[This post was first written in 2013 and then revised in April 2016.]
When Emily said she was interested in Trello, on a day when I was at home tending to a recovering child, I leapt at it. She's done a fantastic job with Google Calendar, but she'd never found a task/project app she liked. Indeed, she has a bit of an allergy to them. Trello, it turns out, has a certain arts and crafts following.
That's a bit surprising, as I know Trello as a corporate-focused project and work management tool from Joel Spolsky's geek-loved Fog Creek software. It never occurred to me that Emily might like it.
I've used a number of Task and Project tools myself; particularly a combination of Appigo's ToDo.app and the weirdly named ToodleDo web service , but Trello is a bit of an odd duck. So I put together these quick notes for myself - it's a geeky introduction to Trello.
Service properties and revenue model
Trello uses a freemium web model with Android and iOS apps. It is easy to cancel the service and it passed Gordon's Laws for Software and Service Acquisition. You can use Google authorization or a local account. Google access requests are Contacts only - which is plausible.
Revenue comes from corporate sales, corporate buyers pay $200/year for admin tools, access restrictions, bulk JSON export, Google Apps org directory integration. Non-paying customers presumably encourage corporate adoption. They've added a $5/month option for "stickers" -- if they made this $20/year I'd pay just to support them. I worry about their revenue and longevity.
How Trello is put together
Cards are the equivalent of Tasks in Toodledo or ToDo.app and they are the essence of Trello. Not all of Trellow web features are available on the iOS app, but most are. Here's how Trello works:
- Organization: A collection of Members and of Boards. Organizations are optional, you can ignore this.
- Board: A named collection of Lists. Boards do not have dates but they are a good match for Projects especially if there's a collaborator. You need at least one Board.
- type: individual or organization
- membership (for org)
- visibility: public/private for individual, for org is member only/org wide
- List: A ranked collection of Cards. Lists do NOT have dates. You can move cards between lists. A typical use of a List is state tracking - To Do, Doing, Done. Can also use a List to hold notes, ideas, etc (but I'd use Simplenote for that).
- Card: A task or, if you prefer, a lightweight project. Has a Name, a single Due Date/Time, Assigned person and...
- Label - color icon (example, priority)
- Checklists - these items don’t have a due date or a responsible person.
- Attachments - photo/video on iOS, on web can be Google Drive, Dropbox, Computer
- Subscribe option
- Comments (@ for autocomplete members)
- Activity record (read only)
- Links (can reference a card)
- Card’s don’t have a done or completed attribute. That’s a problem (see below).
Lists, Cards and Boards can be copied, so you can set them up as a template. Lists enable bulk operations on cards such as archive all and move all. Cards and Lists can be moved within the hierarchy.
Trello has "Power-Ups" that do things like Display Cards in Calendar format. The Calendar works well and it allows drag and drop between dates. The Calendar is supposed to have a feed that can be subscribed to from Google Calendar, but it didn’t work when I tried it. [Update 2016.04: The Calendar feed works well now, I use it to integrate project work into Google Calendar.]
Comparison of Trello to a traditional Task app:
|Completed (Yes/No)||List (state)|
|Task||Card (but no done status )|
- D: card date picker
- L#: Card Label (ex: urgent, etc)
Teams and Boards
If you’re using free Trello then you want to have a single Trello account for each Person — Trello.app for iOS doesn’t support identity switching. A Person (Trello account/profile) can be a member of multiple Teams. Each team can have multiple Boards, but a Board has only one Team. A single Trello account (Person) can be associated with multiple Google IDs.
So the relationship between a Person and a Board is controlled by their Team membership. In Trello web or iOS one changes Teams to see Boards that are Team specific. (This is more clear in the app than in the web version.)
Example of Trello Lists to organize Cards
These Lists resemble states in ToodleDo. I'd personally use Labels to indicate importance rather than create a List and the use of lists to reflect a schedule seems odd...
- The Naive Optimist • 7 Do's and Don'ts for Founders - Lists include (Public Board Example)
- Big Picture
- This Week
- Done (archive this list daily)
- The Key Habits of Organization : zenhabits
- Most Important
- This Week
- Waiting On
- Inbox: Cards that are new, not yet sorted
- Scheduled/Active: Today, This Week, Later
- Done (which is archived)