When you think of an office, board room, classroom, community center, or anywhere else that people meet to organize and work together, what’s one of the first things you can picture? Often it’s a prominent bulletin board where random announcements, pictures, important memos, random email forwards, and more are tacked for everyone to see. Sure, they’re often random and somewhat a mess, but they’re an effective way to share a bit of info with anyone that happens to walk by.
We’ve gotten to the point where you almost need a project management app to manage your project management apps. There’s so many ways to collaborate today, and yet most of us still resort to sending emails to team members and tying strings on our fingers to keep from forgetting stuff. Why not bring back the simplicity of a bulletin board?
That’s what Trello does.
Trello is a new free web app from Fog Creek Software, the folks behind FogBugz, Kiln, WebPutty, and more. They’ve been making FogBugz, a bug tracking app that can also be used to manage projects, coordinate teams, and more. It’s a great tool with a ton of features, but it’s an overkill for the stuff most of us want to keep up with.
So, they turned around and made one of the simplest ways to manage the stuff you need to do, without leaving out the tools you’d need to actually get stuff done in it. Essentially, in Trello, you have a blank board. You can add lists to it, and then put cards on the list. Cards can then have to-dos, comments, attachments, and more. It’s like Post-it notes on a board, only digital, and much richer.
First off, Trello is free, and they’ve promised the features that are there right now will always be free, though they may add extra premium features in the future. When you’re ready to get started with a free Trello account, you can sign up in 2 clicks with your Google Account, or create a unique account with your name, email, and password.
When you first login, you’ll see a welcome board that can help you get started. You can add more boards later, or delete the welcome lists and create your own. As you can see, your board has lists holding cards, which could be individual tasks, ideas, notes, or anything else you want. On the right, you’ll see a list of your members, and can add new people to help collaborate. You can also filter cards to see just the ones you want, and can view recent activity in the board on the bottom right.
Adding lists and cards to a board is easy. Just click the Add List button to create a new list, and you can drag it from the top corner to the position you want. Then, click the Add card link at the bottom, type in an idea or something you want to do, then press Enter to add the task. Best thing is, you can instantly start typing the next card, which makes it a quick way to jot down your thoughts. Once your done, you can drag and drop cards between any of your lists to rearrange them.
You can then add more info to cards to make them easier to spot. Click the down arrow that appears when you hover over the right of the card, and you can assign the card to members on your team, move it directly to another list instead of dragging it, or add a color label to quickly identify it. Alternately, you can drag member’s icons from the right sidebar onto a card to assign it to them directly. So, whether you like to use menus or drag-and-drop, Trello can work the way you want.
And if you turn the card over…
Now, just listing the things you need to do, or ideas you have, or really whatever on the cards in lists can be rather nice. But Trello takes it further, and integrates a ton of feature into the cards. You can add checklists of to-dos, comment on a task, upload attachments up to 10Mb, label the card to make it easier to identify, or vote on important tasks with your team. Just click on the card, and the back opens up with a whole page just for it. You can keep up with the full history of the card, and when that idea is finished, you can archive it.
And that’s not all. You can share boards with others, assign boards to your team or company, create as many boards as you need, and even turn them into public boards so anyone can see what you’re up to. There’s tons of ways you can put it to use, and it’s much more flexible than most project management tools.
Stay on Track of Trello Everywhere
Now, bulletin boards wouldn’t be quite as nice if they were relegated to a small corner of your office wall, hidden away from everyone else. Part of the great thing about them is that they’re large and you’ll notice stuff on the wall as you’re casually walking by. If your office has a big TV on the wall, though, you could create the same effect with Trello. The Fog Creek even hooked it up to 5 42″ TVs. Just like Geckoboard can be used as a huge, wall-mounted status board if you want, Trello is designed responsively so it’ll look great on your largest screens.
Or your smallest screens. The same bulletin board of tasks loads great on your smartphone’s browser, so you can keep up with the things you need to do on the go. Now how’s that for a bulletin board that you can always see?
Trello is a great app that’s been thoughtfully designed, but it’s by no means 100% unique. In fact, it’s very similar to another app we recently looked at, Thoughtboxes, which also lets you arrange tasks in lists on a board. It’s also designed much like the traditional Kanban board, a mainstay of Just-in-time workplaces, like the TVs with orders at a fast food joint. But remember, everything is a remix, and there’s really no apps that are truly 100% unique.
What the Fog Creek team has done with Trello is taken the best ideas of a Kanban board along with the best parts of a rich project manager’s comment system and notifications, and put them together in a great web app. Throw in nice responsive design that works on any screen, and you’ve got a winning tool you can implement with your team today. I haven’t used it in a live project yet, but absolutely plan to start making use of it. It’s a really nice too, and I’ll look forward to seeing what premium extras they add in the future.