But, Trello is a project management application? True, while it’s mostly used for that, I have found that its flexibility really starts to make sense [for me] as a note repository. I will try to make a very long back story as short as possible, but I have long struggled with this topic.
I have tried all the major (and minor) players in this game. For the majority of my career I have been using OneNote. While this is probably the only other application for notes I used on a consistent basis it fell short in places.
I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but something about using OneNote just wasn’t satisfying. It felt clunky. A co-worker of mine hit the nail on the head the other day and described it like this:
“I feel like when Microsoft makes a product like this, it resembles a school final project. It gets the job done, but just not quite all there.”
Another trip up was the lack of integration into other third parties. And I’m just not smart enough to use their API. I have tried and failed numerous times to do so.
I used Google Keep for quite a while as well (in tandem w/ OneNote) and I really enjoyed the experience. It had a lot of the features I was looking for: it was fun to use, it was available on the phone, PC (chrome app), and browser. It had the ability to have checklists, formatted my links really cool, I could share/collaborate notes, but it lacked an API for integration. My notes were stuck in there and only in there. Offline wasn’t as big of a deal for me, but the deciding factor was the lack of text formatting within the note itself.
I tried Evernote a few different times. It had much better integration capabilities, but those came with a cost and I wasn’t/am not willing to add yet another monthly bill to my already stretched thin budget for something that I wasn’t passionate about. I may have a skewed opinion from listening to CGP Grey gripe about it for years on Hello Internet. At the end of the day though, it was a lot like OneNote. Too much of an open canvas maybe, I don’t know? Didn’t like on. Moving on.
I started to try and use native apps that came with my devices. Notes on my iPhone (I’m a Windows user btw with an iPhone). While Notes was available on the phone and on iCloud.com, it too lacked integration and was slow to sync. I even went with good ol’ Notepad on Windows. I setup a system that captured all my open Notepads and saved them into a directory in Dropbox. I could load them on my phone, but that too was slow and obviously had no formatting.
I have tried countless other free note apps that ultimately were cast out for some reason or another.
Finally, it dawned on me one day when I was in Trello doing some PM and realized we had a column labeled “Inbox” (loosely modeling off of GTD). I looked at what was going on in this column alone: Each card was a note, each note could further have a description, comments, checklists!, due dates!, collaborators!, and labels! I started then importing all my notes into my personal Trello boards. Coming from OneNote, it went like this
- Each Book was now a Board
- Each Section was now a List
- Each Page was now a Card
I was really digging this. My mind was going non-stop at all the possibilities. I can have the same fun experience as Google Keep with a similar structure from OneNote and all the in-between features other applications lacked for me. The API is super easy to use! I can have a custom background on my boards. But, lastly the best part is, is the fact that Trello decided that the full version of the Butler Power-up was now included for free. That was fantastic news! Think of Butler like IFTTT rules for Trello.
One simple example I use Butler for is I have a label named “Pinned” and when the label “Pinned” is applied to any card, it moves that card to the top of the list it resides in. When the label is removed, it bumps the card down below any other existing “Pinned” cards.
They have improved their reminders system so there are more options to get reminded about a card due date.
I also want to give a mention to the Custom Fields power-up which allows me to structure note meta-data anyway I want.
I could go on and on, but I think it’s time for an obligatory TL;DR. Using Trello for my notes works great! You should try it!