Ruby – Difference between DateTime and Time in Ruby


What's the difference between DateTime and Time classes in Ruby and what factors would cause me to choose one or the other?

Best Solution

Newer versions of Ruby (2.0+) do not really have significant differences between the two classes. Some libraries will use one or the other for historical reasons, but new code does not necessarily need to be concerned. Picking one for consistency is probably best, so try and mesh with what your libraries expect. For example, ActiveRecord prefers DateTime.

In versions prior to Ruby 1.9 and on many systems Time is represented as a 32-bit signed value describing the number of seconds since January 1, 1970 UTC, a thin wrapper around a POSIX-standard time_t value, and is bounded:
# => Mon Jan 18 22:14:07 -0500 2038
# => Fri Dec 13 15:45:53 -0500 1901

Newer versions of Ruby are able to handle larger values without producing errors.

DateTime is a calendar-based approach where the year, month, day, hour, minute and second are stored individually. This is a Ruby on Rails construct that serves as a wrapper around SQL-standard DATETIME fields. These contain arbitrary dates and can represent nearly any point in time as the range of expression is typically very large.
# => Mon, 01 Jan -4712 00:00:00 +0000

So it's reassuring that DateTime can handle blog posts from Aristotle.

When choosing one, the differences are somewhat subjective now. Historically DateTime has provided better options for manipulating it in a calendar fashion, but many of these methods have been ported over to Time as well, at least within the Rails environment.