The story of Plus for Trello

I've been in serious software development since the 90's back when I lived in Seattle, working eight intense years as a Microsoft Software Engineer during the big bubble. There we had all the internal "desktop" tools to manage our projects and coordinate teams with a precise yearly release cycle.

Forward ten years to now starting a cloud-software factory. We found many tools in the market to manage projects but were either too expensive, too complicated, or did not cover all of our needs.

We started with a simpler "Spent/Estimates" system using only Google spreadsheets. Each team member had their own sheet and added a new "S/E row" to enter S/E. Is the same concept that Plus still has in reports but very manual.

Using sheet reports and charts each user and manager could see cards with Remaining, Spent charts per week, pivots and even burndowns. It gave us the data we needed but it wasn't practical to type each row including board and task names which each member would name differently.

We started using Trello (in 2013) and made a quick integration from Trello to spreadsheets writing a small Chrome extension. We also wrote a small "backend" system to read user's Spent and Estimates from Trello comments automatically and write them into the appropriate spreadsheets (each user's and a master spreadsheet). All reports and charts were still done inside the sheets. This was much better and worked for a few more months smoothly. The extension also read the generated sheet's chart data back into Trello to display basic reports and burndowns, so users did not need to open the actual spreadsheets.

We moved all reporting into the extension (and out of spreadsheets) by using the Chrome "Web SQL" database. This was our first step on removing the Spreadsheets dependency. Now the spreadsheet was just used to sync data among team members and divide multiple teams.

We also wanted to provide the extension to other users. We added support to directly read and write to the spreadsheets from the extension using a backend. Many people started using it from the Chrome store. We still kept using our "backend mode" because it had important advantages like traceability and security of the data by having user and manager roles. With the public version was theoretically possible to tamper with the spreadsheet data by a rogue team member which we made clear in our help back then. This was OK as long as a team member didn't try to cheat the system, and most people did not care about that. We did care and internally we kept using our backend which solved those issues but was too much work to provide for free to others.

After months of work we revamped the extension with a new "Trello card comments sync" mode that solved all those issues with the previous "sync" modes (Spreadsheet and backend modes). This was great because Google sheets were starting to get big and slow. Google Spreadsheets before 2015 were much slower and smaller before the new "Google sheets".

This new sync mode uses card comments to read and write S/E. It fully covers security and traceability and many features that were not possible before like "multiple keywords" or the ability to enter S/E for any member from any browser or mobile. Internally we switched to this mode, so the backend is not used anymore.

We have kept supporting the now legacy "Spreadsheet sync" mode because the new "Google sheets" solved the size and speed issues and some people still find it useful to sync through Sheets.

We also added a new "Stealth sync" mode (using spreadsheets) for those that do not want any of their S/E data visible in any way inside Trello, for example those that share boards with clients.

We also added the web and mobile app, a basic but solid and useful app that works on all phones and browsers, even offline!

Soon we will be an official Trello power-up!

We work daily on Plus for Trello since 2013 and publish new features every two weeks or so.

Some of our future features are here so users can vote for the next feature to publish.

Our philosophy is to deliver useful, fast, super stable, secure, bug-free features non-stop without the need of extra servers and without asking for any of your data.

enjoy! donate!