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Does the name Joel Spolsky mean anything to you? If so, you’re going to want to read this post, because it showcases Spolsky’s latest and greatest project. And if not, you should know this is the man behind Stack Overflow, WebPutty, Joel on Software and several other notable projects.
His latest project is called Trello, and it’s a project management system that can be used by a single person or a team. It is original and very simple to use. Oh, and it’s free.
Product Introduction Video
Before embarking on our own tour, I wanted to share Spolsky’s view of the system, in an amusing demonstration video he created to show what it can do. Check it out below:
Trello In Reality
Once you create your free Trello account (or log in with your Google account), you will be greeted with a very gray-looking startup screen:
Trello works using “boards”, where each board is similar to a single project you’re working on, either on your own or with others. It starts you off with a Welcome Board that looks like this:
As you can see, the board is divided into three stacks of “cards”. Let’s take a closer look:
Each card can have a lot of metadata linked to it, or on its “back”, as the Trello metaphor goes. You can see that metadata peeking out, in the form of the little icons under the name of each card. People can vote for cards (say, for implementing features), a card can have a description (shown with the pen icon), comments, attachments, and more.
Let’s look at the back of one such card:
While the card management interface is kept simple, when you look at a single card, Trello’s power really comes to light. Above we can see an image attachment, as well as a description. Note that the attachment is timestamped. You can add labels to a card; these are not text tags, but simply swatches of color that may help you quickly find the cards in the board and filter them:
Another interesting card feature is the checklist:
The checklist is as AJAXy as they come. To add an item, just type it and hit Enter. You will see it on the card instantly. When marking an item as done, it is not removed, but crossed over. You can see the progress of the checklist at a glance, using the progress bar.
The Right Sidebar
The right sidebar shows who can view the board (i.e, who the members are in your project), and hosts several board-related commands. The “Board Profile” is an options dialog for the whole board:
It lets you toggle options on or off. You can open up access to the broad public for voting and comments, or close the board down so that only some people can see it and interact with it.
Searching & Filtering
The sidebar lets you live-search cards, but only by card name (not by comment, checklist item, etc.). You can also filter by label.
One feature that I love is the activity log, shown at the bottom of the sidebar (with a “View all” link for an extended version). The log makes it easy to see who did what, and what cards are new or have been changed. This is important when you have a large system with several participants working on different cards.
I really like Trello because I feel it manages to strike a fine balance between visual simplicity (the card metaphor, dragging and dropping) and features (every card has a lot of power). I think the system really comes into its own when used in a team setting, more so than for an individual person trying to manage their own projects. If they ever add Github integration, I could really see a team using it to manage an open-source project.
As it stands, it is fantastic for staying focused and understanding what everyone is working on and what the team as a whole is doing. It’s good enough to make me wish I was part of a team using it, which is a strong testament as any to its power. Give it a whirl yourself and let us know in the comments what you think of it. What new features would you like to see added that would make it even more ideal for you?