I have a web application that allows the user to choose the timezone from the list. The list is very long (pretty much all CLDR-supported timezones). So the question is - how should I represent it? How should it be sorted - alphabetically or by timezone offset? What information should each item contain - offset, location, long name (like Europe/Zurich) or short name (like CET)? Should I display information about DST or only current offset?

Let's say I can't right now do something like fancy maps OS configuration dialogs display, so the list is the only option. However I want to make the list look nice. Any best practices how it's done?


By timezone offset.

It provides me with a regular challenge to find my place in a long list if it is sorted by names - everyone seems to have an different idea of how to structure countries into regions.

Display [permanent] (without DST) time offset + user-friendly name like in the Windows dialog:

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  • +1. I can barely remember the name of my timezone; all I know is that it's +5. Being able to quickly scan a list to find "+5" is much easier than pretty much any other method I can think of. – Andrew Arnold Feb 4 '11 at 20:20
  • It is logical to sort by timezones, but most people will know if they are in the same timezone as a major city. – Jim C Feb 4 '11 at 20:51

Either by offset, or by multiple boxes, one where you choose "Europe" or "North America", etc, and then one where you select the city.

And that later option won't work on Windows, where the timezone names have been invented by somebody who was smoking something illegal, like "Romance Standard Time" (yeah, really) and to make matters worse, they get translated in more or less random ways.

But on Unix it works. But on Windows you have to do it by offset.

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  • I won't be using Windows TZ list, I am using standard CLDR list. I have library that deals with all of the technicalities of handling it on the backend. – StasM Feb 4 '11 at 20:58
  • Yeah, CLDR uses the Olsen names, so then Continent/City would work. Of course, best if you have both, or even a map as you mentioned, but the more complex, the more time it takes. :) – Lennart Regebro Feb 4 '11 at 21:02

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