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I am working on a reporting application and we fetch several records based on their start/end date ranges. Users can choose to leave both start and/or end dates blank.

Examples:

Example 1 - Date: 1/15/2010 to 2/3/2011
Example 2 - Date: [blank] to 2/3/2011
Example 3 - Date: 1/1/2010 to [blank]
Example 4 - Date: [blank] to [blank]

Example 1 reports on all records between Jan 1st 2010 and Feb 3rd 2011. Example 2 reports on any records that ended before Feb 3rd 2011. Example 3 reports on any records that started after Jan 1st 2011. Example 4 reports on all records.

What is the best thing to say for those [blank] spots? "Beginning of Time" and "Infinite Future" are technically not correct -- because you could set ended date to blank and start date to 1/1/1970 and get a record that ended in the 1980's - not exactly the 'infinite future' -- Also "Beginning of Time" and "Infinite Future" are quite long in terms of space.

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1  
Chrome literally uses the term From the Beginning of Time. You could use an infinity symbol I guess... –  Ben Brocka Mar 27 '12 at 16:34
1  
"Ever" might work, although "ever to ever" is not so great :). –  Vitaly Mijiritsky Mar 27 '12 at 16:41

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

You can have a single field that opens a date range.

Once the user finished selecting dates - it appears on a single field.

This way you can use:

  1. 1/15/2010 to 2/3/2011
  2. until 2/3/2011
  3. from 1/1/2010
  4. All time
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You aren't really referring to the beginning and end of time here. You just mean from the beginning of the data set to the end of the data set.

We solve this in one of two ways in our products, depending largely on the familiarity of the user with the dataset being reported on:

Option 1

  1. 1/15/2010 to 2/3/2011
  2. Before 2/3/2011 (could also be "Up to 2/3/2011" or "2/3/2011 and earlier")
  3. After 1/1/2010 (could also be "Since 1/1/2010" or "1/1/2010 and later")
  4. No value in either field

The exact wording you choose should depend on things like whether your search is date-inclusive or exclusive.

Option 2

Auto-fill the beginning and end dates with the actual first and last dates represented in the dataset, so that it becomes:

  1. 1/15/2010 to 2/3/2011
  2. 1/1/2009 to 2/3/2011
  3. 1/1/2010 to 3/28/2011 (you may choose to use the word "today" instead of the current date for clarity)
  4. 1/1/2009 to 3/28/2011

This option only makes sense if the users understand that the 1/1/2009 is the beginning of the dataset; that's something that you'd need to decide based on what the data represents.

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