Convert Incomplete Date Strings

Minimum MongoDB Version: 4.2


An application is ingesting payment documents into a MongoDB collection where each document's payment date field contains a string looking vaguely like a date-time, such as "01-JAN-20". You want to convert each payment date into a valid BSON date type when aggregating the payments. However, the payment date fields do not contain all the information required for you to determine the exact date-time accurately. Therefore you cannot use just the MongoDB's Date Operator Expressions directly to perform the text-to-date conversion. Each of these text fields is missing the following information:

  • The specific century (1900s?, 2000s, other?)
  • The specific time-zone (GMT?, IST?, PST?, other?)
  • The specific language that the three-letter month abbreviation represents (is "JAN" in French? in English? other?)

You subsequently learn that all the payment records are for the 21st century only, the time-zone used when ingesting the data is UTC, and the language used is English. Armed with this information, you build an aggregation pipeline to transform these text fields into date fields.

Sample Data Population

Drop any old version of the database (if it exists) and then populate a new payments collection with 12 sample payments documents, providing coverage across all 12 months for the year 2020, with random time elements.

use book-convert-incomplete-dates;

// Insert records into the payments collection
  {"account": "010101", "paymentDate": "01-JAN-20", "amount": 1.01},
  {"account": "020202", "paymentDate": "02-FEB-20", "amount": 2.02},
  {"account": "030303", "paymentDate": "03-MAR-20", "amount": 3.03},
  {"account": "040404", "paymentDate": "04-APR-20", "amount": 4.04},
  {"account": "050505", "paymentDate": "05-MAY-20", "amount": 5.05},
  {"account": "060606", "paymentDate": "06-JUN-20", "amount": 6.06},
  {"account": "070707", "paymentDate": "07-JUL-20", "amount": 7.07},
  {"account": "080808", "paymentDate": "08-AUG-20", "amount": 8.08},
  {"account": "090909", "paymentDate": "09-SEP-20", "amount": 9.09},
  {"account": "101010", "paymentDate": "10-OCT-20", "amount": 10.10},
  {"account": "111111", "paymentDate": "11-NOV-20", "amount": 11.11},
  {"account": "121212", "paymentDate": "12-DEC-20", "amount": 12.12}

Aggregation Pipeline

Define a pipeline ready to perform the aggregation:

var pipeline = [
  // Change field from a string to a date, filling in the gaps
  {"$set": {
    "paymentDate": {    
      "$let": {
        "vars": {
          "txt": "$paymentDate",  // Assign "paymentDate" field to variable "txt",
          "month": {"$substrCP": ["$paymentDate", 3, 3]},  // Extract month text
        "in": { 
          "$dateFromString": {"format": "%d-%m-%Y %H.%M.%S.%L", "dateString":
            {"$concat": [
              {"$substrCP": ["$$txt", 0, 3]},  // Use 1st 3 chars in string
              {"$switch": {"branches": [  // Replace month 3 chars with month number
                {"case": {"$eq": ["$$month", "JAN"]}, "then": "01"},
                {"case": {"$eq": ["$$month", "FEB"]}, "then": "02"},
                {"case": {"$eq": ["$$month", "MAR"]}, "then": "03"},
                {"case": {"$eq": ["$$month", "APR"]}, "then": "04"},
                {"case": {"$eq": ["$$month", "MAY"]}, "then": "05"},
                {"case": {"$eq": ["$$month", "JUN"]}, "then": "06"},
                {"case": {"$eq": ["$$month", "JUL"]}, "then": "07"},
                {"case": {"$eq": ["$$month", "AUG"]}, "then": "08"},
                {"case": {"$eq": ["$$month", "SEP"]}, "then": "09"},
                {"case": {"$eq": ["$$month", "OCT"]}, "then": "10"},
                {"case": {"$eq": ["$$month", "NOV"]}, "then": "11"},
                {"case": {"$eq": ["$$month", "DEC"]}, "then": "12"},
               ], "default": "ERROR"}},
              "-20",  // Add hyphen + hardcoded century 2 digits
              {"$substrCP": ["$$txt", 7, 15]}  // Use time up to 3 millis (ignore last 6 nanosecs)

  // Omit unwanted fields
  {"$unset": [


Execute the aggregation using the defined pipeline and also view its explain plan:


Expected Results

Twelve documents should be returned, corresponding to the original twelve source documents, but this time with the paymentDate field converted from text values to proper date typed values, as shown below:

    account: '010101',
    paymentDate: ISODate('2020-01-01T01:01:01.123Z'),
    amount: 1.01
    account: '020202',
    paymentDate: ISODate('2020-02-02T02:02:02.456Z'),
    amount: 2.02
    account: '030303',
    paymentDate: ISODate('2020-03-03T03:03:03.789Z'),
    amount: 3.03
    account: '040404',
    paymentDate: ISODate('2020-04-04T04:04:04.012Z'),
    amount: 4.04
    account: '050505',
    paymentDate: ISODate('2020-05-05T05:05:05.345Z'),
    amount: 5.05
    account: '060606',
    paymentDate: ISODate('2020-06-06T06:06:06.678Z'),
    amount: 6.06
    account: '070707',
    paymentDate: ISODate('2020-07-07T07:07:07.901Z'),
    amount: 7.07
    account: '080808',
    paymentDate: ISODate('2020-08-08T08:08:08.234Z'),
    amount: 8.08
    account: '090909',
    paymentDate: ISODate('2020-09-09T09:09:09.567Z'),
    amount: 9.09
    account: '101010',
    paymentDate: ISODate('2020-10-10T10:10:10.890Z'),
    amount: 10.1
    account: '111111',
    paymentDate: ISODate('2020-11-11T11:11:11.111Z'),
    amount: 11.11
    account: '121212',
    paymentDate: ISODate('2020-12-12T12:12:12.999Z'),
    amount: 12.12


  • Concatenation Explanation. In this pipeline, the text fields (e.g. '12-DEC-20') are each converted to date fields (e.g. 2020-12-12T12:12:12.999Z). This is achieved by concatenating together the following four example elements before passing them to the $dateFromString operator to convert to a date type:

    • '12-' (day of the month from the input string + the hyphen suffix already present in the text)
    • '12' (replacing 'DEC')
    • '-20' (hard-coded hyphen + hardcoded century)
    • '20' (the rest of input string apart from the last 6 nanosecond digits)
  • Temporary Reusable Variables. The pipeline includes a $let operator to define two variables ready to be reused in multiple places in the central part of the data conversion logic belonging to the $dateFromString operator. The txt variable provides a minor convenience to ensure the main part of the expression logic works regardless of whether the referenced field path is currently named $paymentDate or changes in a future version of the source collection (e.g. to $transactionDate). The month variable is more valuable, ensuring that the pipeline does not have to repeat the same 'substring' logic in multiple places.