Getting started with Trello: A Comprehensive Guide

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Trello Guide

In this blogpost you’ll find the comprehensive Trello guide for new users, as well as powerful tips and tricks for advanced users.

Overview of the Trello Guide:

  1. Getting started with Trello
  2. User guide for Trello Cards
  3. List functionality in Trello
  4. The Trello Board user manual
  5. An introduction to Trello Power-ups
  6. Advanced Tips & Tricks for Trello

Starting at the beginning, Trello is a project management tool owned by Atlassian. It is generally considered to be easy to use, especially compared to other project management tools. There’s little argument that you’ll find it provides a fluid, visual toolset for managing tasks and projects.

If you need more complex functionality then you might consider Jira (also owned by Atlassian). We’ve made a separate Jira guide for that. However, if you’re working on a project that doesn’t require complex rules and regulations, then Trello may be the thing for you. What’s more, it’s easy to learn and highly intuitive – as this guide will illustrate. And Trello doesn’t just make task management simple but it is often actually cited as making it fun!

Let’s get started with “the Easy Trello Guide for all user-levels.”

Getting started with Trello

What is Trello?

At its most fundamental level, Trello allows you to create Cards to track tasks. These are placed on Lists, which organize Cards and can be used to mark stages of progress. Multiple Lists then fit together to form a Board, representing a single project.

Trell Guide to boards

Trello can be used to track almost anything, whether planning your family Christmas, managing a development team or running a business or even just for keeping track of notes or CVs.

Example: You’re using Trello to track you to-do’s for the a Christmas party.  Then you might create a board called “Christmas Party”. You create cards for things like “buy a turkey” or “decorate the house,” and you move the separate tasks from a column “to do” to “doing” to “done”.

Creating a Trello Board

The first thing that you’ll want to do is go to Trello.com and sign up for an account. And don’t worry: standard/basic accounts are free. What’s more Trello is highly localized and will detect your language, making it that little bit easier to get started, whatever language you speak.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll want to create a Board. You can have as many Boards as you like on your account. For example, design-businesses often have a separate Board for each client, in order to keep everything clear and defined.

Other teams only use one board to set up team-sprints on product development.

Creating a Trello Board

To create a Board, go to the “+” symbol in the top right of the screen and click “Create Board”.

You then just need to name your Board and choose the background that will appear behind your Cards.

You can also set your Board to be public, private or Team Visible and, unless it’s useful for the Board to be accessible to the general public, it’s best to make it private or Team Visible.

We’ll get to how to invite people to your board later, but it’s also worth noting that only people you invite to private boards can see them. That means that it’s perfectly possible to use Trello for work and to also have a private Board for things you need to do at home.

Trello Board Button

To find all the Boards associated with your Trello account, go to the  Boards button in the top left of the screen.

Using Lists

 

List Guide Trello

Next, to populate your Board, you’ll want to create Lists. Note that you can create as many Lists as you like.

The universal basic board would consist of the 3 columns “To Do,” “Doing” and “Done,”. But they could be anything you like – for example,“marketing-related tasks” or “food-related items.”

Tip: Trello also provides good examples of boards for marketing brainstorms, hiring, Scrum, Lifestyle,… . check out their example template for more inspiration on board-types.

To change the title of a List, simply click on the title field. If you want to move your Lists into a different order, just click on the title field and drag it to where you want it. Lastly, if you want to add more Lists, click the “Add a list” button on the right of the screen.

Simple right? That’s why people love Trello.

Adding Trello Cards

 

Adding Trello Cards

With your Lists in place you can now begin adding Cards. You can do this by clicking the “Add a card” button on your list or clicking the “…” next to the List’s title and clicking “Add Card.”

Pro tip: For even faster Card creation, write the titles as cells in a spreadsheet and then paste them into a Card title. Voila! Each line-separated item will be turned into a new Card.

How to add Trello Cards

Next you need to give your card a title, and then press “Add.”

Finding Cards in Trello

You’ll be able to assign cards to certain members in your team. We’ll get to more detail on assigning roles later in this guide.

For now it’s useful to know you can find all the individual Cards assigned to you across all your Lists and Boards. To create a list of all your cards, click on your avatar in the top right of the screen and then click “Cards” on the dropdown.

User guide for Trello Cards

Trello Card Back with rich data

 

The Guide to Trello Cards

Trello cards are known as “super boosted post-it notes”. That’s because of the incredible amount of rich information you can add to the Card Back. To do this, just click on your Card.

In the box marked “Add a more detailed description” you can do just that.

And with the buttons on the right you can give the card a due date and add attachments.

Attachments can be anything from images, to video-files, to links.

Pro tip: If you attach a .jpeg, .gif, or .png then this will appear on the front of the Card when viewed on the Board.

Membership & Subscriptions

You’ll note that you can add Members on your team to your Card as well as “Subscribe” to Cards.

What’s the difference between a membership and a subscription?

In the first case, members will be linked to the Card most likely because it’s a job that they have to do.

Subscribing to a Card simply means that you will be kept updated about changes to the Card. This comes in very useful when filtering cards by who is added on them.

Pro Tip: To add yourself to a Card from the Board view, just hover over it and press space.

Checklists for your Trello Card

You can also add a checklist of sub-tasks to the Card, that can then be ticked off as they are completed. If you later find that you don’t want the checklist, it’s easy to delete as well.

Checklists in Trello

Card Labels

Using the “Labels” button, you can also color code and tag your Cards.

This can be extremely useful for example, for labeling Cards as belonging to marketing, describing a software issue or perhaps relating to a specific client.

Adding Labels in Trello

Commenting on Cards

You can also add feedback and comments under “Add Comment.”

How to comment on Trello cards

Within individual Comments, you can add attachments and emojis, point Comments at specific Members and add links to other Cards.

Activity History

Below Comments is the Card’s “Activity” section. Which helpfully lists all the changes that have been made to the Card.

That way you’ll be able to establish what happened when, and who did it.

How to move cards in Trello

How to move or copy a Trello Card

With the Move button, under “Actions” you can send the Card to another Board or List.

“Copy” allows you to replicate a Card elsewhere.

How to copy a Trello Card

How to delete or Archive a Trello Card

There is no direct Delete button to remove your Trello Cards.

However, you can “Archive” the card, which will remove the Card from the Board. If you go to the “More” button on the Menu, then “Archived Items”, you can then delete the card.

If you have realized that you need to keep the Card on the Board, go to the same location and click “Send to Board” to restore it.

Additional options for your Trello Card

If you click “Share and more,” in the bottom right of the Card back, there are several additional options available.

Which include: allowing you to print the Card; to grab a link for the Card; and to add Comments to the Card by email via a designated address (which is unique for every user).

Pro tip: You can also export changes to the card to JSON and embed the card as a widget to appear on a webpage.

List Functionality in Trello

Looking at a List from the Board view, click the “…” button in the top right.

This has a few options that are worth looking at, including “Archive All Cards in This List” and “Archive This List,” which remove the lists from showing up in the Trello Board.

Trello list options

You can also subscribe to all updates to all Cards on a specific List from this menu.

Now that we have Cards on a List you can also experiment with them, to drag and drop them wherever you want from the Board view.

The Trello Board User-Manual

Every Trello board has a menu, which gives you top level tools on what’s going on.

You’ll find the menu at the top right of your Trello Board.

Trello Menu

Adding users to your Trello Board

If you’re using Trello to track a workflow, you may well want to add other individuals. Which you can do with the Invite button, either inviting an existing Trello user by email or by account name, or emailing someone with an invite to use Trello.

If you want to add a group of people, click “Invite people by giving them a special link” and you can then just share the link with them rather than adding them individually to the Board.

How to remove users in Trello

Removing users from your Trello Board

To remove Members from a Board, click their avatar in the top of the Menu, and select “Remove from Board.”

By default all Members can add and remove other Members from Boards.

You can also remove yourself from a Board if you want to leave it.

Menu More button in Trello

Manage User Permissions

To change the ability of other Members to add and remove other users, click “More,” then “Settings,” then “Add/Remove Permissions,”.

Switching this to be Admin only. From the “More” page you can also edit how Labels appear and find your Archived items (if you’ve dismissed them from the Board prematurely).

Trello Background and stickers

“Change Background” allows you to.. well, change your background.

While “Stickers” allows you to drag and drop images onto your cards.

Trello background and stickers

If you decide that you want to remove stickers, just hover over the Card and click the pencil icon in the top right; then click on your sticker and click “Remove.”

How to remove Trello stickers

With Trello Gold, you can even add animated GIFs to Card covers.

How to filter cards in Trello

Filtering a Trello Board

The next Menu option is “Filter Cards” which allows you to view the Board only for Cards with specific Labels or that have specific Members.

This is especially useful if you’re working on a scrum-board with different team members and you’d like to filter your own tasks.

Pro Tip: Hitting “Q” on the keyboard allows you to only display Cards that are assigned to you.

You can also filter by due date if you’d want to identify tasks that have a major urgency status.

To dig even deeper, you can use multiple Filters at once.

Searching a Trello Board

 

Trello search

The Search bar offers an easy way to find whatever you need across your Boards.

This also comes with several operator functions.

For example:

  • Searching @me will return Cards assigned to you;
  • searching for due:week will give you all the Cards with due dates in the next week;
  • and label:green will give you all Cards with the green label attached to them.

You can also use more than one operator at a time for example, searching for green labeled cards assigned to you and due in the next seven days.

Change History

At the bottom of the Menu is the Activity section, listing all changes made to all Cards on the Board.

Closing a Trello Board

You can also close your Board entirely though do note that closes it for everyone else as well.

If you have accidentally closed your Board, fear not, as it can be retrieved from your Boards page by clicking “See closed boards” and then clicking “Re-open” and not “Delete!”

An introduction to Trello Power-ups

Power-ups allow Trello to integrate with other apps to add new features and functionality.

You can use a single Power-up with a free account. If you want to use more, you will need to upgrade to Business Class.

I’ll quickly run you through a couple of notably useful power-ups in this intro. However, I will not be able to discuss all of them in this guide, since there’s too many to mention. You can find the complete list of power-ups on the Trello Blog.

You can select the power-ups listed in the power-ups tab in the menu at the top-right of the board.

Trello Calendar

This is one of the most useful Power-ups out there. As it allows you to access Cards from a calendar view, organized by their due date.

This makes it easy to schedule tasks in a visual way as well as get a visual representation of what tasks lay ahead.

 

Trello Calendar Power-up

The custom fields power-up

This Power-up gives you the ability to add new, customizable fields to Card front and backs.

While this might not sound exciting, it allows you to:

  • mark Cards as being completed;
  • add start and end dates to Cards;
  • add drop down lists;
  • or add contact information fields to Cards.

Custum Fields Trello power-up

If you have a Business Class or Enterprise account, you can also include information from Custom Fields when exporting CSVs of Boards providing complete visibility on everything that is happening.

Jira Integration

 

Jira power-up for Trello

Across different departments, many companies use both Trello and Jira. So this Power-up, which connects the two, can be extremely powerful.

It allows you to create Issues in Jira from Trello; and to attach Jira Issues to Cards.

If you need to send tasks and queries to your engineering team via Jira, this Power-up will make it easy.

Note: if you’re wondering by now if Jira or Trello would be a good fit to you. Have a look at our blogpost on “Why Jira is Better Than Trello (even for non-developers)”.

Other notable power-ups in Trello

– Integrations with Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive to attach files to Cards

– The Card Aging Power-up, which causes Cards to fade if they are not updated

– Plus there are integrations with Slack, Salesforce, Evernote and GitHub, among others

Advanced Tip & Tricks for Trello

Advanced tips and tricks

– For bulk Card creation, write the titles as cells in a spreadsheet and then paste them into a Card title. Each line-separated item will be turned into a new Card.

– A useful trick to know is that you can create Cards by email. To do this, go to the Menu in the right, click “More” and then “Email-to-board Settings.” You can now create Cards by sending messages to this address.

– Want to create a List between two existing Lists? Just double click there.

– For rapid checklisting, you can create multiple checklist items simultaneously on a Card by simply copying a line-separated list into the field.

– To attach a web link to a Card, simply paste the link into the attachment field; or drag and drop the link onto a Card from the Board view.

– YouTube videos can also be embedded into cards by pasting a video link into a comment.

Keyboard shortcuts

– Hitting “Q” on the keyboard allows you to only display Cards that are assigned to you.

– We’ve already mentioned that you can add yourself to a Card from the Board view, by just pressing space while hovering over it. If you’d like to add other Members, though, click “M.”

– While hovering over a Card, hitting “L,” meanwhile, will bring up the Label menu, so you can label Cards from the Board level.

– Hovering over a Card and pressing “E” will take you to the quick edits view;

– Hovering over a Card and pressing “D” takes you to the due date.

– You can also use the arrow keys to navigate around the Board; “<” and “>” to move Cards between different Lists; “Enter” to open a Card and “/” to start searching.

– And you can even copy, cut and paste cards by hovering over them and pressing Ctrl/⌘+C or Ctrl/⌘+X and then Ctrl/⌘+V to paste.

Conclusion

The founder of Trello , Michael Pryor, called its product “project boards with superpowered post-it notes”. And I understand completely why he used that phrase.

Trello is extremely intuitive and easy to use and yet still offers powerful functionality. This makes Trello a great fit for both individuals as well as teams using straight-forward workflows.

Whether you want to use it for setting up business task-tracking or for comparing notes on an archive of material, Trello will make it fast and simple.

It’s not quite as flexible as Jira (other Atlassian tool), but way more user-friendly and straight-forward when just starting out.

Using the tips and tricks above, meanwhile, should make your journey that bit easier, and accelerate your progress. What’s more, the basic version of Trello is free to use so you have nothing to lose by trying it out.

Now back to you. Is there anything else you’d like us to cover in this guide? Have you tried out Trello before? What did you think if its usability? What features did you like most? Or haven’t you tried it? Why not? Let us know in the comments below!

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