A close look at the Windows 10 Timeline feature
Microsoft revealed the Timeline feature of Windows 10 earlier this year. While its entire functionality was not made clear at the time, it looked as if it would allow users to keep track of past activity on a machine running Windows 10.
Timeline was launched in the Windows 10 Insider Build 17063 in December 2017 as a way to "get right back to where you left off".
Timeline enhances the Task View feature of Windows 10 by listing past activity when you launch Task View on the device. You can launch Task View on Windows 10 with the shortcut Windows-Tab. The core difference to Alt-Tab was until now that Task View remained visible on the screen when you let go of the keys whereas Alt-Tab's interface would be closed the moment you let go of them.
Timeline enhances Task View by adding records of past activities to it. Microsoft defines activities in the context as a combination of a specific app with a specific piece of content. Think of Website+Edge, spreadsheet+Excel, music playlist+Spotify, or photo+Photos app.
The preview release limits Timeline to Microsoft Edge, Microsoft Office, and the applications Maps, News, Money, Sports and Weather. It appears that apps need to be actively support the feature by creating activity cards that then appear in Timeline.
Microsoft uses the terminus apps but it appears that legacy desktop programs may be able to use Timeline as well; at least Microsoft Office 2016 supports it already and that is a desktop program and not a Windows 10 UWP application.
Another interesting feature of Timeline is that it can draw activities from iOS and Android devices as well. It is likely that this is limited to devices that you link to your Windows PC, and activity of programs like Microsoft Edge that you may run on these devices.
Task View displays open programs at the top and below that the Timeline view. The default view shows a snapshot of the activity on the day. Activities are listed with a thumbnail screenshot, a title or file name, and the application.
Timeline displays only select activities by default. A link is provided to display all activities, but users need to click on it to display them all. Activities are grouped into hourly batches to make it easier to locate specific tasks according to Microsoft.
It takes a while before activities start to show up on Task View once you upgrade your machine to a version of Windows 10 that supports Timeline.
Task View comes with a slider on the right side that you can use to go back in time and check out activities on previous days.
A click on an activity card opens it in the designated application. A click on Maps opens the same place or information in the Maps application again, a click on a Microsoft Edge activity the site in question.
A right-click on any activity displays an option to remove it from the list. This seems to be the only option right now to remove items from the activity records. There is no option to remove activity records in bulk other than using the clear button in the Settings app but that removes all records.
The Activity history page of the Settings application offers some control over the Timeline feature. You can turn it off there so that Windows won't record activities anymore, and manage accounts separately.
- Use the shortcut Windows-I to open the Settings application.
- Go to Privacy > Activity history.
You find three main options there right now:
- Enable the filtering of activities by account. You can set accounts to off there so that the activity of these accounts won't show up on Timeline. This is mostly useful if you sign in using different accounts.
- Turn off Timeline. This is the main switch for the feature. If you turn it off, no activity is recorded.
- Clear the activity history. This clears the activity but does not affect its state.
Timeline looks like an advanced version of the recent history functionality of the Windows operating system. It lists past activity of supported applications so that it becomes easier to continue using an application or going back to something that you did earlier.
The main limitation right now is that apps need to support this actively. It remains to be seen if the vast majority of third-party developers will support this, or if this will remain a mostly Microsoft-specific feature as major company apps support it already.
I can see how this can be useful to some users. I won't use it however, and won't use it even if the programs that I use mostly will support it as I have no need for it.
Now You: Will you use Timeline?Advertisement