Once you’ve got Paperless setup, you need to start feeding documents into it. Currently, there are three options: the consumption directory, IMAP (email), and HTTP POST.

The Consumption Directory

The primary method of getting documents into your database is by putting them in the consumption directory. The document_consumer script runs in an infinite loop looking for new additions to this directory and when it finds them, it goes about the process of parsing them with the OCR, indexing what it finds, and encrypting the PDF (if PAPERLESS_PASSPHRASE is set), storing it in the media directory.

Getting stuff into this directory is up to you. If you’re running Paperless on your local computer, you might just want to drag and drop files there, but if you’re running this on a server and want your scanner to automatically push files to this directory, you’ll need to setup some sort of service to accept the files from the scanner. Typically, you’re looking at an FTP server like Proftpd or Samba.

So where is this consumption directory? It’s wherever you define it. Look for the CONSUMPTION_DIR value in Set that to somewhere appropriate for your use and put some documents in there. When you’re ready, follow the consumer instructions to get it running.

Hooking into the Consumption Process

Sometimes you may want to do something arbitrary whenever a document is consumed. Rather than try to predict what you may want to do, Paperless lets you execute scripts of your own choosing just before or after a document is consumed using a couple simple hooks.

Just write a script, put it somewhere that Paperless can read & execute, and then put the path to that script in paperless.conf with the variable name of either PAPERLESS_PRE_CONSUME_SCRIPT or PAPERLESS_POST_CONSUME_SCRIPT. The script will be executed before or or after the document is consumed respectively.


These scripts are executed in a blocking process, which means that if a script takes a long time to run, it can significantly slow down your document consumption flow. If you want things to run asynchronously, you’ll have to fork the process in your script and exit.

What Can These Scripts Do?

It’s your script, so you’re only limited by your imagination and the laws of physics. However, the following values are passed to the scripts in order:

Pre-consumption script
  • Document file name

A simple but common example for this would be creating a simple script like this:


#!/usr/bin/env bash -i ${1}



This will pass the path to the document about to be consumed to /usr/local/bin/ocr-pdf, which will in turn call on your document, which will then overwrite the file with an OCR’d version of the file and exit. At which point, the consumption process will begin with the newly modified file.

Post-consumption script
  • Document id
  • Generated file name
  • Source path
  • Thumbnail path
  • Download URL
  • Thumbnail URL
  • Correspondent
  • Tags

The script can be in any language you like, but for a simple shell script example, you can take a look at in the scripts directory in this project.

IMAP (Email)

Another handy way to get documents into your database is to email them to yourself. The typical use-case would be to be out for lunch and want to send a copy of the receipt back to your system at home. Paperless can be taught to pull emails down from an arbitrary account and dump them into the consumption directory where the process above will follow the usual pattern on consuming the document.

Some things you need to know about this feature:

  • It’s disabled by default. By setting the values below it will be enabled.
  • It’s been tested in a limited environment, so it may not work for you (please submit a pull request if you can!)
  • It’s designed to delete mail from the server once consumed. So don’t go pointing this to your personal email account and wonder where all your stuff went.
  • Currently, only one photo (attachment) per email will work.

So, with all that in mind, here’s what you do to get it running:

  1. Setup a new email account somewhere, or if you’re feeling daring, create a folder in an existing email box and note the path to that folder.
  2. In /etc/paperless.conf set all of the appropriate values in PATHS AND FOLDERS and SECURITY. If you decided to use a subfolder of an existing account, then make sure you set PAPERLESS_CONSUME_MAIL_INBOX accordingly here. You also have to set the PAPERLESS_EMAIL_SECRET to something you can remember ‘cause you’ll have to include that in every email you send.
  3. Restart the consumer. The consumer will check the configured email account at startup and from then on every 10 minutes for something new and pulls down whatever it finds.
  4. Send yourself an email! Note that the subject is treated as the file name, so if you set the subject to Correspondent - Title - tag,tag,tag, you’ll get what you expect. Also, you must include the aforementioned secret string in every email so the fetcher knows that it’s safe to import. Note that Paperless only allows the email title to consist of safe characters to be imported. These consist of alpha-numeric characters and -_ ,.'.
  5. After a few minutes, the consumer will poll your mailbox, pull down the message, and place the attachment in the consumption directory with the appropriate name. A few minutes later, the consumer will import it like any other file.


You can also submit a document via HTTP POST, so long as you do so after authenticating. To push your document to Paperless, send an HTTP POST to the server with the following name/value pairs:

  • correspondent: The name of the document’s correspondent. Note that there are restrictions on what characters you can use here. Specifically, alphanumeric characters, -, ,, ., and are ok, everything else is out. You also can’t use the sequence ` - ` (space, dash, space).
  • title: The title of the document. The rules for characters is the same here as the correspondent.
  • document: The file you’re uploading

Specify enctype="multipart/form-data", and then POST your file with:

Content-Disposition: form-data; name="document"; filename="whatever.pdf"

An example of this in HTML is a typical form:

<form method="post" enctype="multipart/form-data">
    <input type="text" name="correspondent" value="My Correspondent" />
    <input type="text" name="title" value="My Title" />
    <input type="file" name="document" />
    <input type="submit" name="go" value="Do the thing" />

But a potentially more useful way to do this would be in Python. Here we use the requests library to handle basic authentication and to send the POST data to the URL.

import os

from hashlib import sha256

import requests
from requests.auth import HTTPBasicAuth

# You authenticate via BasicAuth or with a session id.
# We use BasicAuth here
username = "my-username"
password = "my-super-secret-password"

# Where you have Paperless installed and listening
url = "http://localhost:8000/push"

# Document metadata
correspondent = "Test Correspondent"
title = "Test Title"

# The local file you want to push
path = "/path/to/some/directory/my-document.pdf"

with open(path, "rb") as f:

    response =
        data={"title": title,  "correspondent": correspondent},
        files={"document": (os.path.basename(path), f, "application/pdf")},
        auth=HTTPBasicAuth(username, password),

    if response.status_code == 202:

        # Everything worked out ok
        print("Upload successful")


        # If you don't get a 202, it's probably because your credentials
        # are wrong or something.  This will give you a rough idea of what
        # happened.

        print("We got HTTP status code: {}".format(response.status_code))
        for k, v in response.headers.items():
            print("{}: {}".format(k, v))