Trello is a to-do list manager and project management webapp that’s based on the metaphor of index cards pinned to a board. The cards each flip over, giving you a workspace where you can discuss the task, create smaller checklists, assign responsibility, or add other notes. To change the status of a task, move it to a different list on your board!
I’ve been living with Trello as my main to-do list for the last three weeks, and its strength is definitely how easy and enjoyable it is to work with your tasks. Picking up a task and moving it to the “Done” list is very satisfying and sensible. I also love the many tools you get on the back of each card– I’ve been using the checklists to break my tasks into manageable, single-sitting objectives that I can easily knock out. I also love being able to put status updates on the back of each task so I can associate URLs, conversation notes, and memos to myself to help me get things done.
It’s refreshing that Trello doesn’t tell you how to work– you can come up with whatever system makes sense with your brain and the project you’re trying to manage. My understanding is that the tool was developed to help Fog Creek Software manage bug tracking, product updates, and feature requests in a transparent, public way. They even have their own software development board publicly available so you can see it in action!
Each Trello board generates an activity stream (Facebook style) that tells you each time one of your collaborators interacts with a card. As a project manger, I would find this feature incredibly useful so I could see the project getting done, piece by piece. I may be a micro-manager type, but I find it comforting to see a lot of little activities getting done and leading to the overall project’s completion.
Trello as a Classroom Management Tool?
The intuitive nature of Trello’s interface might also make it an excellent tool to introduce students to project management in project-based learning activities. As PBL grows more influential, I am often surprised that we aren’t teaching students about software tools that can assist in managing projects. Trello would be a great entry into that field that is even manageable for school-age students.
You might assign each group their own board to manage, or you might prefer to have the whole class’ progress visible on one big board so you can see at a glance how the project is coming together. For teachers doing the same project in multiple sections, this might be the best way to work.
Gripes and Quibbles
Trello’s flexibility might also be a liability– at least in my workflow. One thing I demand from a to-do list manager is that it obnoxiously get my attention when something is close to due. While Trello has due dates, it doesn’t have a way of knowing whether the task is done or not. Since you just move completed tasks to a different list, Trello doesn’t know that your “Done” list actually means ”done”.I think it would be much better in an organization where everyone is checking Trello constantly to make sure everything is on track.
I would love it if it would somehow integrate with my Google Calendar so I get a big noisy update when I’m about to have something due! The other thing that’s keeping Trello from overthrowing my current to-do list manager DoIt.Im is its lack of an Android app (which I understand is coming!) However, I think once that Android app is in place, the sheer joy of using Trello to knock my tasks off will make it my #1 choice. It would definitely be my first choice if I wanted to get several people working on a detailed project together!
Update: Nine Months Later
There is now a very nice Android app for Trello and a great 3rd party integration that puts your Trello due dates on your Google Calendar. It has indeed become my number one beloved to do list manager & project management tool. I’ve since started using it with my wife and friends to plan for parties, trips and around-the-house tasks in addition to my main work to-do board. It’s still the only to-do list I’ve ever used that doesn’t fill me with dread every time I try to open it. If you haven’t checked it out, see if it works for you. You might be as surprised as I was.