What is the Timeline in Windows 10 and how to use it to resume past activities

Windows 10 Spring Creators Update comes with a new feature called the Timeline. It uses “the cloud” to help you continue the work you started on one of your Windows 10 devices, on any of the other devices you have. For instance, you can write a document in Microsoft Word on your home desktop PC, close the file and then continue writing it on your Microsoft Surface or your Windows 10 laptop. The Timeline is built over the Task View feature of Windows 10, which lets you switch between running apps and past activities, regardless of the devices that you were using. Here is how to enable the Timeline and how to use it on your Windows 10 PCs, laptops and tablets:

NOTE: This feature applies only to Windows 10 with Spring Creators Update or newer, which is available for free, to all Windows 10 users, as of April 10, 2018. Read this tutorial, to learn what Windows 10 version you have: What version, edition, and type of Windows 10 do I have installed?.

What is the Timeline in Windows 10?

The Timeline keeps a journal of all your activities, so that you can resume them later, from where you left off. It works on Windows 10 PCs, laptops, and tablets, but it does not work with every Windows app. For it to be able to monitor your activities, the Timeline must be able to log what you are working on, in the apps that you use. To be able to do that, apps must offer support for the Timeline feature. At launch, the Timeline works well with Microsoft apps like those found in Windows 10, and in Office 365. We have seen it record our activities from Word, Excel, Microsoft Edge, Photos, Notepad, Opera, SnagIt, Maps and VLC Media Player, but we did not see it display anything from Firefox, Spotify, TuneIn or Facebook. Hopefully, the list of apps that offer support for Timeline will grow.

One downside to Timeline is that we did not manage to find a way to stop it from monitoring a particular app that we choose. That is a negative from a privacy perspective, as some people might not want other people, or Microsoft, to know what videos or photos they were looking at, sometime in the near past. However, if you do not want Microsoft to know your history of activities, you can decide NOT to turn on the synchronization of your activities across devices.

How to enable the Timeline in Windows 10

The Timeline should be enabled by default. However, if it is not, you should know that you can turn it on by following the next few steps:

Open the Settings app, go to Privacy and then select Activity History on the left side of the window.

Then, look at the right side of the Settings window. To be able to use the Timeline feature and everything it has to offer, you have to check the box that says “Let Windows collect my activities from this PC.” Also, you have to select at least one user account to use with the Timeline. The Timeline will then record and show the activities that you performed while connected to that user account.

How to turn on Timeline syncing on multiple Windows 10 devices

The Timeline can work on multiple devices and sync your activities from one Windows 10 PC to another. If you want to see your activities from the PC that you are using right now, on your other Windows 10 devices, you must also check the box that says “Let Windows sync my activities from this PC to the cloud.”

How to access the Timeline, in Windows 10

If you want to open the Timeline in Windows 10, you can click or tap on its button from the taskbar. It looks like a series of empty squares and a tiny scrollbar, and it should be positioned to the right side of Cortana’s search box.

Another easy way to open the Timeline is to press the Windows + Tab keys on your keyboard, simultaneously.

When opened, this is what the Timeline should look like:

As you can see, the Timeline is an enhancement of the old Task View feature in Windows 10. The first thing you see is the Task View screen, and at its end, there is a new “Earlier Today” section. This is where the Timeline starts, and this is where Task View ends.

If you want to read more about the Task View and how to use virtual desktops in Windows 10, you should read this guide: How to create, use and remove virtual desktops in Windows 10.

How to browse through your Timeline and past activities

The Timeline is a collection of your past activities, meaning that it collects and displays the things you did in the past, both on your current Windows 10 computer and also on the other synced devices. To do so, the Timeline monitors the apps you use and the files you work with and keeps records of your activities.

Your past activities are displayed as tiles that use file titles or screenshots from those files, documents or apps, as covers. Just above the tiles, on the left, you can see the app of that activity and on the right, the device on which you did it.

If you scroll through the Timeline, you should see that after the Earlier Today section, which contains today’s activities, the Timeline starts using date headers to organize stuff. The Timeline should have sections like April 4, April 3 and so on. Theoretically, it should go back in time for months and even years. However, that is not yet possible because the feature has just been launched by Microsoft. :)

By default, each day on your Timeline can have up to two rows of activities, or tiles if you prefer. If there are more activities than can fit on two rows, you get a link that says “See all X activities” on the right side of that day in your Timeline. Note that the X is the actual number of additional activities that did not have room in the default view.

The scrollbar on the right side of the screen is also useful for navigating your Timeline. It is not an ordinary scrollbar: click or tap on it and move the pointer up or down and you will see that it also shows the dates when the Timeline recorded your activities. That way, it is easy to go to a specific day’s activities.

Once you locate the activity that you want to continue working on, you can click or tap on its tile. Then, Windows 10 opens that file or document and lets you continue editing it from where you left it.

How to search for past activities in your Timeline

The Timeline also lets you search for past activities. When you want to look for a document or a file on which you have worked in the past, but you do not remember when, it can be easier to search for it. To do so, click or tap on the Search button from the top right side of the Timeline screen.

Then, enter the name or part of the name of the activity (document or file) that you want to find. The results should be displayed immediately, on the left side of the screen, grouped by the dates on which you worked on that file or document.

How to remove an activity or a group of activities from your Timeline

Sometimes, probably for privacy reasons, you might want to remove a particular activity or even a whole group of activities from your Timeline. If you want to remove only one activity from your Timeline, you can right-click or tap and hold on it and then choose Remove in the contextual menu.

Similarly, if you want to remove a whole group of activities from your Timeline, navigate to that group, right-click or tap and hold on any of the activities in the group, and then click or tap on the option that says “Clear all from [group name].” For instance, if you want to remove all the activities in your Timeline today, you should click or tap on “Clear all from Earlier Today.”

Conclusion

The Timeline is a useful new feature in Windows 10, and many users will probably like it. As you have seen, it can be handy, but that depends on the interest it gets from app developers. Do you believe that the Timeline can boost your productivity? Does the Timeline work as you expected? Use the comments below to share your experience, and let’s discuss.