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There is something to be said about the simplicity of a pack of Post-it notes and a large whiteboard. You can jot down ideas during a brainstorm and stick them on the board. You can capture tasks for a project and organize them in the order they need to be completed.
Trello is essentially an online version of that same productivity system. The app allows you to capture different “cards” and organize them into lists and boards. Use it to plan complex projects or to plan what you’re eating for dinner—its beauty is in the flexibility. Trello can be adapted to fit your workflow or your team, so you can use anyway you need to. It's the app that popularized kanban boards, and continues to be one of the best ways to use that productivity system.
You’ll start out by creating a “board,” which represents a project or a topic. Within a board, you’ll create lists which break your project or topic into different categories. Then you’ll add cards to each list. Cards are your Post-it notes—they contain the specific task or idea that you want to act on.
Let’s say for example that you’re writing a blog post and want to use Trello to manage your workflow. You’d create a single board with the name of your blog, then add lists to represent the different statuses a post might have, like “brainstorming,” “draft,” “editing,” “scheduled,” or “published.” Next, you’d add cards for individual blog posts to the appropriate list.
Cards can have just a title, or they can be filled with details. You can add a description, a due date, and attach a file from your computer, Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, or OneDrive. You can also create a checklist which contains specific steps that need to be taken. For example, for each blog post, you’ll need the content, a header image, and social media posts. You can use a checklist to make sure you never miss a step.
For an an additional layer of organization, you can use labels to group like cards together. For example, blog posts about technology may get a green label while posts about small business are red. This gives you a quick, visual way to see where similar cards are.
As your task progresses from one status to another, you can drag and drop the card to the correct list, so you always know where things stand. If you’re looking for a specific card but can’t see it immediately, use search feature to find it. You can search on keywords or refine your search with special operators that can drill down into labels, lists, and more.
The base features of Trello are both flexible and powerful, but if you need some additional functions, you can enable the power-ups. Power-ups add features to your boards, from a calendar view and options to vote on tasks to integrations with 3rd party apps and automations. You can use them to add custom fields and buttons to cards, link cards to related issues in GitHub or Bitbucket, import files from Google Drive and videos from Wistia into cards, and much more. The core Trello features are enough to get you started with kanban—and then power-ups let you take it to the next level, building a customized productivity system to fit your needs inside Trello.
Not only is Trello a great tool for managing your own projects, but it also works well for collaboration. You can share entire boards with your team and assign specific cards to teammates. Instead of sending out emails to give updates, everyone can add comments directly to a card, meaning that communication stays tied to a task. You can even tag people using the @ symbol to make sure they get a notification, which they can receive within the app, in a desktop browser, on their phone, or via email.
Larger organizations may want to upgrade to the Business Class or Enterprise plan, which allows you to organize multiple teams. Each team has their own workspace that houses all their boards, members, and settings, allowing each group to have greater control of how they use Trello. They also let you enable as many power-ups as you need for the most customized workflows and boards.
Trello includes apps for most popular devices, so you can get your work done anywhere. If you’re looking for a flexible app that will help you organize your projects, ideas, and more, Trello is the app for you.
To get the most out of Trello, be sure to check out our guide to 28 Ways to Maximize Your Work with Trello.
Originally published October 30, 2015; updated April 20, 2018 with new pricing, features, and screenshots.