Microsoft Adds Timeline Feature to Windows 10 Preview Build 17063

The new feature allows busy or forgetful users to look back at their various tasks during the day to pick up work from where they left off.

Windows 10 Timeline Preview

Members of the Windows Insider early-access program are getting at first look at Timeline, an upcoming Windows 10 feature that allows users to resume tasks that were forgotten or had gone neglected during the course of a busy day.

In Windows 10 build 17063, Timeline allows users to scroll to an earlier point in time, displaying visual snapshots of their activities on a PC and compatible applications on an iPhone, iPad or Android device. Each snapshot represents an app along with the specific content user was working on at the time.

"Each activity links right back to a webpage, document, article, playlist, or task, saving you time when you want to resume that activity later," explained Dona Sarkar, a software engineer at Microsoft's Windows and Devices Group and head of the Windows Insider program. However, Timeline doesn't work with all Windows applications, at least not yet.

For now, the feature allows users to pick up where they left off in Word, Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint and the Edge browser. Timeline is also compatible with the UWP (Universal Windows Platform) versions of Microsoft's Maps, Sports, Weather, News and Money apps. "App developers are working hard to enhance their apps by creating high-quality activity cards to appear in Timeline," said Sarkar.

When switching between devices, Cortana will suggest activities that a user may want to resume. Users concerned about the data collected by Timeline—particularly those who have multiple accounts for work, school and personal use—can disable the feature in Windows Settings and clear their activity histories.

Another new feature making its Windows Insider debut in build 17063 is the Sets multitasking feature.

Designed to help reduce friction in workflows that involve multiple applications, Sets collects different application experiences into browser-like tabs within a single window. For example, a student writing a report can access notes in OneNote and research a topic online using Edge without juggling multiple application windows.

Not all Windows Insiders will get to experience Sets, a name that may change before Microsoft officially releases it. As part of a controlled study, Microsoft is rolling out Sets to a relatively small percentage of participants to gauge is usage and satisfaction ratings compared to users who can't yet access the new feature.

Microsoft has also given Cortana a new notebook feature.

The Cortana Notebook is a repository of user information that helps Microsoft's virtual assistant deliver personalized notifications, recommendations and other services. In build 17063, it has been updated with a new tabbed user interface (UI) that gathers lists and reminders into the Organizer tab.

Another tab, called Manage Skills, allows users to access and configure Cortana's skills. Notebook's user interest management options are also easier to configure in this build, said Sarkar. For now, the updated notebook is only available for U.S. English users, but Microsoft is working on rolling it out to other markets over time.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is continuing to implement Fluent Design, a  more modern take on the Windows UI, across the operating system.  

Acrylic, a translucent background, now appears in the taskbar, the Clock and Calendar pop-up and other UI elements. In Edge, Microsoft made tweaks to allow more color to bleed through the acrylic treatment in the tab bar. The browser's dark theme now features darker blacks and increased contrast, improving visibility, Sarkar added.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...