Paperless isn’t a very complicated app, but there are a few components, so some basic documentation is in order. If you follow along in this document and still have trouble, please open an issue on GitHub so I can fill in the gaps.


The source is currently only available via GitHub, so grab it from there, either by using git:

$ git clone
$ cd paperless

or just download the tarball and go that route:

$ cd to the directory where you want to run Paperless
$ wget
$ unzip
$ cd paperless-master

Installation & Configuration

You can go multiple routes with setting up and running Paperless:

The docker route is quick & easy.

The bare metal route is a bit more complicated to setup but makes it easier should you want to contribute some code back.

Standard (Bare Metal)

  1. Install the requirements as per the requirements page.

  2. Within the extract of go to the src directory.

  3. Copy ../paperless.conf.example to /etc/paperless.conf and open it in your favourite editor. As this file contains passwords. It should only be readable by user root and paperless! Set the values for:

    Set the values for:

    • PAPERLESS_CONSUMPTION_DIR: this is where your documents will be dumped to be consumed by Paperless.
    • PAPERLESS_OCR_THREADS: this is the number of threads the OCR process will spawn to process document pages in parallel.
    • PAPERLESS_PASSPHRASE: this is only required if you want to use GPG to encrypt your document files. This is the passphrase Paperless uses to encrypt/decrypt the original documents. Don’t worry about defining this if you don’t want to use encryption (the default).

    Note also that if you’re using the runserver as mentioned below, you should make sure that PAPERLESS_DEBUG=”true” or is just commented out as this is the default.

  4. Initialise the SQLite database with ./ migrate.

  5. Create a user for your Paperless instance with ./ createsuperuser. Follow the prompts to create your user.

  6. Start the webserver with ./ runserver <IP>:<PORT>. If no specific IP or port is given, the default is also known as http://localhost:8000/. You should now be able to visit your (empty) installation at Paperless webserver or whatever you chose before. You can login with the user/pass you created in #5.

  7. In a separate window, change to the src directory in this repo again, but this time, you should start the consumer script with ./ document_consumer.

  8. Scan something or put a file into the CONSUMPTION_DIR.

  9. Wait a few minutes

  10. Visit the document list on your webserver, and it should be there, indexed and downloadable.


This installation is not secure. Once everything is working head over to Making things more permanent

Docker Method

  1. Install Docker.


    As mentioned earlier, this guide assumes that you use Docker natively under Linux. If you are using Docker Machine under Mac OS X or Windows, you will have to adapt IP addresses, volume-mounting, command execution and maybe more.

  2. Install docker-compose. [1]


    If you want to use the included docker-compose.yml.example file, you need to have at least Docker version 1.10.0 and docker-compose version 1.6.0.

    See the Docker installation guide on how to install the current version of Docker for your operating system or Linux distribution of choice. To get an up-to-date version of docker-compose, follow the docker-compose installation guide if your package repository doesn’t include it.

  3. Create a copy of docker-compose.yml.example as docker-compose.yml and a copy of docker-compose.env.example as docker-compose.env. You’ll be editing both these files: taking a copy ensures that you can git pull to receive updates without risking merge conflicts with your modified versions of the configuration files.

  4. Modify docker-compose.yml to your preferences, following the instructions in comments in the file. The only change that is a hard requirement is to specify where the consumption directory should mount.[#dockercomposeyml]_


    If you are using NFS mounts for the consume directory you also need to

    change the command to turn off inotify as it doesn’t work with NFS

    command: [“document_consumer”, “–no-inotify”]

  5. Modify docker-compose.env and adapt the following environment variables:


    This is the passphrase Paperless uses to encrypt/decrypt the original document. If you aren’t planning on using GPG encryption, you can just leave this undefined.


    This is the number of threads the OCR process will spawn to process document pages in parallel. If the variable is not set, Python determines the core-count of your CPU and uses that value.


    If you want the OCR to recognize other languages in addition to the default English, set this parameter to a space separated list of three-letter language-codes after ISO 639-2/T. For a list of available languages – including their three letter codes – see the Alpine packagelist.


    If you want to mount the consumption volume (directory /consume within the containers) to a host-directory – which you probably want to do – access rights might be an issue. The default user and group paperless in the containers have an id of 1000. The containers will enforce that the owning group of the consumption directory will be paperless to be able to delete consumed documents. If your host-system has a group with an ID of 1000 and you don’t want this group to have access rights to the consumption directory, you can use USERMAP_GID to change the id in the container and thus the one of the consumption directory. Furthermore, you can change the id of the default user as well using USERMAP_UID.

  6. Run docker-compose up -d. This will create and start the necessary containers.

  7. To be able to login, you will need a super user. To create it, execute the following command:

    $ docker-compose run --rm webserver createsuperuser

    This will prompt you to set a username (default paperless), an optional e-mail address and finally a password.

  8. The default docker-compose.yml exports the webserver on your local port 8000. If you haven’t adapted this, you should now be able to visit your Paperless webserver at You can login with the user and password you just created.

  9. Add files to consumption directory the way you prefer to. Following are two possible options:

    1. Mount the consumption directory to a local host path by modifying your docker-compose.yml:

      diff --git a/docker-compose.yml b/docker-compose.yml
      --- a/docker-compose.yml
      +++ b/docker-compose.yml
      @@ -17,9 +18,8 @@ services:
                   - paperless-data:/usr/src/paperless/data
                   - paperless-media:/usr/src/paperless/media
      -            - /consume
      +            - /local/path/you/choose:/consume


      While the consumption container will ensure at startup that it can delete a consumed file from a host-mounted directory, it might not be able to read the document in the first place if the access rights to the file are incorrect.

      Make sure that the documents you put into the consumption directory will either be readable by everyone (chmod o+r file.pdf) or readable by the default user or group id 1000 (or the one you have set with USERMAP_UID or USERMAP_GID respectively).

    2. Use docker cp to copy your files directly into the container:

      $ # Identify your containers
      $ docker-compose ps
              Name                       Command                State     Ports
      paperless_consumer_1    /sbin/ ...   Exit 0
      paperless_webserver_1   /sbin/ ...   Exit 0
      $ docker cp /path/to/your/file.pdf paperless_consumer_1:/consume

      docker cp is a one-shot-command, just like cp. This means that every time you want to consume a new document, you will have to execute docker cp again. You can of course automate this process, but option 1 is generally the preferred one.


      docker cp will change the owning user and group of a copied file to the acting user at the destination, which will be root.

      You therefore need to ensure that the documents you want to copy into the container are readable by everyone (chmod o+r file.pdf) before copying them.

[1]You of course don’t have to use docker-compose, but it simplifies deployment immensely. If you know your way around Docker, feel free to tinker around without using compose!
[2]If you’re upgrading your docker-compose images from version 1.1.0 or earlier, you might need to change in the docker-compose.yml file the image: pitkley/paperless directive in both the webserver and consumer sections to build: ./ as per the newer docker-compose.yml.example file

Making Things a Little more Permanent

Once you’ve tested things and are happy with the work flow, you should secure the installation and automate the process of starting the webserver and consumer.

Using a Real Webserver

The default is to use Django’s development server, as that’s easy and does the job well enough on a home network. However it is heavily discouraged to use it for more than that.

If you want to do things right you should use a real webserver capable of handling more than one thread. You will also have to let the webserver serve the static files (CSS, JavaScript) from the directory configured in PAPERLESS_STATICDIR. The default static files directory is ../static.

For that you need to activate your virtual environment and collect the static files with the command:

$ cd <paperless directory>/src
$ ./ collectstatic


This is a configuration supplied by steckerhalter on GitHub. It uses Apache and mod_wsgi, with a Paperless installation in /home/paperless/:

<VirtualHost *:80>

    Alias /static/ /home/paperless/paperless/static/
    <Directory /home/paperless/paperless/static>
        Require all granted

    WSGIScriptAlias / /home/paperless/paperless/src/paperless/
    WSGIDaemonProcess user=paperless group=paperless threads=5 python-path=/home/paperless/paperless/src:/home/paperless/.env/lib/python3.4/site-packages

    <Directory /home/paperless/paperless/src/paperless>
            Require all granted

Nginx + Gunicorn

If you’re using Nginx, the most common setup is to combine it with a Python-based server like Gunicorn so that Nginx is acting as a proxy. Below is a copy of a simple Nginx configuration fragment making use of a gunicorn instance listening on localhost port 8000.

server {
    listen 80;

    index index.html index.htm index.php;
    access_log /var/log/nginx/paperless_access.log;
    error_log /var/log/nginx/paperless_error.log;

    location /static {

        autoindex on;
        alias <path-to-paperless-static-directory>;


    location / {

        proxy_set_header Host $http_host;
        proxy_set_header X-Real-IP $remote_addr;
        proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-For $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;
        proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-Proto $scheme;


The gunicorn server can be started with the command:

$ <path-to-paperless-virtual-environment>/bin/gunicorn --pythonpath=<path-to-paperless>/src paperless.wsgi -w 2

Standard (Bare Metal + Systemd)

If you’re running on a bare metal system that’s using Systemd, you can use the service unit files in the scripts directory to set this up.

  1. You’ll need to create a group and user called paperless (without login)
  2. Setup Paperless to be in a place that this new user can read and write to.
  3. Ensure /etc/paperless is readable by the paperless user.
  4. Copy the service file from the scripts directory to /etc/systemd/system.
$ cp /path/to/paperless/scripts/paperless-consumer.service /etc/systemd/system/
$ cp /path/to/paperless/scripts/paperless-webserver.service /etc/systemd/system/
  1. Edit the service file to point the ExecStart line to the proper location of your paperless install, referencing the appropriate Python binary. For example: ExecStart=/path/to/python3 /path/to/paperless/src/ document_consumer.
  2. Start and enable (so they start on boot) the services.
$ systemctl enable paperless-consumer
$ systemctl enable paperless-webserver
$ systemctl start paperless-consumer
$ systemctl start paperless-webserver

Standard (Bare Metal + Upstart)

Ubuntu 14.04 and earlier use the Upstart init system to start services during the boot process. To configure Upstart to run Paperless automatically after restarting your system:

  1. Change to the directory where Upstart’s configuration files are kept: cd /etc/init

  2. Create a new file: sudo nano paperless-server.conf

  3. In the newly-created file enter:

    start on (local-filesystems and net-device-up IFACE=eth0)
    stop on shutdown
    respawn limit 10 5
      exec <path to paperless virtual environment>/bin/gunicorn --pythonpath=<path to parperless>/src paperless.wsgi -w 2
    end script

    Note that you’ll need to replace /srv/paperless/src/ with the path to the script in your installation directory.

If you are using a network interface other than eth0, you will have to change IFACE=eth0. For example, if you are connected via WiFi, you will likely need to replace eth0 above with wlan0. To see all interfaces, run ifconfig -a.

Save the file.

  1. Create a new file: sudo nano paperless-consumer.conf

  2. In the newly-created file enter:

    start on (local-filesystems and net-device-up IFACE=eth0)
    stop on shutdown
    respawn limit 10 5
      exec <path to paperless virtual environment>/bin/python <path to parperless>/ document_consumer
    end script
Replace the path placeholder and eth0 with the appropriate value and save the file.

These two configuration files together will start both the Paperless webserver and document consumer processes when the file system and network interface specified is available after boot. Furthermore, if either process ever exits unexpectedly, Upstart will try to restart it a maximum of 10 times within a 5 second period.


If you’re using Docker, you can set a restart-policy in the docker-compose.yml to have the containers automatically start with the Docker daemon.