Tech Savvy: Trello provides simplicity, visual appeal

With the complexity of tasks facing everyone both at home and at work, a clean and simple organizational and creative app can be a lifesaver. There are many on the market. Several have more intense business management tools and keep track of time...

Renee Richardson
Renee Richardson

With the complexity of tasks facing everyone both at home and at work, a clean and simple organizational and creative app can be a lifesaver.

There are many on the market. Several have more intense business management tools and keep track of time spent on projects, but they also come with a cost. I wanted something simple to keep track of items in one spot and give me the ability to share the data with co-workers. With so many spinning plates in everyone's life these days, it's nice to have a simple setting to keep all those scattered fragments together.

With Trello each board represents a project. Cards serve as tasks, ideas, memories. And lists can create a to-do reminder or workflow. Boards may be marked private or public or team visible.

"Picture a project outlined with sticky notes on a whiteboard, being moved from column to column," as Trello describes itself in its getting started section. "Trello is the digital way to achieve the same workflow, minus the sticky stuff wearing off."

I know a lot of people love Evernote to keep track of life's complexities, but that never quite clicked as a work companion for me. What I like about Trello is its simplicity of a bulletin board to keep track of everything but with the flexibility of the digital world. So it's simple to add photos, images, graphics and links to websites and keep it all in one clean document. It's all about drag and drop, so it's easy to move items and add information. It's easy to create labels, color code lists and do it differently with each project whether it's wedding or party planning, recipes, vacations, family reunions or work projects at home with a remodel or tasks at the office.


Trello is visually appealing. I even like the stickers that can be added. The green check mark for a completed task. As a cursor travels over the sticker, it gives the impression of peeling off the master list and then firmly attaches to the board. I don't know why that's fun, but it is. Maybe it's the inner child who still remembers how stickers worked as motivators. But anything that can add a light moment to a work task is a welcome addition.

I looked at a number of apps to see what may function best as an organizer for work. I was all set to pay for an app with the features I wanted. When Trello was recommended, I was skeptical. But after trying it, I was convinced it would work well for what I needed. And one of the best points is the app is free. There are additional options on a pay scale depending on how much more is wanted from the app, but for organization the free app works fine.

It works to organize a single home-improvement project or a family reunion or for work tasks.

A benefit comes in being able to share the boards with multiple people so teams can tackle tasks at work. So it's easy to include assignments and then have a board where everyone involved in the project can see both the big picture, as well as assignments and deadlines. They can also keep track of what's already been done and what is left to accomplish.

"A Trello board is a list of lists, filled with cards, used by you and your team," as Trello describes its own uses. "It's a lot more than that, though. Trello has everything you need to organize projects of any size. You can invite as many people to your board as you need, all for free. Drag and drop people to cards to divvy up tasks. Everyone sees the same board and the whole picture all at once."

Each card on the project boards comes with the ability to create a checklist, color coordinate with a label (and, more remarkably, there is even a way to enable a color blind friendly mode), add attachments and share with others. It also provides an activity note so you can be reminded of changes made along the way.

I like the ability to put in photos, attach digital news clippings and graphics. Say I'm focusing on a work task and want to include a list of sources. Trello gives me the opportunity to drop in a photo of the contact, incorporate an email or include a web link. The drag and drop aspect of organizing makes it simple to cut and paste to build the boards so it's not another thing to retype and recreate. It also works as a mobile app.

One click on the due date tab opens a calendar making it simple to set dates or change them.


It's also simple to add attachments from your computer or Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, OneDrive or a URL.

Trello can be displayed in a calendar view. Due dates may be organized by week or month and include complexities that come with projects that have multiple due dates.

As with any free app, there are even more options with a pay version. In this case, Trello Business Class promises to offer a "shared space for teams to collaborate, communicate and share information securely" for $8.33 per user/per month with a year's subscription. A Trello Gold option is an upgrade of $5 per month or $45 per year or can be free by inviting new members to try Trello. The Trello Gold allows uploading of larger files and access to premium or custom backgrounds, which may really not be necessary. One review saw a drawback in not being able to track time spent on projects, but if billable hours aren't a concern, that may not come into play as a requirement.

"Trello is an interesting and flexible solution for supporting collaboration and managing projects, as long as you're willing to experiment with how it might work best for you," Jill Duffy, a contributing editor at PCMag, wrote in an review. "If you have been considering more-traditional project management software, you might find Trello a bit too light on features, with no reporting tools, time-tracking features, or even traditional tasks as you might know them."

PCMag recommended Zoho Projects and Teamwork Projects but noted if people are looking for "something non-traditional, visually oriented, and flexible, Trello may be worth exploring."

RENEE RICHARDSON, associate editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or . Follow on Twitter at .

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