Microsoft's newest Windows 10 test build includes Timeline feature

Microsoft's latest 'Redstone 4' test build, 17063, includes includes its promised Timeline feature, the start of Edge support for Progressive Web Apps, lots of UI tweaks, and several IT pro-focused goodies.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

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Microsoft's latest Windows 10 'Redstone 4' test build -- No. 17063 -- includes, as promised, the coming Timeline feature, plus various UI changes.

(Image: Microsoft)

Microsoft rolled out Build 17063 to Windows 10 Fast Ring Insiders for PCs on Dec. 19. (This is the first new Fast Ring test build since Nov. 22, which was Build 17046.)

The most significant new feature in Build 17063 is Timeline, which officials said in late November would be coming to the next Fast Ring test build.

Timeline is an extension of Windows 10's current Task View. It will show users activities they've done in the past, and it will provide them with cards that will allow them to more quickly and easily reengage with applications on Windows PCs, iOS, and Android devices.

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.

Microsoft is requesting developers update their applications to support Timeline. Currently, testers of the preview of Timeline can see and resume Web-browsing activities in Edge, plus Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote) and the UWP versions of Maps, News, Money, Sports, and Weather. An activity history settings page allows users to control which accounts appear in Timeline (personal accounts, work, school, etc.).

Just a reminder: While Timeline is likely to make it into the shipping version of Redstone 4 once it starts rolling out around April 2018, Microsoft officials have not said that Timeline absolutely will be part of Redstone 4. Speaking of features that may or may not make it into Redstone 4 final, Sets falls into this category, too. It sounds like a few Fast Ring testers may get access to Sets, aka Microsoft's new window-management feature, as of today's build, but the majority won't for some period of time.

Update: Here's another biggie. Edge, as of test build 17063, includes support for Service Workers by default. Yes, that means Microsoft is moving toward enabling Progressive Web Apps to just work on Windows 10 with Edge. This could prove to be a key way to get more apps into the Microsoft Store.

Microsoft is enabling Cortana to suggest activities users might want to resume from their various devices using the same set of activities that appear in Timeline. It also is overhauling the look and feel of the Cortana Notebook starting with this build, adding a tabbed view option, plus a new Organizer starting point for accessing lists and reminders more easily. Cortana also ultimately will be able to control music playback on more music apps, starting with Spotify in US-English only.

Microsoft has redesigned the Settings home page to make it more visually appealing. The company also is bringing its Fluent design (blurry transparency and other related effects) to Settings, the taskbar, Share UI, Clock and Calendar, and other flyouts. Microsoft also is working to improve the My People frequent contact capability by adding support for more contacts and allowing users to drag and drop to rearrange them.

Today's new test build includes some new features meant to appeal not just to consumers, but for business users, as well. Microsoft is bringing its Windows Defender Application Guard technology to Windows 10 Professional, rather than limiting it to Enterprise only. Windows Defender Application Guard uses Hyper-V to isolate potential malware and exploits.

Microsoft is providing an option in Cellular Settings that will allow users to choose to use cellular connections instead of Wi-Fi always or when Wi-Fi is poor. This is for those with fast LTE connections and large/unlimited data plans.

The Windows Subsystem for Linux feature gets several enhancements in today's new test build. WSL can run background tasks with 17063. Elevated and non-elevated WSL instances can run simultaneously, and WSL is supported when connected via OpenSSH, VPN and other Windows remoting tools. There's also a new tool, Wslpath, for converting Linux paths to Windows-friendly paths.

Microsoft also is adding new policies (both Group Policies and MDM Policies) to give administrators ways to control bandwith more granularly, restrict peer selection to the same subnet, and handle other delivery-optimization tasks. The idea is to help companies reduce bandwidth concsumption on their networks.

Microsoft's blog post about 17063 lists a number of other fixes and improvements that are part of this build across a variety of areas, including storage, Cortana, memory, sharing, and more.

It also lists several known issues about touch and pen, Edge notifications, and more. Microsoft notes that the company is going to retire the HomeGroup service in Windows 10, moving forward, as recent builds have other alternatives for file sharing inside the apps and the OS itself.

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