My friend was showing me Windows 10 “timeline” as a way to explore what you’ve been doing the previous few days. Cool! How can I get started with Win10 Timeline?
Timeline is one of those Windows 10 features that I feel gets too little attention because it’s pretty darn cool. Indeed, if you’ve spent years looking at a text listing of URLs you’ve visited in your Web browser and figured that’s as good as it gets, well, you’re in for a bit of a surprise with Timeline. However, it does require a little bit of setup to work properly, so we’ll talk about that. Just don’t get confused with the Michael Crichton book of the same name, okay? 🙂
If you’re not sure when this Timeline thing showed up that’s understandable too: It was added as part of the April 2018 Update to Windows 10, known by the codename “Redstone 4”. It is also something that has no analog on the Mac side, though who knows, perhaps it’ll show up in a future version of MacOS X as Apple gets “inspired” by what Microsoft’s created. This is more likely to happen as people use the feature of course, so let’s jump in and see what it is and how it works!
Of course, these instructions are going to change a bit too: The next version of Windows 10, the May 2019 update, is reputed to be changing search and Cortana on the TaskBar. It should still look pretty much like this though:
See where it says “Pick up where you left off Open Timeline”? That’s a handy shortcut (though you can also just click on the tiny “task view” icon just to the right of the search circle on the Taskbar).
Click or tap on “Open Timeline” and you’ll see something like this:
Notice on the far right it’s a, well, timeline you can scroll through while on the left it shows Web sites I’ve visited, with big, friendly graphics instead of the dull spreadsheet-inspired “history” feature in your Web browser. If you edit documents, watch movies or listen to an MP3 or WAV file, that’ll all show up on Timeline too. Me? I just use this PC mostly for Web surfing, as you can see.
Let’s look a bit more closely:
You can delete entries at any time with a right-click:
Got it? Now, if you see the following at the lower part of your screen, you’ll want to tweak your settings:
Here’s where you have a tradeoff to make between utility and privacy. Do you really want to send Microsoft 30 days worth of your activity so it can analyze it and give you a longer timeline? Well, let’s click “Yes” and see what’s involved…
(Note: You can also get to the above by searching for “activity”)
Now you can see the two settings you need to consider: “Store my activity history on this device” is required for Timeline, but note that the Timeline feature seems to work just fine even if you opt out of “Send my activity history to Microsoft” based on my experimentation. Your call.
Also note that at the bottom of this window is this important feature:
If you’ve been busy shopping for holiday presents – or a divorce lawyer! – you’ll want to know how to clear your activity history! 🙂
More seriously, I’ve become a big fan of Timeline and encourage you to check it out on Windows 10 too. You’ll just need a reasonably modern update to the system but you’re keeping your system updated anyway to ward off malware, right?
Pro Tip: I’ve been writing about Windows for a long darn time. Please check out my Win10 Help area for lots more tutorials!