I really enjoy sharing useful services with people I know. If you are follow me on Twitter or know me in person, I have likely shared a few of them with you. But rarely do I find an service/application/product that I really think could be useful to every single person I know. Trello fits that.
There are hundreds of to-do list applications available. They run all the way from one basic list with checkmarks to the enterprise project management software. I have tried many of them. Trello is so simple, easy and initiative, that it is worth it to try for 15 minutes or so, to see if it is right for you.
What is Trello?
It is all about the cards.
A card is any text you want to add. I like to think of it as whatever you would write on a notecard. If you have never used notecards, then think of it as a note. It could be one word, a sentence or a paragraph. You can make as many cards as you want.
Then you organize them in lists.
Lists are just columns were you can sorts your cards. You can label lists anything you want and then drag and drop cards and reorder them in lists. The default Trello lists are To Do, Doing and Done, but you can change the names and quantity on any…
Boards are much like Pinterest boards. They are where your lists and notes live. You can have a broad board labeled “Ideas”. Or a very specific one like “What I want to accomplish on Saturday”. Your lists and the included cards can be reorder on your board however you like.
That is the basic of Trello and on its own has many uses. But. . .
Trello lets you go beyond that by “writing” on the back of the cards.
Like a traditional note card there is a back to Trello cards. Just click any card to access it. It includes a comment section and description that you can use like a traditional notecard. So if you are studying for a test, you can put the answer or definition on the back of the card and access it just by clicking on the card.
On a traditional note card that is pretty much the limits on what you can do, but with Trello you can:
- Add attachments (videos, Word docs, PDFs and more)
- Add color labels
- And collaborate by giving others access to boards, thus…
- Have conversations
- Assign tasks
- Vote for favorite cards
Examples of my own Trello use.
Organize and track the progression of blog post for this site.
I have many blog post ideas in Evernote. Some of those ideas turn into basic notes, and some of them turned into rough drafts. I created a card in Trello for each potential blog post, and then added the cards to respective lists in order to understand what I have to work with. I currently have six lists. They are titled:
Ideas – Notes – Drafts – Blog Drafts – Published – Promoted
With this board I can see all of my blog posts, whether finished or in-process, on one screen. When I take something from an idea to actually writing up notes in Evernote, I drag the related card from the Ideas list to the Notes list. Eventually as I work on each post, I keep moving the card along to different stages in the process and thus lists. In the end, what started all the way on the left as an idea goes all the way to the right as a published and promoted post. For many people, writing a blog post might be a one step process or at least the early stages are done in one’s head. For me, I like to break the process into small steps. If you don’t need that level of detail for smaller tasks like blog posts, try creating a board for something more ambitions.
Trello’s key feature is the ability to quickly sort information. Complex projects can be broken down to smaller steps and then sorted and grouped.
Preparing for a trip
I recently took two trip. In each case I made a card for every single thing I need to accomplish before I left. I didn’t worry about the order; I just typed each task and hit enter. When I got done, I then created specific lists. In this case, three tasks required I leave the house to accomplish them (get cash, purchase sunscreen & get more dog food). With a normal paper list, I would need to make a new list, but with Trello, I just added a list called Errands and dragged those three cards to that list. Several of the task were ones my wife had expertise, so I made a list for her, dragged those tasks to the list and assigned them to her.
I have used Trello to create “page lists” for new websites. Type every page you are considering. Sort them by how they would work in the site structure. Then you can even open up voting on cards to other members of your team.
I have yet to use Trello for any substantial group projects, but my wife and I have started to use Trello to organize some household projects we are working on. It has been usefully to quickly get ideas down and then sort them into more managable lists.
Trello is the kind of software I would gladly pay for, but thankfully it is entirely free. It takes seconds to signup and minutes to try it out. It is so flexiable, that if you give it a try, I am fairly confident you will find a use for it.