A close look at the Windows 10 Timeline feature

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 20, 2017
Updated • Dec 20, 2017
Windows, Windows 10

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.

timeline task view

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.

Manage Timeline

windows 10 timeline activity

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.

  1. Use the shortcut Windows-I to open the Settings application.
  2. 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.

Closing Words

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?

A close look at the Windows 10 Timeline feature
Article Name
A close look at the Windows 10 Timeline feature
We take a close look at the new Timeline feature of the upcoming next version of Windows 10 which lists part activities on the system for easy access.
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  1. Dan Donx said on January 15, 2023 at 10:29 am

    What mental age of reader are you targeting with the first sentence? 10?

    Why not write an article on how to *avoid* upgrading from W10 to W11. Analogous to those like me who avoided upgrading from 7 to 10 for as long as possible.

    If your paymaster Microsoft permits it, of course.

  2. Dexter said on January 15, 2023 at 11:14 am

    5. Rufus
    6. Ventoy

    PS. I hate reading these “SEO optimized” articles.

    1. cdr said on January 15, 2023 at 3:32 pm

      I used Rufus to create an installer for a 6th gen intel i5 that had MBR. It upgraded using Setup. No issues except for Win 11 always prompting me to replace my local account. Still using Win 10 Pro on all my other PCs to avoid the bullying.

  3. sv said on January 15, 2023 at 6:40 pm

    bit pointless to upgrade for the sake of upgrading as you never know when you’ll get locked out because ms might suddenly not provide updates to unsupported systems.

    ps…. time travelling?
    written. Jan 15, 2023
    Updated • Jan 13, 2023

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 16, 2023 at 5:49 am

      This happens when you schedule a post in WordPress and update it before setting the publication date.

  4. Anonymous said on January 16, 2023 at 8:24 am

    Anyone willing to downgrade to this awful OS must like inflicting themselves with harm.

  5. basingstoke said on January 16, 2023 at 11:18 am

    I have become convinced now that anybody who has no qualms with using Windows 11/10 must fit into one of the following brackets:

    1) Too young to remember a time before W10 and W11 (doesn’t know better)

    2) Wants to play the latest games on their PC above anything else (or deeply needs some software which already dropped W7 support)

    3) Doesn’t know too much about how computers work, worried that they’d be absolutely lost and in trouble without the “”latest security””

    4) Microsoft apologist that tries to justify that the latest “features” and “changes” are actually a good thing, that improve Windows

    5) Uses their computer to do a bare minimum of like 3 different things, browse web, check emails, etc, so really doesn’t fuss

    Obviously that doesn’t cover everyone, there’s also the category that:

    6) Actually liked W7 more than 10, and held out as long as possible before switching, begrudgingly uses 10 now

    Have I missed any group off this list?

    1. Heinz Strunk said on September 19, 2023 at 3:57 pm

      You have missed in this group just about any professional user that uses business software like CAD programs or ERP Programs which are 99% of all professional users from this list.

      Linux doesn’t help anyone who is not a linux kid and apple is just a fancy facebook machine.

  6. ilev said on August 24, 2023 at 7:34 pm

    Microsoft has removed KB5029351 update

    1. EP said on August 24, 2023 at 9:21 pm

      only from windows update though
      KB5029351 is still available from the ms update catalog site

  7. Anonymous said on August 24, 2023 at 11:05 pm

    1. This update is labaled as PREVIEW if it causes issues to unintelligent people, then they shouldn’t have allowed Preview updates ot install.

    2. I have installed it in a 11 years old computer, and no problems at all.

    3. Making a big drama over a bluescreen for an updated labeled as preview is ridiculous.

    This is probably another BS internet drama where people ran programs and scripts that modified the registry until they broke Windows, just for removing stuff that they weren’t even using just for the sake of it.
    Maybe people should stop playing geeks and actually either use Windows 10 or Windows 11, but don’t try to modify things just for the sake of it.

    Sometimes removing or stopping things (like defender is a perfect example) only need intelligence, not scripts or 3rd party programs that might mess with windows.

  8. john said on August 24, 2023 at 11:17 pm

    Windows 11 was a pointless release, it was just created because some of the Windows team wanted to boost sales with some sort of new and improved Windows 10. Instead, Microsoft cannot support one version well let alone two.

    1. John G. said on August 25, 2023 at 12:08 pm

      Windows 11 is the worst ugly shame by Microsoft ever. They should release with every new W11 version a complete free version of Starallback inside just to make this sh** OS functionally again.

  9. EP said on August 25, 2023 at 3:10 pm

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released a statement regarding the “unsupported processor” blue screen error for their boards using Intel 600/700 series chipsets & to avoid the KB5029351 Win11 update:

  10. EP said on August 29, 2023 at 7:32 pm

    check out the following recent articles:

    Neowin – Microsoft puts little blame on its Windows update after UNSUPPORTED PROCESSOR BSOD bug:

    BleepingComputer – Microsoft blames ‘unsupported processor’ blue screens on OEM vendors:

  11. Leonard Britvolli said on August 30, 2023 at 10:33 pm

    While there may be changes or updates to the Windows 10 Store for Business and Education in the future, it is premature to conclude that it will be discontinued based solely on rumors.

  12. sembrador said on September 5, 2023 at 9:32 pm

    My advice, I left win 15 years ago. Now I’m a happy linux user (linuxmint) but there is Centos, Fedora, Ubuntu depending on your needs.

  13. EP said on September 6, 2023 at 11:55 am

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released new BIOS/firmware updates for their Intel 600 & 700 series motherboards to fix the “UNSUPPORTED_PROCESSOR” problem (Sept. 6):


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