Writing an eBook can take a while. It could take months. Or weeks. Or maybe, if you are really well organized, it could take a few days only. Whilst it does depend on how many pages there are to write, a lot also depends on your organization process and organization skills. Today I want to show you a tool that I recently discovered and which has helped me a lot during the tedious process of creating an eBook.
eBook Creation with Cardsmith
There are dozens of steps you need to get done before the book is finished. Professionalizing the creation process pays off in the long run. I recently went through such a process when I created my newest eBook “Trello Spells”, and I wanted to try something new. The process turned out well and I actually liked it so much, that I decided to share the tool I used with you. It’s called Cardsmith. From the visual aspect, it does have similarities with Trello. But there are also a lot of differences, and I am going to outline now how I managed to leverage my eBook creation with Cardsmith.
A friend of mine mentioned the Cardsmith tool to me because she knew I am an avid user of Trello. I like the simplicity and flexibility that Trello provides, and I find it a good tool to organize and collect ideas and resources, and also to streamline business tasks. Having a curious spirit, I checked out Cardsmith* because I was told it would be just as simple as Trello, but also a little different – in some ways. So, I registered for a free account to learn more about what it had to offer. I watched a few of their tutorials, and decided to give it a practice test for my next project. I intended to write an eBook about Trello – in particular about its hidden productivity and automation features.
You might think that I am guilty of some sort of blasphemy that I am using a competitor of Trello to write an eBook about Trello?! Well. I am not so much into competitive thinking. I am more the cooperation-type of a person, and I do think we – as a society – would all do better if we could drop those barriers that separate us from each other and cooperate more with each other.
Surely, a tool developer does have an economic interest to highlight and market its product and differentiate itself from potential competitors. I am the last one who wouldn’t understand that. But innovation is what we all strive for, so why not giving another tool a try for a process that is tedious, like the creation of an eBook?
I decided to use Cardsmith* instead of Trello, because I had spotted a few VERY interesting features within it, that Trello does not offer. And I wanted to get an idea what this tool is actually capable of doing, and whether or not the eBook creation process would benefit from it. Today I am going to share with you what I found out, and I’ll show you how they helped me to stay on top of my game during these intense weeks.
A First Look at Cardsmith
The first thing that caught my eye was the clarity of a Cardsmith board, and the three views you can use for different perspectives.
There are 3 different board styles available in Cardsmith:
FREEFORM – TILE – GRID
The capability to view boards from different views, is really what sets Cardsmith apart from Trello.
Here’s how that can look like when you switch between board views:
A board in Cardsmith defaults to FREEFORM-view. That’s the very first difference to Trello. No vertical lists to begin with. You can create cards wherever you want on the board.
A card is created either by using the menu in the top-left corner or by a long-click on the board.
Freeform means, that you can move a card to any place on the board. Simply drag and drop.
When you first change a TILE board to a GRID board, all of your cards will be shown in the Hidden Cards area in the bottom of the browser window. Each card can be dragged into a cell to move it into the grid. You can freely move back and forth between the cells in the grid and the Hidden Cards area.
The Hidden Cards area can be collapsed to have a cleaner board view.
If you delete a card from Grid View, the card will move itself to the Hidden Cards area.
Changing Rows & Columns in a Board
Here’s another distinctive feature to Trello that I appreciate A LOT: The ability to add rows or columns.
But that’s not it. There’s another one that can make a big difference in terms of visibility:
You can manually adjust the size of rows and columns, giving it more or less space. When the column gets wide enough, cards automatically move to free space.
That might be only an optical effect, but it’s similar to web pages. Lots of white spaces relax the eye, making it easier to ‘roam’ through the content.
Also, rows and columns can be reordered. To do so, select a row or column and drag them to a blank space on the board.
Some Features you Should Know About in Cardsmith
To add data to a card, click on a card to open it. Now you can add a label, text, an image, checkboxes or links.
Formatting a Card
In the bottom right corner of a card is a little menu icon. Click that, and select one of the twelve colors, and if you wish, mark it with an icon.
I think it pays off to spend a few minutes thinking about the purpose a color should provide to a card.
I have seen some people using color codes to indicate which team is responsible for a certain task. That is when Cardsmith is used as a collaboration tool – which it is very well capable of.
The way I used colors was by marking similar tasks.
Yellow, for instance, was everything image-related. Pink was everything writing-related.
Importing a Board from Trello
I think Cardsmith is well aware of the popularity of Trello – but also of its limitations.
If you have a Trello board that you can’t use as effectively as you’d like to and have seen the feature in Cardsmith, this one is for you. You can import a board from Trello into Cardsmith. With ease and grace.
I did try it myself, and I was pleased to watch the duplication in Cardsmith happening in a matter of seconds.
What you first have to do is an export of the Trello board in a JSON-file.
Second, you want to open the menu in Cardsmith, and click ‘Import from Trello’.
Select the file. Import. Done.
After the import, the board’s view was automatically set to ‘Grid View’.
How Cardsmith helped me in the Creation Process for an eBook
First of all, Cardsmith is intuitive to use and pretty self-explanatory. There are a few features that I find innovative and helpful at times. Some features are less sophisticated than in Trello, but then again: who needs all the gimmicks all the time?
Below are the features that I appreciated the most during the eBook creation with Cardsmith:
What I am really fond of is Cardsmith‘* capability to structure a board – in many flexible ways. I am badly missing this in Trello. Scrolling up and down is not an issue in Trello. But – and I call it the Twitter-Effect – adding an image as a card cover, is certainly an eye-catcher but it’s also somewhat distracting. Of course, I could disable the cover image, but I’d have to open the card and do a manual click. Imagine having a bunch of cards that I’d have to do this! It’s wasting my time.
The solution in Cardsmith is way better. You can change the card view for the whole board from a drop-down list in the menu, and you have 8 different views available (like short title, long title, image, index, note, etc.).
I find this is a good way to switch between information layers. This definitely helps in the self-organization process of writing an eBook – or any other project.
Free Form Feature
I was taken with the FreeForm-feature since I find it useful to group / separate idea streams during the brainstorming process. Everybody familiar with a MindMapping tool knows how the outlining of ideas helps to connect the dots.
I appreciate Cardsmith’ capability to change the board’s size and let me see all those cards that a small computer screen would hide from me. The point is when there are a lot of cards, you easily loose sight of how big a project has grown. With the size ruler, it doesn’t matter which board view mode you are in. It works well in all three modes: freeform, tile or grid.
Needless to say, that you can use Cardsmith for any kind of info product you are about to create. It’s the organization process that gets the biggest boost here.
I highlighted some of the improvements that I felt most appreciative about. I am a user of Trello since many years, and I’ll probably not skip this tool. The versatility and automation features that Trello offers, are what keeps me a loyal Trello user. In a time where everybody is looking to streamline business processes, automation features like the Power-Ups in Trello are what opens the door to a modern and efficient business, nowadays.
But, I haven’t talked much about where Cardsmith stands compared to the popular features in Trello, and I want to say a few words about that, too.
Compared to Trello, I noticed that Cardsmith’ text-feature and checklist-feature are less sophisticated.
In Trello, you can add several checklists to a card. In Cardsmith, you can, in fact, add as many checkboxes as you need, but you cannot add multiple lists. If I would switch all my boards over to Cardsmith, I would surely miss the ability to add a prefabricated checklist to a card.
Also in Trello, I make a lot of use of Markdown in such a way, that I bold important text phrases or indent lists. I have not found that to be possible within Cardsmith, yet.
Cardsmith* is a tool that is still quite new, and I am confident that it gets even more cool features over time. I personally can imagine using Cardsmith as a complement to Trello – on certain projects.
These are the 3 things I favored the most in Cardsmith:
- The capability to add rows to a board to achieve a nicer, cleaner look at the board in front of me.
- The 8 different card views, between which I can switch back and forth without having to touch/adjust a card
- The ability to reduce or enlarge a board’s view, and spotting with an eagle’s eye where my board is heading to.
Have you heard about Cardsmith before, or even are a user of it? If so, please share in the comment section below what kind of projects or use cases you have used it for! I’d be excited to learn how others are using it and what their experiences were like.
(* … That’s an affiliate link. So, if you register a paid account with this link, I will receive one month off. Should you choose so, thank you!)