Excellent question! The datetime tool doesn't use ALTERYX standard specifiers (e.g. MM is month in the tool, but if you use specifiers it should be mm). Specifiers are how you can handle any date formats:
The performance of the tool is slower than a formula with the proper expression. Once you learn WHERE to find the glossary quickly, then you can memorize through use of the specifiers. You can go beyond simple data cleansing and answer higher-level questions about dates once you know how to handle them. I want to find the first Monday of each month. I want to find the last day of the month. There are lots of questions that you will handicap yourself in answering if you aren't comfortable using date functions.
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