May 13, 2021

Lurking Fish

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Windows Timeline Is About to Lose Cross-Device Sync

Microsoft is rolling out a new beta version of Windows 10 that includes automatic app...

Microsoft is rolling out a new beta version of Windows 10 that includes automatic app restarts, new fonts, and the apparent death of Windows Timeline. Really, Microsoft just tossed that in with the “Changes and Improvements” for Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 21359. The company had to circle back just hours after posting the changelog to explain what it’s doing with Timeline. While it’s not completely removing the feature, it’s about to become much less useful. 

Microsoft added the Timeline view to Windows 10 as part of the April 2018 update, allowing you to sync your activity like file access and web pages across your devices. The line that got Windows enthusiasts upset certainly made it sound as if Timeline itself was getting the can: “If you have your activity history synced across your devices through your Microsoft account (MSA), you will no longer have the option to upload new activity in Timeline.”

In an update, Microsoft clarified that the part of Timeline that’s going away is the cross-device sync. So, Windows 10 will continue logging activity in Timeline on your local machine. None of that data will appear on other devices after this update unless you happen to be on an Azure Active Directory (AAD) account. Those premium users will continue getting Timeline sync. 

You can access the Timeline in Task View, which in case you don’t keep up with Windows nomenclature, is the screen that appears with the Win+Tab shortcut. The top of this screen shows your currently open windows, and the timeline is below that. However, it only shows web activity if you use Microsoft Edge, and most people don’t. 

It’s understandable that everyone read the original changelog as confirmation that Timeline was going away. In the last year, Microsoft has pulled Timeline from its Android launcher app, and it’s been scaling back Cortana, which includes several important integrations with Timeline. It’s even discontinuing the Android and iOS versions of the voice assistant. 

As this is an Insider build, most people won’t have to worry about losing Timeline sync right now. The feature still works if you’ve got multiple Windows 10 devices, and it will until whenever this change filters down to a mainline release. Build 21359 also adds an option to automatically restart apps after signing in, which could make those mandatory update restarts slightly less annoying.

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