Timer functions.

This module provides useful functions related to time. Unless otherwise stated, time is always measured in milliseconds. All timer functions return immediately, regardless of work done by another process.

Successful evaluations of the timer functions give return values containing a timer reference, denoted TRef. By using cancel/1, the returned reference can be used to cancel any requested action. A TRef is an Erlang term, which contents must not be changed.

The time-outs are not exact, but are at least as long as requested.


time() = integer() >= 0

Time in milliseconds.


A timer reference.


Evaluates apply(Module, Function, Arguments) after Time milliseconds.

Returns {ok, TRef} or {error, Reason}.

Evaluates apply(Module, Function, Arguments) repeatedly at intervals of Time.

Returns {ok, TRef} or {error, Reason}.

Cancels a previously requested time-out. TRef is a unique timer reference returned by the related timer function.

Returns {ok, cancel}, or {error, Reason} when TRef is not a timer reference.

exit_after/2 is the same as exit_after(Time, self(), Reason1).

exit_after/3 sends an exit signal with reason Reason1 to pid Pid. Returns {ok, TRef} or {error, Reason2}.

Returns the number of milliseconds in Hours + Minutes + Seconds.

Returns the number of milliseconds in Hours.

kill_after/1 is the same as exit_after(Time, self(), kill).

kill_after/2 is the same as exit_after(Time, Pid, kill).

Returns the number of milliseconds in Minutes.

Tdiff = In microseconds

Calculates the time difference Tdiff = T2 - T1 in microseconds, where T1 and T2 are time-stamp tuples on the same format as returned from erlang:timestamp/0 or os:timestamp/0.

Returns the number of milliseconds in Seconds.


Evaluates Pid ! Message after Time milliseconds. (Pid can also be an atom of a registered name.)

Returns {ok, TRef} or {error, Reason}.


Same as send_after(Time, self(), Message).


Evaluates Pid ! Message repeatedly after Time milliseconds. (Pid can also be an atom of a registered name.)

Returns {ok, TRef} or {error, Reason}.


Same as send_interval(Time, self(), Message).

Suspends the process calling this function for Time milliseconds and then returns ok, or suspends the process forever if Time is the atom infinity. Naturally, this function does not return immediately.

Starts the timer server. Normally, the server does not need to be started explicitly. It is started dynamically if it is needed. This is useful during development, but in a target system the server is to be started explicitly. Use configuration parameters for Kernel for this.

Time = In microseconds

Evaluates apply(Module, Function, Arguments) and measures the elapsed real time as reported by erlang:monotonic_time/0.

Returns {Time, Value}, where Time is the elapsed real time in microseconds, and Value is what is returned from the apply.


Evaluates apply(Fun, Arguments). Otherwise the same as tc/3.


Evaluates Fun(). Otherwise the same as tc/2.


Example 1

The following example shows how to print "Hello World!" in 5 seconds:

1> timer:apply_after(5000, io, format, ["~nHello World!~n", []]).
Hello World!

Example 2

The following example shows a process performing a certain action, and if this action is not completed within a certain limit, the process is killed:

Pid = spawn(mod, fun, [foo, bar]),
%% If pid is not finished in 10 seconds, kill him
{ok, R} = timer:kill_after(timer:seconds(10), Pid),
%% We change our mind...


A timer can always be removed by calling cancel/1.

An interval timer, that is, a timer created by evaluating any of the functions apply_interval/4, send_interval/3, and send_interval/2 is linked to the process to which the timer performs its task.

A one-shot timer, that is, a timer created by evaluating any of the functions apply_after/4, send_after/3, send_after/2, exit_after/3, exit_after/2, kill_after/2, and kill_after/1 is not linked to any process. Hence, such a timer is removed only when it reaches its time-out, or if it is explicitly removed by a call to cancel/1.