Befriend Trello’s search box and chances are that you’ll be able to find the cards you’re looking for within seconds.
With its extensive feature set, Trello would be a complex tool to use, you’d think, but it’s not. That’s because Trello has an intuitive visual approach to project management and is insanely customizable. It also has some well-planned workflows, such as its powerful search mechanism.
Today, let’s see how you can learn to use Trello’s search features to retrieve the right data from your Trello boards every single time.
Master the Use of Search Operators
Search operators are the backbone of Trello searches. Wondering what they are? Well, they are special labels that give you finer control over your searches. For example, by using the right search operator, you can find cards in which you are tagged or only the ones that have attachments.
You have already come across operators before. It’s those modifiers that pop up in the search dropdown under Did you mean… when you type in a query.
To add operators to your search workflow, memorize a few of them to begin with. Trello is there to help you with inline autocomplete suggestions. When you get the hang of using operators, add more to your workflow with this operator cheatsheet.
Important Operators to Know
Here are a few useful operators to get you started:
- @ – Throws back cards assigned to the username you appended to @. Want to view just the cards assigned to you? Type @me.
- # or label: – Brings up cards with the label color you type after # or label:, so to see cards with a green label, type #green or label:green.
- board:”name” – Shows cards from the board whose name you type after board:
- has:attachments – Returns only the cards that have attachments
- is:starred – Returns only starred cards.
- is:open – Returns only open cards. By default, Trello returns both open and archived cards matching your query.
- due:day – Shows cards that are due within the next 24 hours. Extend the search range by replacing day with a digit. For example, if you want a list of cards that are due in the next seven days, you’ll need to type due:7.
@trello Awesome! I have experimented and found many secret modifier/operators in Trello. You should document them all!
— Adam Winget (@Starf1337) September 10, 2014
Need to zoom in on a search result? Just hover the mouse over it and Trello magnifies that result and fades out the rest temporarily.
Note: If the board name has more than one word, you’ll need to enclose the name in double quotes for the search operators to work.
Dig Deeper Using Keywords
The great thing about Trello searches is that you can narrow down your search using a wide variety of criteria. Now you can even search for keywords within card names, descriptions, checklists, and comments. Here are the (self-explanatory) operators you’ll need: name:, description:, checklist:, comment:.
Take a look at this sample query: comment:halloween pitches. This looks for the term “halloween pitches” within the comments of cards across all boards.
Search Within Specific Boards (aka Filter)
If you’d like to find something within a specific board, try filtering instead of searching. Filtering returns cards that match keywords, members, labels, and due dates on a specific board. The cards will appear in their original location on the board.
To bring up the filter option for any board, first navigate to that board. Look for your username at the top right. Click on the Show Menu link below it and then click on Filter Cards. Or you can bypass all that and just hit the F key to try filtering on the current board.
Here’s a key difference between filtering and searching. Filtering shows results that even partially match the keywords you have entered. Searching returns exact matches only.
To put it another way, searching across boards via the search box is like a Boolean AND search. Depending on the keywords used, filtered searches would either be:
- Boolean OR searches, or
- a mix of OR and AND searches.
Let’s see how that works out with an example:
- Search query – breakfast recipe idea is:archivedResult – Archived cards that contain the term breakfast recipe idea from all boards.
- Filter query: breakfast recipe ideaResult – Cards that contain any of these keywords: breakfast, recipe, and idea
- Filter query with multiple option types: breakfast recipe idea red orangeResult – Cards that contain any of these keywords: breakfast, recipe, and idea and cards that have either a red or an orange label.
Save Searches that You Use Often
If you find yourself typing the same search queries every now and then, you need to try Trello’s saved searches feature. To save a search with a specific criteria, type it in the search box and click on Save this Search, which you’ll find at the top right within the search dropdown.
Do you dream of a Trello world where you can save searches and save time too? That world is here. Champagne anyone? http://t.co/vMVCo0SaLc
— Trello (@trello) August 12, 2014
Saved searches are great for keeping tabs on cards that see activity at regular intervals. For example, to follow up on high priority tasks from a specific board daily, you can save a search like board:”Mission Possible” label:red due:day. To get a weekly bird’s eye view of a project, you could keep this search handy: label:done board:”Where We Are”.
You can see your saved searches within the search box itself. Drag them around to reorganize them for convenience. To execute a saved search, just click on its name in the list.
If you use the free version of Trello, you only have access to the default saved search, which lists cards assigned to you. If you want to create saved searches of your own, you’ll need a Trello Gold account, which is easy to get.
— Rakel Ósk (@rakel_osk) October 19, 2015
Bookmark this link for quick access to your saved searches on a separate Web page!
Search Archived Cards
As you take stock of your projects from time to time, you might need to look at cards you have archived. You can do this in a couple of different ways:
- To search for archived cards across all boards, type is:archived into the search box. This returns only archived cards.
- To get all archived cards within a particular board, go to Show Menu > More… > Archived Items. You’ll find a search box there to help you find specific ones.
Templates are amazing time savers and you can use them within Trello to duplicate boards, cards, lists, and checklists. Here’s how to do that:
For boards: Navigate to the board you want to use as a template. Under Show Menu > More…, click on Copy Board. You could even find interesting public boards with a Web search and use them as templates.
For lists: Click on the tiny arrow to the right of a list and then click on Copy List… to duplicate it.
For cards: Hover over a card till you see a pencil icon within it. Click on the icon, and in the list that appears, click on Copy. Choose the board and list to which you want to copy the current card. Done? Now click Create Card.
For checklists: Open the card where you want to copy a particular checklist. Click on Checklist in the sidebar on the right. You should now get an Add Checklist dialog. Use the Copy Items From… dropdown to select the checklist you want to use as a template to create a new one.
Search with Color
On a particular Trello board I’m part of at MakeUseOf, we have assigned labels based on usernames. The orange label now has my name on it, so anyone looking at the board knows that I’m working on the ideas with orange labels. That simple trick of associating labels with specific keywords or names is a kind of effortless visual search in itself.
If you want to rename the labels on specific boards, you can do so from Show Menu > More… > Labels. Once you have navigated to that location, click on the pencil icon next to any label to assign it a suitable keyword.
Use the Keyboard More Often
Keyboard shortcuts are the fastest way to navigate within any application. Once you add them to your Trello workflow, we bet you’ll hate to switch back to mouse clicks. Try these shortcuts to get started:
- / – Places the cursor in the search box
- B – Opens the Boards dropdown list
- Enter – Opens selected card
- Esc – Closes card
- T – Opens the card you’re hovering over and highlights its name field for editing (type “E” if you want to edit the name without opening the card)
It’s Time to Trello!
Still sifting through your Trello boards manually? Switch to the tricks listed above to search them all at once and speed up your Trello workflow. Of course, smart organization of your Trello boards is as useful as learning search tricks. Pay equal attention to both!
Do you find Trello tricks handy or a pain to remember? Share your best Trello search tips with us in the comments!