For the last two weeks I've been using Trello instead of Taskpaper for managing projects like Journalong. It's really an experiment to see if I can get more things done with a visual system. Previously I was using lists in Taskpaper. It worked to an extent but anything that was at the bottom of list would frequently be forgotten.

So what is Trello?

Trello is a generic organisation and collaboration tool. Yes it sounds like a vague description, but Trello isn't tied to any one particular workflow. Basically Trello is a simple workflow and list manager.

A Trello board consists of several lists like so:

An example of a Trello board

You create cards that you move through the lists from left to right. The lists themselves can be called anything you want and can be modelled after any iterative workflow that you can think of.

A list on Trello

The cards are used to represent individual items of work. It could be a task, a feature for a product, an article you want to write or even part of your wild scheme to take over the world.

A card in Trello

The cards themselves contain a title and a description but can also contain a set of tasks, attachments and even comments from yourself and other users collaborating on the same board.

How I'm using Trello

I'm using Trello in two ways at the moment.

Primarily I am using it to get my finger out on moving some development projects along. Journalong was first to get the Trello treatment and work on it as picked up again since I started using it. I use it mainly to mimick the Kanban way of software development as you can see from the board below:

My Journalong Trello board

As well as using Trello as a way of managing software projects, I'm also using Trello to manage my blog. In particular, my weekday posts to the blog and the writing process involved for each post.

My writing Trello board

I have a backlog of ideas that I want to write about. It ranges from software development to personal reflective pieces. At the weekend I pick five ideas from the backlog for the coming week and assign each of them a day of the week. Then I stick them in the drafts column and start writing each one.

As they are completed they get moved on to editing and then they are ready to be published. While the Journalong board is fine, I might change the process for my blog posts. I don't want to get too bogged down in different steps for each post. I tend to write, edit and queues posts for my blog in the one sitting.

Great device support

What makes Trello great however is the support they have for different devices. It's one of the few applications that I have installed on by my iPad and iPhone. Initially I was hesitant of how Trello was going to be implemented in iOS. However since using it for the last few weeks, It's steadily becoming a favourite in my day to day apps category.

Trello on iOS

The iPhone UI is particularly nice as it lets you zoom in on a list within a board so that you can see all the cards for that list. Everything that you have available in the web UI is available here as well. Checklists, labels, attachment and comments are all there.

It's free!

One thing that you thought I may have skipped over is that Trello is a free for anyone to use. I had reservations about this until it was pointed out to me that the makers of Trello, Fog Creek Software, wanted Trello to be a free product from the start.

There is a business plan that allows organisations to use Google Apps for authentication and to get all their users across without any pain. There is also paid plan called Trello Gold that adds a number of nice touches like changeable board backgrounds and bigger file uploads. The free version of Trello is ideal for most people.

A great visual tool

I've enjoyed using Trello over the last few weeks and I've decided to stick with it for managing projects and my writing. Whether I'll use it for other things like sales leads, invoicing or anything else I can think of will be decided as and when I think I need something beyond a basic list to manage them.

I love the visual side of using a board. You get a clearer picture of where everything is and it means that you instantly know what you should be picking up next. Coming from a background of using mind mapping for a few years, I love systems that use visualisation to convey a message or intent. The nice thing about this tool is that it's visual, portable and adaptable to just about any process that you can think of. It isn't the silver bullet to everything, but if you're having problems getting projects organized and trying to determine where the bottlenecks are then Trello just might be worth checking out.

This post contains a referral link for Trello for which I receive a free month of their paid plan, Trello Gold, for each sign up. If you don't want to use the referral code, you can use this link to checkout Trello for yourself.