The vote to decide whether Scotland breaks from or remains within the United Kingdom will be held on Thursday September 18, 2014.
Mr Salmond finally revealed the date to the Scottish Parliament almost two years after winning the majority at Holyrood that gave the SNP the mandate to hold a referendum.
Before, Mr Salmond would only say the poll would be in the Autumn of 2014.
He said he believed the people would vote yes to independence in 545 days from now.
He said: "I believe it will be the day we take responsibility for our country.
"When we are able to speak with our own voice, choose our own direction and contribute in our own distinct way.
"The day we stand up on our own two feet, but do not stand alone.
"When we gain a new, more modern relationship with the other nations of the UK, a true partnership of equals."
The date and the question are in the Independence Referendum Bill, which was introduced to the Parliament and published yesterday.
The question on the ballot paper, which voters will answer yes or no to, will be "Should Scotland be an independent country?".
The Bill will now proceed through the Scottish Parliament this year and should have Royal Assent by December.
A separate Bill is to be passed which will extend the vote to 16 and 17 year olds.
If a majority vote yes, Scotland could be independent by 2016 after negotiations with Westminster on how assets and liabilities would be divided.
If it is a no vote, then the current system of devolution with a Scottish Parliament will continue.
Labour claims the date will be when Scotland votes to reject the SNP independence plan.
Johann Lamont, Scottish Party leader and Glasgow Pollok MSP, said: "The truth is, I believe, we have moved a step down the road of cementing Scotland's place in the United Kingdom.
"There will be many people who voted SNP but don't believe in independence who will breathe a sigh of relief, like me, that the date when we can finish this constitutional debate once and for all and get on with dealing with the real issues and priorities of Scotland is now in sight."
Other independence supporters outside the SNP said it was possible to persuade the undecided voters to back their plan for a separate country.
Patrick Harvie, Green MSP for Glasgow, said: "Now we have the date for our diaries, the effort to persuade those who are undecided must focus on the needs of real people and not just those with loud voices and deep pockets.
"It is increasingly clear Scotland's aspirations are not being reflected by Westminster, and the time has come to shape our own affairs.
"We believe many more Scots can be persuaded to vote Yes by a positive vision of a Scotland that serves the people's interests, rather than corporate interests."
The LibDems and Tories said they were confident the vote would be a no.
Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore, LibDem MP, said: "I am glad people in Scotland have now been told the proposed date for the referendum.
"I am confident when Scots go to the polls they will vote in favour of Scotland staying within a strong and secure UK family."
Ruth Davidson, Scottish Conservative leader, said: "I welcome the clarity today's announcement brings, and after waiting two years, the people of Scotland deserved to know when they will go to the polls.
"I believe the people of Scotland will vote to stay within the family of the United Kingdom and I look forward to setting out the positive case for remaining part of most successful social and economic union in the world."