Over the last few months I have made a concerted effort to develop my embedded systems skills by starting projects such as my Smart Light or Rover. As these projects ramped up, it became clear that I needed an easy to use, accessible and flexible project management solution. I was using text documents and spreadsheets before I started my search but these tools are clumsy and don’t scale well to smartphones.
Early in my search I discovered tools like Asana, Todoist, and Azendoo which all looked promising. Asana and Azendoo are very similar in allowing you to create projects with lists of tasks (which can include detailed descriptions, subtasks, attachments and comments). Projects can be shared with other users for them to edit. I tried Azendoo first and gave it the closest look compared to Asana. I really like Azendoo and started managing my projects with it but I had some difficulty getting it to work with my Motorola X. There were a few times when I tried to add tasks to a project but when I went to fill in the task info my inputs were not recognized. Also, as much as Asana and Azendoo are very capable, I found that the long list of tasks did not make it easy to see what tasks were done, in progress or not started. I’m sure there are ways to set this up but I suspect this would be achieved by labeling or colouring tasks in the list.
I finally settled on a solution when I came across Trello. Trello allows you to manage tasks visually using cards similar to how one might use sticky notes on a board. This is great if you’re visually inclined and prefer diagrams and charts over text. A card in Trello is analogous to a task in Azendoo. Each card can have it’s own detailed description, comments, checklist and comments as well as labels, due dates and stickers. Cards are arranged into groups called lists and lists are organized into boards. Each board can have multiple lists and each list can have multiple cards. The ability to organize cards into separate lists within the same board is the feature that made Trello work for me. Multiple lists allows me to organize tasks by their current progress which makes it easy for me to jump back into working on a project since I don’t have wade through all the tasks to find what is currently in progress.
The other features I appreciate are labels. For my rover project, I divided the functionality up into systems so in Trello I labeled tasks related to a system with a certain colour so I can quickly recognize what system a task belongs to. You can also add stickers to cards but the selection is limited for the free account. If you buy into an upgraded account, you are able to set custom backgrounds for your boards and have access to a better selection of stickers.
I use Trello for both personal and work related projects but also for keeping track of related lists such as gift ideas. I’d strongly recommend it to everyone needing to manage a project or who just needs to keep track of what your family wants for their birthdays! It’s also very easy to share individual boards to specific Trello users or to the public in general. You can view the board I use to manage my rover project here.