This is the official manual for the latest Org-mode release.

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8.1 Timestamps, deadlines, and scheduling

A timestamp is a specification of a date (possibly with a time or a range of times) in a special format, either ‘<2003-09-16 Tue>1 or ‘<2003-09-16 Tue 09:39>’ or ‘<2003-09-16 Tue 12:00-12:30>2. A timestamp can appear anywhere in the headline or body of an Org tree entry. Its presence causes entries to be shown on specific dates in the agenda (see Weekly/daily agenda). We distinguish:

Plain timestamp; Event; Appointment
A simple timestamp just assigns a date/time to an item. This is just like writing down an appointment or event in a paper agenda. In the timeline and agenda displays, the headline of an entry associated with a plain timestamp will be shown exactly on that date.
          * Meet Peter at the movies
            <2006-11-01 Wed 19:15>
          * Discussion on climate change
            <2006-11-02 Thu 20:00-22:00>

Timestamp with repeater interval
A timestamp may contain a repeater interval, indicating that it applies not only on the given date, but again and again after a certain interval of N days (d), weeks (w), months (m), or years (y). The following will show up in the agenda every Wednesday:
          * Pick up Sam at school
            <2007-05-16 Wed 12:30 +1w>

Diary-style sexp entries
For more complex date specifications, Org mode supports using the special sexp diary entries implemented in the Emacs calendar/diary package3. For example with optional time
          * 22:00-23:00 The nerd meeting on every 2nd Thursday of the month
            <%%(diary-float t 4 2)>

Time/Date range
Two timestamps connected by ‘--’ denote a range. The headline will be shown on the first and last day of the range, and on any dates that are displayed and fall in the range. Here is an example:
          ** Meeting in Amsterdam
             <2004-08-23 Mon>--<2004-08-26 Thu>

Inactive timestamp
Just like a plain timestamp, but with square brackets instead of angular ones. These timestamps are inactive in the sense that they do not trigger an entry to show up in the agenda.
          * Gillian comes late for the fifth time
            [2006-11-01 Wed]

Footnotes

[1] In this simplest form, the day name is optional when you type the date yourself. However, any dates inserted or modified by Org will add that day name, for reading convenience.

[2] This is inspired by the standard ISO 8601 date/time format. To use an alternative format, see Custom time format.

[3] When working with the standard diary sexp functions, you need to be very careful with the order of the arguments. That order depend evilly on the variable calendar-date-style (or, for older Emacs versions, european-calendar-style). For example, to specify a date December 12, 2005, the call might look like (diary-date 12 1 2005) or (diary-date 1 12 2005) or (diary-date 2005 12 1), depending on the settings. This has been the source of much confusion. Org mode users can resort to special versions of these functions like org-date or org-anniversary. These work just like the corresponding diary- functions, but with stable ISO order of arguments (year, month, day) wherever applicable, independent of the value of calendar-date-style.