Tutorial - Make a Timezone Time Lister

In my job as a consultant, I often need to schedule meetings across timezones, and sometimes do not want to struggle with cross-platform incompatibilities between calendar software. A few tips follow, about how I help myself with this, using Mac OS X Automator.

Screenshot of OS X Automator UIThere is some excellent software available for this purpose, namely 1stClock on the Windows platform, or Vela Terra on Mac, but I thought I would roll my own quick solution with OS X Automator, channeling some shell script.

Here’s how to go about it, if you are on Mac OS X.

Create the TimeZone-to-Clipboard Workflow in Automator

First, start Automator (just Spotlight search and select it from the list), and save the Automator workflow as “Timezone List to Clipboard” or something similar. Drag to add a “Run Shellscript” action from the library of actions on the left side, and then a “Copy to Clipboard” action under that.

Next set the Shell in the “Run Shellscript” action to “/bin/bash”, and paste the following code into the text box:

Timezone Lister Shell Snippet Download Shell Snippet
echo == Reference Times ==
echo -e "Tokyo - \t" `TZ=Asia/Tokyo date "+%Z (%z) %R %a %e %b %Y";`
echo -e "Hong Kong - \t" `TZ=Hongkong date "+%Z (%z) %R %a %e %b %Y";`
echo -e "Calcutta - \t" `TZ=Asia/Calcutta date "+%Z (%z) %R %a %e %b %Y";`
echo -e "Berlin - \t" `TZ=Europe/Berlin date "+%Z (%z) %R %a %e %b %Y";`
echo -e "London - \t" `TZ=GMT date "+%Z (%z) %R %a %e %b %Y";`
echo -e "New York - \t" `TZ=US/Eastern date "+%Z (%z) %R %a %e %b %Y";`
echo -e "Chicago - \t" `TZ=US/Central date "+%Z (%z) %R %a %e %b %Y";`
echo -e "Denver - \t" `TZ=US/Mountain date "+%Z (%z) %R %a %e %b %Y";`
echo -e "San Francisco - \t" `TZ=US/Pacific date "+%Z (%z) %R %a %e %b %Y"`

These lines echo an appropriate text string, then execute the date command feeding it the TZ= modifier. This makes the date command return the current date and time in the specified timezone. The bits with percent signs are the date format.

Save As an Application

Finally, to use it, “Save As” your Automator file to File Format “Application”, and drag your .app file to your Dock. Now when you click the icon in your Dock, it will quickly copy a list of timezones and times to your system clipboard, for better collaboration. Just paste it where you need it.

== Reference Times ==
Tokyo - JST (+0900) 22:39 Thu 17 Jan 2008
Hong Kong - HKT (+0800) 21:39 Thu 17 Jan 2008
Calcutta - IST (+0530) 19:09 Thu 17 Jan 2008
Berlin - CET (+0100) 14:39 Thu 17 Jan 2008
London - GMT (+0000) 13:39 Thu 17 Jan 2008
New York - EST (-0500) 08:39 Thu 17 Jan 2008
Chicago - CST (-0500) 07:39 Thu 17 Jan 2008
Denver - MST (-0700) 06:39 Thu 17 Jan 2008
San Francisco - PST (-0800) 05:39 Thu 17 Jan 2008

PROtip - remember that Japan does not observe Daylight Savings Time, a fact that causes some scheduling chaos twice a year during fall back, spring ahead.

Hope this helps you. Have fun consulting across timezones!