January 29, 2013

COLLECT, PLAN AND DO WITH TRELLO

TrelloWe have many different ways to organize our lives. The challenge is finding apps we like enough to re-use.

I’ve been looking for a tool that’s
  1. appealing to use
  2. powerful and flexible
  3. cloud-based: nothing to install, sync or backup
  4. accessible anywhere: desktop/Android/iPhone, offline
  5. free for reasonable features
Trello is an ideal solution, except you can only use it when you have an Internet connection.

Wary

Paying for Trello? (click to enlarge)I got Trello (trello.com) months ago but couldn’t figure out how to use it. Rather, I didn’t bother learning how. Maybe it didn’t suit what I wanted to do at the time.

Now I see how simple and intuitive Trello is. You’re productive within minutes if you start with your desktop browser. There are many powerful features but they’re not intrusive. You see them when you look for them. That’s ideal.

Trello is currently free and I was wary about the future pricing even though the website says:
Yup, Trello is free, now and forever. That means we’ll never take away everything you love and put it behind a pay wall. So feel free to fall in love—it’s here to stay. If only more of life were like that!
How can a company stay in business? There aren’t even any annoying ads anywhere. I was convinced that free means free after reading let me pay you for Trello. They answered questions I didn’t realize I had.

The Magic

The magic of Trello is the structure. Deceptively simple. Extremely powerful.

You put information on cards in column lists. You move a card from list to list as you progress. For instance from To Do to Doing to Done. I like this approach much better than a conventional single column To Do list with the completed items crossed out. You keep seeing what you haven’t done instead of what you’ve accomplished.

Actual Uses

planning a workshop (click to enlarge)For an upcoming workshop, I’ve got lists with advance questions from registrants and examples I want to show. I might even use Trello live.
Brainstorming
In the past, I brainstormed in mindmaps using iThoughtsHD but I don’t always have my iPad with me. What’s worse, I can’t see or make changes on my desktop or Android phone. Now I’m using Trello because I always have it at hand via my smartphone.
Curating
Sometimes I read articles on a mobile device and decide to share or save them. I’d email a link to myself which adds clutter to my inbox. Now I use a board called To Tweet with four lists: @mActuary, @riscario, @trustandyou and sent. I’ll finally be able to find my updates because Trello has a search feature.
Writing
For this blog, I created a board with these lists: Ideas, Drafting, Editing, Posted.

I’ve started drafting blog posts by voice on my Galaxy Note. Previously, I would jot by hand (which requires retyping) or create a text file with iA Writer on my iPad (which syncs to my desktop via DropBox).

Since this blog post was getting long, I moved a 122 word tangent to Trello for later use. In the past, I would have deleted them because there was no convenient place to put them.

Scope

mascot TacoWhat’s possible with Trello depends on your imagination. If a feature doesn’t exist, ask. The team at Fog Creek Software are friendly and open. They are also transparent. They must have had requests for a downloadable version (not sure why). Here’s the honest response that prevents false expectations:
“We will not be offering Trello as an installable product. It will only be offered as a cloud-based service. Sorry if this means you can't use Trello for your organization.”
You can collaborate with others. The capabilities look promising but I haven’t tried. The features would even work for family projects and ad hoc virtual teams.

You can do the usual things like assign due dates to tasks and add notes (including links, images and files). What about the ever-important subtasks — cards within cards? There is a reasonable substitute: add a checklist to a card.

Premature?

I normally wouldn’t write about a tool until l became more proficient. Trello is too good to wait. Do give it a try and share your thoughts.

Links

PS For a simple personal To Do list, I’ve been trying the free version of Astrid.

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