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The Easy Way to Keep Track of Multiple Time Zones in Ubuntu


Whether I’m making sure that a tweet about a Chromebook sale in Australia hits those down under when awake or scheduling a Skype call with Sam Tran, the ‘developer’ half of Ohso, I work with multiple time zones in mind.

And therein lies a problem. If you know me you’ll  know that I have the memory capacity of a goldfish running Windows Vista (i.e., not very good). I can barely recall what I got up to yesterday, much less remember the time differential between my door and the foot of Golden Gate bridge!

To help, I use widgets and menu items to keep me in sync. I move across multiple operating systems in the space of a regular working day, mobile and desktop, but only one lets me set up ‘world clocks’ the quickest and easiest.

And it happens to be the one whose name is above the door.


Add World Clocks to Ubuntu Date/Time Applet

The default date-time indicator in Unity comes with supports for adding and viewing multiple time zones. No add-ons, no extra packages required.

  1. Click on the clock applet and select the ‘Time & Date Settings’  entry
  2. In the ‘Clock’ tab, check the box next to ‘Time in Other Locations’
  3. Click the ‘Choose Locations‘ button
  4. Tap ‘+’  and enter the name of the location

Other Desktop Environments

The default clock applet in KDE Plasma has a similar feature and flow:

  1. Right-click on the digital clock widget and select ‘Digital Clock Settings’
  2. Click the ‘Time Zones’ section
  3. Enter the name of a city in the search field
  4. Click ‘Ok’

The extensible nature of GNOME Shell sees a slew of World Clock options available to fill the gap left by its default time ticker, with ‘multi clock’ being my personal favourite. The same goes again for Cinnamon, whose ‘panel applet’ repository has ample choices, like the super slick “World Clock Calendar.


World Clock Calendar in Cinnamon 2.4

XFCE and LXDE aren’t quite as generous, with the only out-of-the-box “workarounds” being multiple clocks added to the panel, each manually configured to a given locale. Both do support ‘indicator applets’, so if you’re not dependent on Unity you can install/add the standalone date/time indicator.

Budgie is a little too young to make corner case demands of, while Pantheon I haven’t tried — I’ll let you fill me in on that score in the comments.

Desktop Apps, Widgets & Conky Themes

Of course, panel applets are just one way to keep tabs of the time in other countries’ multiple time zones. If you’re not fussed about panel access there are various desktop apps available, many of which work cross-distro and/or cross-platform.

GNOME Clocks is one such app and is available to install straight from the Ubuntu Software Center in 14.04 LTS+. Conky is a potential alternative (though I haven’t yet found a pre-made theme designed for the purpose) and lightweight Chrome Apps like Calendar Clock will work anywhere Chrome does, free of the browser.

Do you keep tabs on time zones? If so, what app, method or widget do you use to stay on top?