Using Parts to Build a New AutoHotkey Script (HowLongInstant.ahk)

While Many Users Find the Original GUI Based HowLong Script Valuable, Combining Snippets of Code Creates a New Instant HowLong Script

Last time in “Extracting Multiple Dates from Text Using AutoHotkey RegEx,” I wrote a Regular Expressions (RegEx) that copied the first and last date (in a variety of formats) found in a selection from a document or Web page. (I recently updated that RegEx to make it more robust.) That represented the first step in building an instant HowLongYearsMonthsDay.ahk script. The goal, as defined by the reader, included highlighting a section of text which bounds two dates, pressing a Hotkey combination, then immediately calculating and displaying the timespan—no delaying the process with an input GUI or clicking a calculate button. As with many new scripts, I took pieces of it from other scripts and integrated them to produce a new one.

The chunks I used to produce the new script included:

  1. The Standard Clipboard Routine for capturing the selected text.
  2. The RegEx for identifying and capturing the target dates. (Discussed in my last blog.)
  3. The DateConvert() function found in the DateStampConvert.ahk script for formatting the parsed dates as the standard TimeDate stamp (YYYYMMDD).
  4. The HowLong() function found in the HowLongYearsMonthsDays.ahk script for calculating the timespan between the two TimeDate stamp parameters.
  5. A MsgBox for instantly displaying the results.
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Extracting Multiple Dates from Text Using AutoHotkey RegEx

While Not Simple (and a Little Bit “Greedy”), the RegEx for Two-Date Parsing Only Requires One Selection

I received the following query from a reader:

Regular Expressions in AutoHotkey
Regular Expressions (RegEx) can be mysterious in any language.

Hi! Is it possible to highlight the entire date range (e.g. 16 March 2021 to 21 May 2021) when the Hotkey is triggered, feed it into the timespan ahk, and share the timespan as result?

Working with AutoHotkey Date Formats and Timespan Calculations

Yes, it is! You’ll find using Regular Expressions (RegEx) to simultaneously parse the two dates from the text the key to success. Plus, you’ll want to streamline the process by eliminating the GUI and feeding the dates directly into the HowLong() function found in HowLongYearsMonthsDays.ahk script. Implementing the instant calculation requires three steps:

  1. Writing a RegEx for identifying and capturing the target dates. (Discussed in this blog.)
  2. Using DateStampConvert.ahk code to format the parsed dates in the standard TimeDate stamp (YYYYMMDD).
  3. Calculate the timespan by running the HowLong() function using the two dates as parameters.

This approach should provide you with an instant timespan calculation between any two dates matched in a text selection.

I have not done all the work, but I have developed a RegEx which locates the first and last date in a text selection;


Update March 26, 2021: \w in original RegEx changed to [[:alpha:]] to include only alphabetic characters.

While I don’t discuss every aspect of this RegEx here, I cover the important aspects of its construction. (I’ve written numerous blogs and an entire book discussing the basics of AutoHotkey Regular Expressions.)

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