New Timeline Feature Helps Windows 10 Users Resume Forgotten Tasks

Windows Insiders will soon be able to test a Timeline feature that allows them to pick up application tasks and web-browsing sessions where they left off.

Windows 10

In the future, Microsoft wants to help Windows 10 users travel back in time, to resume tasks that may have been sidelined by an urgent request from a colleague or simply forgotten among the day-to-day demands of a busy workday.

A new feature called Timeline, first demonstrated during the Microsoft Build conference in May, will soon be arriving in Windows Insider preview builds of Windows 10, according to Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Windows and Devices group at Microsoft. As its name implies, Timeline is a visual interface that allows users to jump back into the applications, files and websites they were working on at a given time.

Timeline uses Adaptive Cards, a cross-platform format that enables developers to display content in a manner that adapts to the look and feel of the host application, preventing jarring mismatches in the visual styles and behaviors in integrated applications. For instance, Adaptive Cards can be used to display information from a third-party chatbot in Skype while adhering to the communications software's interface for a consistent experience.

In Timeline, Adaptive Cards are used to seamlessly render the feature and in the operating system's Task View. Selecting a card will allow users to pick up where they left off, even across supported devices.

Microsoft is also introducing a feature that will help Windows users get a handle on their multi-application workflows. Called Sets for now—the name is not yet final—it gathers other application experiences, websites and content into browser-like tabs within the main application window.

While compiling a report in Word, for example, a user can open a new tab to access some notes in OneNote without sprouting another application window. Going further, clicking on a link contained within a note will open an Edge tab with the selected webpage's contents, again with the same window.

Upon opening an empty tab, Sets displays connected Office 365 apps, recent files and shared content, allowing users to quickly reach the information they're looking for.

"With Sets, what belongs together stays together—making it easier and faster to create and be productive. The concept behind this experience is to make sure that everything related to your task: relevant webpages, research documents, necessary files and applications, is connected and available to you in one click," explained Myerson in a blog post.

"As Office, Windows and Edge become more integrated to create a seamless experience, so you can get back to what's important and be productive, recapturing that moment, saving time—we believe that's the true value of Sets," added Myerson. A YouTube video demonstrating Sets can be found here.

While Windows Insiders wait for Timeline and Sets to arrive, Microsoft is changing up how it delivers some preview features to members of the early-access program.

Generally, Insiders share the same experience when a new Windows 10 preview build is released, depending on which delivery "ring" (Fast, Slow Ring or Release Preview) they are enrolled in. All users in a given ring get the same features, enhancements and bug fixes at the same time.

Going forward, the company will first dole out some features like Sets to a smaller percentage of Insiders.

Donna Sarkar, head of the Windows Insider program, said in a Nov. 28 announcement that the move will allow Microsoft to study a feature's usage patterns and satisfaction ratings and compare those findings to the habits of users who haven't yet experienced the new features. Nobody should feel left out, at least not for too long. Eventually features released in this manner will be made available to all Insiders, assured Sarkar.

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...