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Dates Embedded in the File Name

There are situations when your photo or movie files have no embedded content creation dates (e.g. DateTimeOriginal, DateTimeDigitized or Content Creation Dates) and/or where their file creation and file modification dates are incorrect, but where those dates are part of their file names.

In this situation, A Better Finder Attributes allows you to parse those dates in the file names and use them to set the file creation date, file modification date, DateTimeOriginal, DateTimeDigitized and Content Creation Dates.

If you are not familiar with those dates, please read the “File Date Primer” to save yourself a lot of confusion and frustration.

This feature is available by:

  • selecting Advanced date manipulation in the Action popup menu

  • then selecting Date embedded in file name in the Use popup menu

The file list on the right hand side now becomes a preview of the dates that were extracted from the file names.

As there are many different ways in which a date may be embedded in the file name, you need to tell A Better Finder Attributes how the dates are encoded, by making selections in the interface.

First, you need to tell it whether the time & date or just the date are encoded in the file name by selecting the appropriate option in the Extract: popup menu.

Next you have to tell it which parts of the file name correspond to the components of the date by giving it a “pattern” composed of:

  • YYYY the year as 4 digits

  • MM the month, either as a month name, or a one or two digit number

  • DD the day of the month, as a one or two digit number

If the time is embedded too:

  • hh the hour of the day, either in 24 or 12 hour format, as one or two digits

  • mm the minute of the hour, as one or two digits

  • ss the second of the minute, as one or two digits

You compose the pattern as a string of characters where the letters above represent the date & time components and other characters show the limits of where one component starts and where it ends.

If you have file name such as Holiday SnapZ 12_12_2020 for instance, you want a pattern such as DD_MM_YYYY or MM_DD_YYYY depending on whether the month or day come first.

If your file name is 12 12 2020, your pattern would be DD MM YYYY or MM DD YYYY.

In the same vein, for 2020-01-01, would need YYYY-MM-DD.

If the months are not encoded as digits, but as text, you need to select Use month names and enter a list of all 12 month names exactly as that they appear in the file name. The case of the words will be ignored.

You can use the pull down menu (the down arrow) next to the month name text field to automatically fill in English, German & French month names of various lengths.

At the very bottom of this section, you can tell the program whether a 12 or 24 hour clock should be used for times.

Of course, not all patterns that you can enter are going to be valid. You will need to have each of the required components in the pattern: for dates only, you will need to have DD, MM, YYYY. If you also include times, you will need to add at least hh and mm; ss is optional. If your pattern is valid (makes sense) a green check mark will be displayed next to the pattern text field. If there’s something wrong with the pattern, a red cross icon will be displayed.

You can pre-fill some standard pattern by using the pull down menu (the down arrow) next to the pattern field.

A Better Finder Attributes accepts file names that:

  • use 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th for the day numerals

  • one or two digits for all components except the year (which needs to be 4 digits long)

  • am, pm in upper or lowercase and with an arbitrary character between the suffix and the number

  • arbitrary text before and after the pattern, but not between its components!

So for instance:

  • text text 31st-March-2018 1:00pm matches DD-MM-YYYY hh:mm

  • but if you want to match 31st-March-2018 Holiday Snap at 1:00pm you need to include everything in between the date and the time in the pattern: DD-MM-YYYY Holiday Snap at hh:mm and DD-MM-YYYY hh:mm won’t work.

While this gives you a lot of flexibility, there are situations where you might need to “massage” the file names before parsing them. A Better Finder Attributes companion product A Better Finder Rename can help here.

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