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Using time.h Header File in C in depth

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In this article, we are going to study about the time.h standard header file in C Programming Language and cover the different methods available in it.

Table of Content

  1. Prerequisites
  2. Introduction and Declaration
  3. MACROS
  4. Data Types
  5. Built-In function
  6. Conclusion

Prerequisites

You should have basic knowledge about :-

Introduction and Declaration

  • The <time.h> is a standard header file in C programming language which is used for manipulating date and time.
  • It consists of Data Types, MACROS and Built In Functions.
#include<time.h>                   //Header File

MACROS

  1. NULL :- A null pointer constant.

  2. CLOCKS_PER_SEC :- It defines number of clock ticks /sec.There are 1,000,000 ticks/sec.

Data Types

  • size_t :- A type for storing date and time.

  • clock_t :- A type to measure processor time.

  • struct tm :- It is a structure that stores all kinds of useful information about the calender time.

struct tm{
    int tm_sec;                 //represents seconds (0, 59)
    int tm_min;                 //represents minutes (0, 59)
    int tm_hour;                //represents hour (0, 23)
    int tm_mday;                //represents day of a month (1, 31)
    int tm_mon;                 //represents months (0, 11)
    int tm_year;                //represents year since 1900
    int tm_wday;                //represents days (0, 6)
    int tm_yday;                //represents days since January 1(0,365)
    int tm_isdst;               //represents daylight saving time flag
/*
tm_isdst is positive is in effect,
tm_isdst is zero if not in effect,
tm_isdst is negative if otherwise.
 */
};

Built In Function

Time Manipulation Functions

Function Description
clock() This function determines the processors time used.
time() This function determines the current calender time in seconds.
difftime() This function outputs the difference between two calender time in seconds.
mktime() This function converts the the local time in the structure (tm) into calender time format.

Time Conversion Functions

  • These functions return a pointer to one of two types of static objects.
    Examples :- A broken-down time structure or an array of characters.

  • Programs will clarify these statements given ahead.

Function Description
ctime() This function converts the calendar time pointed to by timer to local time in the form of a string.
localtime() This function converts the calendar time pointed to by timer into a broken-down time.
gmtime() This function converts the calendar time pointed to by timer into a broken-down time expressed as Coordinated Universal Time(UTC).
asctime() This function returns a pointer to the string.

clock() Function

time_t clock(void);                  //Function Declaration  
  • It returns processor time used by program or returns -1 if time is not available.
#include<stdio.h>
#include<time.h>

int main(){
  time_t ticks, timer;                 //Declaring variable of time_t type
  for(int i=0;i<600000;i++)            //running loop to consume processor time
  {}

  ticks = clock();

  timer  = clock()/CLOCKS_PER_SEC;
  printf("Number of clock ticks %d\n", ticks);
  printf("Number of seconds the processor was in use %f sec", timer);
  return 0;
}

Output

1990
0.000000

Why is time in seconds consumed by processor zero ?

  • Our computer is fast so the process is executed instantly.

time() Function

time_t time(time_t  *timer);      //Function Declaration
  • This function returns the calender time in seconds or -1 if time is not available.
#include <stdio.h>      
#include <time.h>     
int main ()
{
  time_t timer;

  printf("The number of seconds passed %d",time(&timer));     // get current time; same as: timer = time(NULL)  
  return 0;
}

Output

 1680107360

What is this ?

  • This value represents the number of seconds passed since 00:00 hours, Jan 1, 1970 UTC .
    So if we run the program again then,
1680107368
  • The difference between these two outputs represents the number of seconds passed.

Why 1970 ?

  • This represents UNIX epoch(birthday).

difftime() function

double difftime(time_t end, time_t start);        //Function Declaration
#include<stdio.h>
#include<time.h>

int main(){
  time_t start, end;                 //Declaring variable of time_t type
  start = clock();
  for(int i=0;i<50577;i++)           //Running for loop to consume processor time.
  {}
  end = clock();
  printf("%f", difftime(end, start));
  return 0;
}

Output

147.000000

mktime() Function

time_t mktime(struct tm *tp);  //Function Declaration
  • This function returns the calendar time as a value of type time_t or returns the value (time_t)(-1), if the calendar time cannot be represented.
#include<stdio.h>
#include<time.h>

int main()  {
struct tm t;
time_t time;

t.tm_year = 2023 - 1900;          //Since the year starts from 1900 not from 0
t.tm_mon =  2;
t.tm_mday = 30;

t.tm_hour = 11;
t.tm_min = 40;
t.tm_sec = 03;
t.tm_isdst = 0;

time = mktime(&t);

printf(ctime(&time));     //This function is explained ahead.
}

Output

Thu Mar 30 11:40:03 2023

ctime() Function

char *ctime(const time_t *timer);            //Function Declaration
#include<stdio.h>
#include<time.h>

int main()  {
time_t t;

t = time(NULL);

printf(ctime(&t));
}

Output

Thu Mar 30 05:18:53 2023

localtime() Function

struct *localtime(const time_t *timer);       //Function Declaration
#include<stdio.h>
#include<time.h>
        
int main()  {
time_t t;
struct tm *local;
t = time(NULL);
local = localtime(&t);

printf("Time %d:%d:%d\n", local->tm_hour, local->tm_min, local->tm_sec);      //Variables from in-built data type struct tm
printf("Date %d:%d:%d", local->tm_mday, local->tm_mon, local->tm_year);

return 0;
}

Output

Time 5:36:39
Date 30:2:123

Why the year is 123 ?

  • Here the year starts from 1900 rather than 0.
  • So, 1900 + 123 = 2023

gmtime() Function

struct *gmtime(const time_t *timer);      //Function Declaration
#include<stdio.h>
#include<time.h>
         
int main()  {
time_t t;
struct tm *global;
t = time(NULL);
global = gmtime(&t);

printf("Time %d:%d:%d\n", global->tm_hour, global->tm_min, global->tm_sec);     //Variables from in-built data type struct tm
printf("Date %d:%d:%d", global->tm_mday, global->tm_mon, global->tm_year);

return 0;
}

Output

Time 0:8:21
Date 30:2:123

asctime() Function

char *asctime(const time_t *timer);    //Function Declaration
#include<stdio.h>
#include<time.h>

int main()  {
time_t t;
struct tm *local;
t = time(NULL);
local = localtime(&t);

printf(asctime(local));
return 0;
}

Output

Thu Mar 30 05:41:45 2023

Conclusion

So, in this article at OpenGenus, we have study all about the <time.h> header file in depth.

Using time.h Header File in C in depth
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