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Windows 10 Tip: Go back and forth in time with Timeline, new in the Windows 10 April 2018 Update – Windows Experience Blog

Did you know there’s a new feature in the Windows 10 April 2018 Update to help you easily find what matters to you across your devices?

It’s called Timeline, and it lets you go back in time to past activities you’ve worked on across your devices, so you can jump back into them like you never left. So, if you’re looking for a specific document, image, or video you worked on yesterday or a week ago, Timeline makes it even easier to find what you’re looking for. You can even pick up what you were doing on your iOS or Android device on your Windows 10 PC when you’re ready to get back to it.

Here’s what you can do with Timeline:
Go back and forth in time. Easily scroll back in time to find things you were working on earlier today or a few weeks ago.*
Find activities easily. Click the new Task bar icon to see all your activities on a specific day grouped by hour, including all the things you did using Microsoft Edge and Office 365 on your tablet and mobile phone.** If you don’t see what you need, you can easily search Timeline to find it.
Remove activities whenever you want. Delete activities from a specific day or hour.

Here’s how to get started:
Click the new Task view icon in the taskbar to see all your activities on a specific day, grouped by hour, and easily search for something you’d like to go back to (you can also open Task view by pressing Windows logo key + Tab).
Head over here to read more about what’s new in the Windows 10 April 2018 Update!
*Timeline shows up to 30 days of past activities.
*Timeline shows activities done on tablet and mobile phone when users are signed into their Microsoft accounts. Office 365 subscription sold separately.

Make the most of your time with the new Windows 10 update

We all get the same 24 hours. And now, more than ever, it seems like it’s never enough. People feel more overwhelmed than ever before and pretty much all of us would love more time – not necessarily time to do more, but time to do what we love. At Microsoft, we want to help you do just that.

With Windows 10, we’ve focused on delivering the most modern and most secure operating system. Since its initial launch, we delivered two updates with features designed to enable the creator in each of us. With our latest major release – the Windows 10 April 2018 Update – we want to give you back some of your greatest currency, your time. Our hope is that you’ll have more time to do what matters most to you –  create, play, work or simply do what you love.
Timeline helps you easily find what matters to you across your devices
The proliferation of devices, combined with the explosion of information, has led to an influx of screen time. In fact, today, practically all free time goes toward screens. Your information is spread across multiple devices – making it increasingly harder to find your stuff. We’ve all had the experience of digging through your email or file folders for the document you know you wrote, but can’t find. Or looking for photos and videos that you know you’ve seen and love, but can no longer locate. Timeline can help you get back this wasted time.
With Timeline, your Windows 10 PC lets you go back in time up to 30 days to find your stuff, whether you were working on it earlier today, last week, or a few weeks ago. Because much of our activity is on the go, you can even pick up what you were doing if signed into your Microsoft account while using Microsoft Edge or Office 365 on your iOS or Android device when you return to your Windows 10 PC. Imagine looking at bathroom vanity options for that home remodel when you’re out and about on your phone, and then finishing that purchase when you’re back at your PC. Or working on a document on the bus during your commute and seamlessly picking it back up when you’re at your desk.

Focus Assist returns your focus
Today, most of us spend between 3-6 hours – each day – on screens. Much of this time is spent on social media, where the constant stream of distractions across our myriad of devices makes it hard to focus. In many ways, our attention is being hacked, pulling us into continuous scrolls of information, but distracting us from what matters most. This war on attention is real – in the workplace, the average amount of time people spend on any single event before being interrupted or switching tasks is about three minutes (outside of meetings). Since the average person needs about 23 minutes to regroup after being interrupted, we see our productivity and creativity diminished.
With the April 2018 Update we’re introducing Focus Assist to help you stay in the zone. Turn on Focus Assist whenever you want to get things done without distractions, like social media or other notifications. Or set it to turn on automatically at certain times during the day when you want focused time. When you finish, you receive a summary of what came through, whether notifications, emails or updates, while you were heads down. If you’re waiting on a specific call or email, choose people who you want to break through.

We’re also helping you focus while on the web with updates to Microsoft Edge. You can now click the audio icon to mute and unmute a tab that is playing sound. Books, PDFs and Reading View pages can go full-screen for a distraction-free reading experience. Shopping gets easier as your address, payment and other information can be securely saved with the option to autofill on web payment forms1. You can now clear out clutter from your printouts by printing web pages in a cleaner format with the new clutter-free printing option2. Finally, anyone needing a little help with reading can use the new Grammar Tools button to enable comprehension aids. Grammar Tools can break the words on the page into syllables, as well as highlight different parts of speech such as nouns, verbs, and adjectives.

Voice as a natural input
Natural computing experiences enable us to speak directly to our devices to accomplish tasks, without typing. We see potential for voice input to dramatically change how people interact with their devices, far beyond novelty experiences or entertainment.
One way we’ve done this in the April 2018 Update is with Dictation. It’s now easier than ever to take a note or write a paper, with just your voice. With your cursor in any text field either in Windows 10 or in an app, simply press Win+H and start talking. The improved Dictation feature in Windows 10 will capture your thoughts quickly and accurately so that brilliant idea you just riffed on with your colleagues or the speech you’re practicing for your best friend’s wedding isn’t lost forever.

With the April 2018 Update and Cortana enabled on your Windows 10 PC, you can manage your smart home right from your PC using just your voice3. For example, want to come home to a warm house from a long day at work? Just tap Cortana on your PC and say “Hey Cortana, set the living room thermostat to 72 degrees” to control your ecobee, Honeywell, Nest Learning thermostat and more4.
Of course, there are many more great new features in the April 2018 Update including simplified IT management tools for our enterprise customers, new ways to create with Photos, 3D and Windows Mixed Reality, new ways to keep you safer online and enhancements to your PC gaming experience.
The April 2018 Update will be available as a free download beginning Monday, April 30.
With all the time you’ll save, how will you use your precious time?
Yusuf
Twitter | LinkedIn

Make the most of your time with the new Windows 10 update
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1 Microsoft Edge does not save Card Verification Value (CVV) information.
2 This option available for only certain types of web pages.
3 Cortana available in select markets; experience may vary by region and device. Cortana Skills only available in the US and work with select home automation services (paid subscriptions may be required).
4 Additional requirements may apply per device.

Application Engagement in Windows Timeline with User Activities

Great applications help users do great things — enabling a wide range of creative, productivity and entertainment scenarios. Returning to activities can be a challenge, especially when a person wants to continue those activities across multiple devices. By writing User Activities, application developers have a new tool to get users back into their application.
In this article, you’ll learn how to drive application re-engagement by writing great User Activities into the Microsoft Graph with their UWP applications. This article is also a companion to the Microsoft Connect(); session: Engaging with your customers on any platform using the Microsoft Graph, Activity Feed, and Adaptive Cards.
User Activities and Timeline
Starting in Windows Insider Preview build 17056 or higher, User Activities generated by your application appear in Timeline. By writing User Activities into the Microsoft Graph, you can express specific content within your application as a destination which is showcased in Windows, and accessible on your iOS and Android devices.

Each User Activity represents a single destination within your app: such as a TV show, document or your current campaign in a game. When you engage with that activity (by creating an Activity Session), the system creates a history record indicating the start and end time for that activity. As you re-engage with that User Activity over time, multiple History Records will be recorded for a single User Activity. Here’s how to get started:
Install Windows SDK for Windows 10 Fall Creators Update (10.0.16299) or the latest Windows Insider Preview SDK. The Windows Insider Preview SDK requires Visual Studio 2017
To try out Timeline, install the Windows Insider Preview on the target machine
Adding UserActivities to your app
UserActivities are the unit of user engagement in Windows, and they consist of three components: a deep-link, visuals and content metadata.
The Activation Deep Link is a URI that can be passed back to an application or experience in order to resume the application with specific context. Typically, these links take the form of protocol handler for a scheme (e.g. “my-app://page2?action=edit”) or an AppUriHandlers (e.g. http://constoso.com/page2?action=edit).
Visuals are a set of properties that allow users to visually identify an activity, for example: title, description, or Adaptive Card elements.
Finally, Content Metadata is metadata for the content of the of activity that can be used to group and retrieve activities under a specific context. Often, this takes the form of http://schema.org data.
In order to integrate UserActivities with your application, you need to:
Generate UserActivity objects when your user’s context changes within an application (page navigation, new game, etc.)
Populate UserActivity objects with the minimum set of required fields: ActivityId, ActivationUri, DisplayText
Add a custom scheme handler to your application so it can be re-activated by your UserActivities
UserActivities can be integrated into an application with just a few lines of code:

UserActivitySession _currentActivity;

private async Task GenerateActivityAsync()
{
//Get the default UserActivityChannel and query it for our UserActivity. If the activity doesn’t exist, one is created.
UserActivityChannel channel = UserActivityChannel.GetDefault();
UserActivity userActivity = await channel.GetOrCreateUserActivityAsync("MainPage");

//Populate required properties
userActivity.VisualElements.DisplayText = "Hello Activities";
userActivity.ActivationUri = new Uri("my-app://page2?action=edit");

//Save
await userActivity.SaveAsync(); //save the new metadata

//Dispose of any current UserActivitySession, and create a new one.
_currentActivity?.Dispose();
_currentActivity = userActivity.CreateSession();
}

The first line in the GenerateActivityAsync() method gets a user’s UserActivityChannel. This is the feed that this app’s activities will be published to. The next line queries that channel of an activity called “MainPage”
Your application should name activities in such a way that same ID is generated each time the user is in a particular location in the app. For example, if your application is page-based, use an identifier for the page, if it’s document based, use the name of the doc (or a hash of the name).
If there is an existing activity in the feed with the same ID, that activity will be return from the channel (with the UserActivity object State property set to Published). If there is no activity with that name, and new activity with State set to New.
Activities are scoped to your app, there is no need to worry about your activity ID colliding with IDs from other applications
After getting or creating the activity the next lines of code specify the other two required fields: the DisplayText and the ActivationUri.
Next, save the UserActivity metadata, by calling SaveAsync(), and finally CreateSession(). That last method returns a UserActivitySession object that we can use to manage when the user is actually engaged with the UserActivity. For example, we should call Dispose() on the UserActivitySession when the user leaves the page. In the example above, we also call Dispose() on _currentActivity right before we call CreateSession(). This is because we made _currentActivity a member field of our page, and we want to stop any existing activity before we start the new one (the ‘?’ is an inline null-check).
Since, in this case, our ActivationUri is a custom scheme, we also need to register the Protocol in the application manifest. This can be done in the Package.appmanifest XML file, or using the designer, as shown below. Double-click the Package.appmanifest file to launch the designer, select the Declarations tab and add a Protocol definition. The only property that needs to be filled out, for now, is Name. It should match the URI we specified above hello-activities.
Now we need to write some code to tell the application what to do when it’s been activated via a protocol. In this case, we’ll override the OnActivated method in App.xaml.cs to pass the URI on to our MainPage:

protected override void OnActivated(IActivatedEventArgs e)
{
LoadFrame(e);
if (e.Kind == ActivationKind.Protocol)
{
var uriArgs = e as ProtocolActivatedEventArgs;
if (uriArgs != null)
{
Frame rootFrame = Window.Current.Content as Frame;
if (uriArgs.Host == "page2”)
{
rootFrame.Navigate(typeof(SecondaryPage), uriArgs)
}
}
}
Window.Current.Activate();
}

Use Adaptive Cards to Improve the Timeline Experience
User Activities will appear in Cortana and Timeline experiences. When activities appear in Timeline, we display them using the Adaptive Card framework. If you do not provide an adaptive card for each activity, Timeline will automatically create a simple activity card based on your application name and icon, the required Title field and optional Description field. Below is an example Adaptive Card payload and the card it produces.

{
"$schema": "http://adaptivecards.io/schemas/adaptive-card.json",
"type": "AdaptiveCard",
"backgroundImage": "https://winblogs.azureedge.net/win/2017/11/eb5d872c743f8f54b957ff3f5ef3066b.jpg",
"body": [
{
"type": "Container",
"items": [
{
"type": "TextBlock",
"text": "Windows Blog",
"weight": "bolder",
"size": "large",
"wrap": true,
"maxLines": 3
},
{
"type": "TextBlock",
"text": "Training Haiti’s radiologists: St. Louis doctor takes her teaching global",
"size": "default",
"wrap": true,
"maxLines": 3
}
]
}
]
}

Adaptive Cards can be added to the UserActivity object by passing a JSON string to the AdaptiveCardBuilder and setting the UserActivity.VisualElements.Content property:

activity.VisualElements.Content =
AdaptiveCardBuilder.CreateAdaptiveCardFromJson(cardText);

Cross-platform and Service-to-service integration
If your application has a cross-platform presence (for example on Android and iOS), or maintains user state in the cloud, you can publish UserActivities via integration with Microsoft Graph.
Once your application or service is authenticated with a Microsoft Account, it is two simple REST calls to generate Activity and History objects, using the same data as described above.
Summary
In this blog post, we learned how to use the UserActivity API to make your application show up in Timeline and Cortana, but there is much more you can do:
Learn more about UserActivity API on the Windows Dev Center, or check out the sample code at https://github.com/Microsoft/project-rome
Check some more sophisticated Adaptive Cards at io
Publish UserActivities from iOS, Android or your web service via MS Graph
Learn more about Project Rome on GitHub