setting the locale

To achieve that, you just have to tell PHP which locale to use when displaying date with setlocale(LC_TIME, $locale).

The value of $locale is OS dependent, though. For example, on a linux server, you have to set fr_FR while it is fr or even frenchon Windows.

Fortunatly, you can pass an array of locales to setlocale(, and the system will use the first one it can find. You just have to pass an array containing all possible values and you'll be good to go.

I wrote a little method that use the L10nobject that comes with cakePHP to automate the creation of such an array. Just feed him a 3-letter language code and it will return an array of the most common locale names.

function getLocales($lang) {
// Loading the L10n object
$l10n = new L10n();

// Iso2 lang code
$iso2 = $l10n->map($lang);
$catalog = $l10n->catalog($lang);

$locales = array(
  $iso2.'_'.strtoupper($iso2).'.'.strtoupper(str_replace('-', '', $catalog['charset'])),    // fr_FR.UTF8
  $iso2.'_'.strtoupper($iso2),    // fr_FR
  $catalog['locale'],             // fre
  $catalog['localeFallback'],     // fre
  $iso2                           // fr
return $locales;

You may note that I set in first position a locale with the mention of the encoding. This is only used on Linux machines, Windows does not handle that. That's a pity, but I'll show you how to correctly make it work underWwindows.

As a side note, setlocale will not return false if the locale is not found, it will just fail to load it.

Displaying date in UTF8

If your app is in UTF8 (and it should be !) you may run into problem when trying to display a simple strftime("%B", strtotime($date)) on Windows.

%B translate to the current month name. For a month like Août (August) the funny û will not get correctly displayed, because Windows does its locale translation in its native encoding.

You'll need to manually encode it in utf8, but if you do so on a linux machine, as the result is already encoded in utf8 you may end in double encoding the same string, resulting in others display errors.

Note also that if your format string itself contains utf8 encoded characters (like%A %d %B %Y à %Hh%M), encoding it in utf8 again will also result in wrong characters displayed.

What I've done is creating a simple method in an helper that will take care of encoding the result if needed.

function time($format, $date = null) {
  // On Windows, we will force the utf8 encoding of the date
  if (DIRECTORY_SEPARATOR == '\\') {
    return utf8_encode(strftime(utf8_decode($format), strtotime($date)));
  // On linux, this is already taken care of by setlocale()
  return strftime($format, strtotime($date));

This way, we make sure that the date is correctly displayed in utf8, no matter the OS, even if you already supply utf8 characters in the format string.

Tags : #utf8 #cakephp #i18n

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