The All-Purpose Holder of Things

Every adventurer needs a handy haversack (aka backpack) to carry all their equipment during their quest. I have played Dungeons & Dragons for over 30 years and the handy haversack is vastly underrated. I reach into the backpack and bam what I need appears in my hand, now that’s handy 😜. Sure a bag of holding holds more but it’s like trying to find the nub of a pencil in the kitchen junk drawer, it’s not gonna happen unless you dump the contents out and sift through everything. By this point you might be wondering what this has to do with Trello? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Picture ©2019 D&D Beyond

My quest to become a game dev involves a lot of equipment (aka tools) such as documents, spreadsheets, sprites (but sadly not pixies), tasks, checklists, and ohhh so many notes. I needed a place to organize all these items so I can track them over time. My go-to tool is Trello (that’s a referral link which gives me free Gold month, or use this link Trello).

Over the years I tried many different tools, the worst of which I didn’t use for more than two weeks, before I found Trello. Five years going and even today I found new ways of making it work for me. I use Trello for everything: personal tasks ✔; my business tasks ✔; storing interesting articles and useless trivia ✔; maintaining my movie collection ✔; planning and tracking my vacations ✔; storing good restaurants from my travels ✔; and so much more.

Whenever I need to plan the next step of my journey, Trello helps me pull it all together in one place. It has so many features I cannot even begin to hit upon them all in one post, so I will focus on the main features.

Lesser Potion of Trello

Even though Trello has nearly unlimited configurability, I will describe working with projects, processes, and tasks. On every long quest you need a process for making camp every night, and a way to track who stands the next mid-watch to avoid fights. Trello helps with all that and more. Trello stores everything in a board, and you can have an unlimited number of personal boards. If you create a team then each team can have up to ten boards for free, after that you need a paid plan.

I use boards for projects and processes. I have a Dungeon Explorer board, pictured below, where I store everything about my game project. Each board can have multiple lists (more on lists shortly) to organize your work. The lists on this board include Game Design Document, Features and Categories, Planning, and others. Since this is our first game we are still learning how best to use the board to help us manage our game dev.

Then I have my Weekly Quest board, pictured below, which holds all the tasks I want to accomplish for the week with lists for Time Trackers, Ready to Start, In Progress, Needs Review or Is Blocked, Current Week Woot!, Last Week’s Woot!, and Two Weeks Ago Woot!. Each list represents a step in my process.

A list allows me to group all related cards (more on cards shortly) together, so I can tell at a glance where they are in my project or process. My wife and I both work on Dungeon Explorer so we both have tasks to work on each week, I can quickly check the In Progress column to know what artwork she’s working on, or the Needs Review or Is Blocked column to see what she’s finished or what we need to discuss. This works out great as I work a day job and she works on artwork full time, so she draws art while I’m trapped in a cubicle.

This leads to me to the card, and the card holds the true power of Trello. A card has all the usual features: a title, a description, due date, assignees, and activity list; however, they also can have labels, checklists (multiple on one card even), attachments, and power-ups. Let’s discuss the latter list a bit more, except for power-ups which I’ll cover in a future blog.

A label is merely a way to categorize your cards, Trello uses eleven different colors with ten visible on the cover and the eleventh only visible when you open the card. I can show/hide cards based upon specific labels. A handy tool indeed. A checklist is exactly what it sounds like, and a card can contain multiple checklists. Say you have a card listing restaurants in Raleigh, you can have one for Good Eats, one for Untried Food, and one for Stay Away From. Now, the next time I travel to Raleigh I know where to go for food I know I like or if I want to try someplace new.

Trello works smartly with all sorts of attachments as well. I can upload something directly from my computer (up to 10 MB for free and 250 MB with a paid subscription), however, I can also link files from storage services like Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, and OneDrive, and then a link. Personally, I only use Dropbox and Drive so I’ll stick to talking about them. When you attach a file from Dropbox or Drive Trello is smart enough to get the link to your file and store that instead of the actual file. Why is this go great? Well, I can link a Photoshop file named “AwesomeCombatPicture.psd” (stored in Dropbox) to several cards and they all refer to the same file. So I can edit the PSD file, save the changes and since Trello saved just the link to the Dropbox file and not the file directly I don’t have to do anything else.

So far I have only covered the basic features. I can write so much more about the power of Trello. I have not even touched on power-ups, and integrations. I’ll leave those for a future article, however, I will say they can greatly extend the capability of any Trello board.

Developing Games and Trello

As I continue my game dev quest this is an area I want to learn more about. I already have a board for my current project, Dungeon Explorer, however, I need to learn how to use the board better than I do today. I could add a power-up to connect it to GitHub. I could create a Unity asset that allows a user playing my game to report bugs from in-game and a card is created directly to a Bugs list. Hmmm, so many possibilities. I see more Trello focused blogs in my future.

Do you use Trello? If so, let me know how.

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