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Setting a date input to today's date with vanilla JS

On Friday, Dave Rupert tweeted:

I’m gonna write a country western song about trying to use vanilla JavaScript to set the default value of an <input type="date"> to today’s date.

Basically everyone dies and you end up using moment.js and a two-ton datepicker.

Challenge accepted, Dave!

Today, I’m going to show you how to do just that.

The Date Input

HTML5 introduced a bunch of new types you can use on a traditional input.

Browsers can use these types to show you context-specific keyboards (on touch screen devices), provide native input validation, and, in the case things like dates, surface a native date picker.

<input type="date">

Here’s a demo.

Automatically setting today’s date

To automatically set a [type="date"] input to today’s date with vanilla JS, we’ll use the JavaScript Date() object.

First, we’ll get our field (let’s assume it has an ID of #today) and create a new Date() object.

var field = document.querySelector('#today');
var date = new Date();

The [type="date"] field looks different visually depending on where you live and what browser you’re using (it shows dates in local format norms), but the value follows a YYYY-MM-DD format.

We can get each of those values from our date, convert them to a string with toString(), and concatenate them into a single value.

  • We’ll use getFullYear() to get the year in a four-character format.
  • We’ll use getMonth() to get the month.
  • We’ll use getDate() to get the day.

For some absurd reason, the getMonth() method returns the month as a number starting with 0 (January is 0, February is 1, etc.). We need to add 1 to our result to get the correct month.

Because they’re numbers and not strings, both getMonth() and getDate() are missing leading zeros for single digit months/days. We can use the padStart() method to add those if missing.

Our finished result looks like this.

field.value = date.getFullYear().toString() + '-' + (date.getMonth() + 1).toString().padStart(2, 0) +
    '-' + date.getDate().toString().padStart(2, 0);

And here’s a working example.

Browser compatibility

The [type="date"] input type works in Chrome, Firefox, and Edge on desktop, and on most mobile browsers. It does not work in Internet Explorer or Safari for desktop. Browsers that don’t support it treat the input like [type="text"].

The padStart() method works in all modern browsers, but not Internet Explorer. A polyfill pushes support back to IE6.

Handling unsupported browsers

So, what do we do about unsupported browsers?

We can test for browser support by creating an [type="date"] input, trying to set it to an invalid date value (like x), and checking to see what the value actually is.

 * Test if the browser supports input[type="date"]
 * @return {Boolean} Returns true if it's supported
var isDateSupported = function () {
	var input = document.createElement('input');
	input.setAttribute('type', 'date');
	input.setAttribute('value', 'x');
	return (input.value !== 'x');

You can find this helper method on the Vanilla JS Toolkit.

Let’s do a few things:

  1. Add some helper text to our input label on the proper format that we can hide if the date input type is supported.
  2. Add a pattern attribute to validate against for unsupported browsers.
  3. Add a placeholder attribute with the pattern as well.
<label for="today">
	The Date
	<span class="description"> Please use the YYYY-MM-DD format</span>
	pattern="(?:19|20)[0-9]{2}-(?:(?:0[1-9]|1[0-2])-(?:0[1-9]|1[0-9]|2[0-9])|(?:(?!02)(?:0[1-9]|1[0-2])-(?:30))|(?:(?:0[13578]|1[02])-31))" placeholder="YYYY-MM-DD"

The JavaScript to set the date won’t change, but we can add some additional code to remove the pattern, placeholder, and helper text if not needed.

// Variables
var field = document.querySelector('#today');
var date = new Date();

// If [type="date"] is supported, update the DOM
if (isDateSupported()) {

	// Remove attributes

	// Remove the helper text
	var helperText = document.querySelector('[for="today"] .description');
	if (helperText) {


// Set the value
field.value = date.getFullYear().toString() + '-' + (date.getMonth() + 1).toString().padStart(2, 0) +
    '-' + date.getDate().toString().padStart(2, 0);

Here’s a demo with the fallbacks for unsupported browsers.