OS X: Display Date on Menu Bar

   Posted March 17, 2007 by David Kirk in Apple Mac

I never understood why OS X does not provide an easy way to place the day on the menu bar. This tech-recipe describes a work around that will display the date. Now updated for OS X Lion.

With my crazy schedule, I honestly never know what day it is. I need a data and time within eye sight at all times.

Here is how to get the date on the OS X menu bar.

OS X 10.5 / 10.6 —

Click the time in the menu bar and select Open Date & Time
(You can also find this dialog box through the System Preferences.)

With the Date & Time tab selected, click the Open International button.

Click the Formats tab and click the Customize button in the Dates section.


Select the date style you wish. Highlight the blue elements and press CMD-C to copy them. Click the OK button.

Click the Customize button in the Times section. Click Medium from the Show dropdown box. Paste the Date elements before the existing Times elements.


You may want to insert a text character or spaces between your date and time elements as I have done here.

Click OK and you should see your date by your time in your menu bar.

OS X 10.7 “Lion” —

In OS X Lion Apple has made this much easier. The dialog box now contains a simple checkbox to allow for the display of the date on the menu bar.

date on menu bar feature in OS X Lion


About David Kirk

David Kirk is one of the original founders of tech-recipes and is currently serving as editor-in-chief. Not only has he been crafting tutorials for over ten years, but in his other life he also enjoys taking care of critically ill patients as an ICU physician.
View more articles by David Kirk

The Conversation

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  • joco324

    Mac OS 10.5.5 — got it to work in using the “Long” format, but had to put the date after the time. Not a big deal. Thanks for a great tute. Not having the date in the menu bar was driving me batty.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks so much for this information. It just seems so basic to display the date, but I guess not in Cupertino. No problem, once I actually followed the instructions, in updating my menu bar in Leopard 10.5.5 as instructed.

    Two precautions to let others know about from my own experience:
    First, make sure that the “Date & Time” dialogue is not locked, otherwise it will revert to the original.
    Second, make sure that for the “copy” portion of the task that you’re working in the “Dates” Customize, and for the “paste” portion that you’re working in the “Times” Customize.

  • Brent York

    Thanks a lot. That has baffled me for a while and I finally remembered this thing called “google it” and your site came right up. Well done.

  • http://LifespringMedia.com Steve Webb

    What a great tip. As a switcher/slider, it’s sometimes puzzling to me that some of these “obvious” features are not so obvious! Thanks for posting this one.

  • Anon

    Just found this having become a new Mac user and it works perfectly on 10.5.6 – THANKS 🙂

  • Eric P

    You rock! Another interesting tidbit…if you copy the time(s), then paste into a text editor, you get a format that is easy to manipulate in text that you can paste back in, like so:

    yy.MM.dd-h:mm:ss (which is my preferred format being a geek).

    Anywho, this is cool stuff! Thanks for sharing!

  • Anonymous

    Well..Like you, not having the date in the menu bar was also driving me up the wall… So I Googled this, and found your site – after a few hiccups-trial-and-errors, I finally, got it to work… Thanks! Especially from a new Mac convert!

  • LIZ

    I feel like an idiot! I’ve tried this over & over, and I still cannot get the month & year! Any other thoughts? Maybe I have some box checked off that shouldn’t be?? Anyway, thank you all very much or your help. I really appreciate it.

  • http://twitter.com/zombieskin zombieskin

    I couldn’t get this to work normally under 10.5.7, so I finally went to customize the Time, and edited it like

    5space>7:08 PM

    The first 5 is the date of the week, copied and pasted from the Dates customization.

    What happened to me is that the Day of the week wouldn’t go away so i left it there, and threw the Date and Time in after it; so I believe what’s resulted is the Day of the week from the custom Dates, and the Date/Time from custom Times, resulting in

    Tues 7 11:47 AM

  • Anonymous

    MacOSX 10.5.7 – This works.
    But, for some reason, if you delete the seconds from the customized format, it will show your GMT offset and not the date.
    Just leave the seconds there and then disable them from the date preferences panel.

    • Anonymous

      This example doen’t work on Snow Leopard

      • UseMacOsOnPC

        Works awesome in 10.5.4. I even tried russian format – it works! Thanks a lot – its been a year since I use Mac OS on my HP Pavillion dv1000 and everything is fantastic, and more – now I got the date on a menu bar !!! Cheers!

  • UseMacOSonPC

    Works awesome in 10.5.4. I even tried russian format – it works! Thanks a lot – its been a year since I use Mac OS on my HP Pavillion dv1000 and everything is fantastic, and more – now I got the date on a menu bar !!! Cheers!

  • http://www.tech-recipes.com David Kirk – Founder/Editor

    I just updated this for OS X Lion (10.7)

  • Meisa Bowie

    Thank You!!!!!

  • Argekuys

    Is there any way to format the date in Lion? I prefer seeing “Wednesday, April 13″, rather than Wed Apr 13” which is the way Lion displays it when you check the boxes as you indicated above.

  • mike

    Nice, thanks for this info. So obvious, but the programmers aren’t thinking about it. You should always be able to tell the date by looking at your toolbar…that seems so obvious

  • tiwa

    Thanks for your site — I go here every time I set up a new Mac. Having troubles with your Lion fix though. Is there no longer any way to customize the format of date shown when you check ‘show date’. It does not seem to change from the (irritating) mac default no matter what I enter in the long, med or shot boxes in the customize area.