I’ve been playing with TimeManager a fair bit over the last month, and thought I’d share a quick tip on improving the appearance of TimeManager’s time stamp. TimeManager includes some basic functionality for placing a time stamp in the corner of your outputs, but it’s fairly limited. There’s only some basic appearance options, and no way to control the date or time formats displayed.
But, there’s a trick we can use to get around this: use a temporary point layer for the time stamp label. Let me elaborate:
- Create a throwaway point layer. It doesn’t matter what fields or format this layer has.
- Add a single point feature to this layer at the place you’d like the improved time stamp to appear at.
- We don’t want to see the marker, so hide the symbol for this layer by setting it to use a transparent fill and outline.
- Then, enable labels for this layer. Here’s the trick – set the label expression for the label to use “animation_datetime()” (or for QGIS 2.8, “$animation_datetime”). This is a custom function provided by the TimeManager plugin which evaluates to the current frame’s date and time.
- Now, you can use all the built-in options within QGIS for styling this label. Buffers, drop shadows, background shapes… anything!
- Apply and check. Much nicer!
- To tweak the formatting of the time stamp’s date and time, you can modify the label expression using the built-in ‘format_date’, ‘year’, ‘month’, etc functions. Let’s try “format_date(animation_datetime(),’ddd dd MMM yyyy’)”:
Now, our final formatted time stamp looks like this:
…and there we go. Using this simple trick allows you to take advantage of all the possibilities which the QGIS labelling and expression engines allow!
*Bonus points for the first person to use this technique along with data defined controls for animating the label colour/size!