The Trick To Copy Checklists In Trello

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Have you ever tried to get a checklist copied from one card to another as part of a workflow?

You may have, but you certainly realized pretty quickly, that there is no such action available, neither in the ButlerBot nor within the Butler Power-Up.

But nevertheless, wanting to copy a checklist as part of a workflow is not such an unusual undertaking.

In this use case, checklists are copied from recipe cards into a grocery list on another card, which is also stored as a checklist.


Not allowing it to copy checklists from one card to another is a limitation that is set by Trello.

Recently, I got a question from one of my patrons, asking me whether I knew a solution to copy checklists in Trello boards.

She had a meal planning board and was looking for a solution to copy checklists from recipe cards she selected at the beginning of each week, into a grocery list for that particular week.

Here’s what she asked me:

“I have a meal plan board. I have individual recipes on cards organized in lists by meal type. Each card has a checklist with ingredients.
As I decide what to make each week, I move card to a Meal Que List. 
This is what I want Butler to be able to do: 
Once a week I would like the checklists on cards in meal que list copied to an existing card named Grocery List.”

How To Copy Checklists In Trello

The moment I read her question, I wasn’t even aware that checklists cannot be copied over to another card. And I thought to myself, well, let’s have a look.

But I quickly figured out that the problem was by Trello’s design.

On the other hand, I totally got her use case. I found it reasonable.

Sending the ingredients needed for the week’s meals into a separate list, a grocery list, is a cool workflow. One, that screams for automation!

So, I accepted the challenge and tried to find a workaround for her.

1. Tools Used


This workflow was set up with the ButlerBot, because at the time of brainstorming it, the Butler Power-Up didn’t have all the actions available, yet.

That might change at some point in time. As I become aware of it, I will edit this tutorial accordingly.

2. Conditions


In order for my workflow to work, a few conditions need to be followed:

1. Using a consistent naming for the checklists.

The workflow needs to identify the name of a card’s ingredients checklist automatically. So, I saw the need for a consistent naming pattern for these checklists.

The use of variables come in handy here, so I opted to use the variable {cardname} and a checklist’s name pattern of “Checklist {cardname}”. — This is something you need to follow through, if you are rebuilding the workflow! [Also, the card’s name is case-sensitive, so make sure there aren’t any typos or abbreviations used for the checklist’s name.[

Of course, this also implies, that there can be only checklist per card with ingredients for the meal.

To give an example here, if there was a meal card called “Apple Pie”, the checklist’s name would have to be “Checklist Apple Pie”.

2. Creating a placeholder list

I will discuss why such a placeholder list is required for the workflow in step 4 (Actions) of this tutorial.

In my test run, I called this placeholder list “Ingredients”.

Is it hard for you to follow through what I am talking about here?
Scroll down to step 5 (Demo) to see a quick video of what is happening in this workflow!

3. Trigger


Using a Trello board to collect nice recipes is pretty common. I use a Trello board for such a purpose, too.

You can use lists to impose some order for the recipes, like snacks, soups, salads, desserts.

And when you go through your board’s list, planning your week’s meals ahead, you would have to mark those cards that you are choosing as meals for the week ahead.

This would be our trigger.

A good trigger for marking a recipe card is a label. Sure, you could also use a sticker. But I don’t like the fact that they take away so much space on a card. I find labels are much less intrusive, so I prefer those. But choose what you like best.

4. Actions


You would think there is an easier way to copy a checklist from one card to another. Maybe there is, one day. But right now, this workaround does the job and it actually has a big advantage.

Instead of copying a checklist straight from one card to another, we are going to disassemble the checklist items into cards, and then aggregate the cards back into a checklist.

The disassembly of checklist items into cards happens in the placeholder list. I mentioned before I named this list “Ingredients”. It is of course up to you, how you want to name this list. The reason I call it a placeholder list, is, because it holds the ingredients for the upcoming week’s meals only temporarily.


And these are the action sequences for this workflow:

1. Convert the checklist items from the selected meal cards into cards

2. Store these cards in the placeholder list created

3. Remove ingredients that don’t need to be put on your grocery list, like salt, pepper, water, etc.

4. Transform the cards in the placeholder list into a single checklist



Have a look at the demo below how this is working:

5. Demo


Watch this short video sequence to understand how the workflow is working:

6. Housekeeping


In order to prepare your board for the next week’s run, you want to clean it up a little.

In the placeholder list, there are still all the cards sitting that were converted into checklist items in the grocery list. But converting these cards doesn’t necessarily remove them from the list.

As a weekly housekeeping task, you want to clean this list.

For this clean-up task, you can use either the ButlerBot or the Butler Power-Up.

I actually prefer a board button with the Power-Up. It allows me to determine the point in time in which I want to clean up the board. That point in time could be right after my grocery list is complete, or the next week, just before I begin marking the meals for the upcoming week with a label.

7. Commands


Would you like to use this workflow for yourself?

I am giving away the workflow commands and the full description how to implement this for peanuts.

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