Microsoft Windows 10 testers will soon see Timeline, Sets features

Microsoft is ready to roll out a couple of big, coming Windows 10 features to Windows Insider testers. Here's more on Timeline and Sets.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Video: Here's an early look at Sets in Windows 10

Microsoft is poised to add two key features to test builds of Windows 10 "Redstone 4" in the coming weeks. But company officials are not guaranteeing that either of these will be part of the shipping version of the OS, due out around April 2018.

Microsoft will be adding its Windows Timeline feature to the next Fast Ring test build of Windows 10, Microsoft officials said on November 28. Timeline is an extension of Windows 10's current Task View. It will show users activities they've done in the past, and will provide them with cards that will allow them to more quickly and easily reengage with applications.

Microsoft showed off Timeline at Build 2017 when debuting features expected to be part of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. But the feature never made it into any Windows 10 Fall Creators Update test builds and officials decided to delay Timeline instead of making it part of that release.

(I believe the fact that Microsoft previously has shown off features that seemed destined to be part of a specific Windows 10 build but missed hitting those targets may be why officials won't commit to features like Timeline and Sets making it into Redstone 4.)


Microsoft also will start testing a new windows-management feature, currently known as "Sets," in an upcoming Windows 10 Fast Ring Insider test build some time in the coming weeks. (I've heard the internal target is before November ends, so possibly this week.)

Sets is similar to the recently introduced Stardock application called "Groupy." It allows users to group app data, websites and other information in tabs. The Sets feature is related to the Tab Sweep feature that Microsoft included in its Edge browser as part of the original Windows 10 Creators Update. Sets, which will be built into the OS, will work with a wider variety of apps and sites. However, unlike Groupy, Sets won't work with older versions of Windows or with Google Chrome.

Not all Windows 10 Insiders will see Sets included in their Windows 10 Redstone 4 test builds right off the bat. Microsoft will be using a phased approach to roll this feature out to testers so as to better hone the feature based on tester feedback, officials said, which means a relatively small subset of testers will get Sets immediately. Ultimately, all Windows 10 Insiders will see Sets before it ships in some future version of Windows 10.

Microsoft has some potentially ambitious plans for Sets. At first, Sets will work only with Universal Windows Platform (UWP) applications. But over time, Microsoft wants to optimize full Win32 apps to work with the Sets tabs. The Windows team is working with the Microsoft Office team to make this happen some time in the near future with an Office Insider build. Microsoft officials are contemplating the best way to get third-party Win32 apps to be optimized to work with Sets over time.

Both Timeline and Sets are part of Microsoft's strategy to try to keep PCs relevant in a world where more and more computing is done on phones. The thinking is that by helping users be more productive on PCs -- the devices upon which many still rely when needing to do "meaningful input" -- Windows will still have a place in many customers' daily workflow.

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