Paperless development

This section describes the steps you need to take to start development on paperless-ng.

  1. Check out the source from github. The repository is organized in the following way:

    • master always represents the latest release and will only see changes when a new release is made.

    • dev contains the code that will be in the next release.

    • feature-X contain bigger changes that will be in some release, but not necessarily the next one.

    Apart from that, the folder structure is as follows:

    • docs/ - Documentation.

    • src-ui/ - Code of the front end.

    • src/ - Code of the back end.

    • scripts/ - Various scripts that help with different parts of development.

    • docker/ - Files required to build the docker image.

  2. Install some dependencies.

    • Python 3.6.

    • All dependencies listed in the Bare metal route

    • redis. You can either install redis or use the included scritps/ to use docker to fire up a redis instance.

Back end development

The backend is a django application. I use PyCharm for development, but you can use whatever you want.

Install the python dependencies by performing pipenv install --dev in the src/ directory. This will also create a virtual environment, which you can enter with pipenv shell or execute one-shot commands in with pipenv run.

In src/paperless.conf, enable debug mode.

Configure the IDE to use the src/ folder as the base source folder. Configure the following launch configurations in your IDE:

  • python3 runserver

  • python3 qcluster

  • python3 consumer

Depending on which part of paperless you’re developing for, you need to have some or all of them running.

Testing and code style:

  • Run pytest in the src/ directory to execute all tests. This also generates a HTML coverage report. When runnings test, paperless.conf is loaded as well. However: the tests rely on the default configuration. This is not ideal. But for now, make sure no settings except for DEBUG are overridden when testing.

  • Run pycodestyle to test your code for issues with the configured code style settings.


    The line length rule E501 is generally useful for getting multiple source files next to each other on the screen. However, in some cases, its just not possible to make some lines fit, especially complicated IF cases. Append `` # NOQA: E501`` to disable this check for certain lines.

Front end development

The front end is build using angular. I use the Code - OSS IDE for development.

In order to get started, you need npm. Install the Angular CLI interface with

$ npm install -g @angular/cli

and make sure that it’s on your path. Next, in the src-ui/ directory, install the required dependencies of the project.

$ npm install

You can launch a development server by running

$ ng serve

This will automatically update whenever you save. However, in-place compilation might fail on syntax errors, in which case you need to restart it.

By default, the development server is available on http://localhost:4200/ and is configured to access the API at http://localhost:8000/api/, which is the default of the backend. If you enabled DEBUG on the back end, several security overrides for allowed hosts, CORS and X-Frame-Options are in place so that the front end behaves exactly as in production. This also relies on you being logged into the back end. Without a valid session, The front end will simply not work.

In order to build the front end and serve it as part of django, execute

$ ng build --prod --output-path ../src/documents/static/frontend/

This will build the front end and put it in a location from which the Django server will serve it as static content. This way, you can verify that authentication is working.

Making a release

Execute the <ver> script.

This will test and assemble everything and also build and tag a docker image.

Extending Paperless


This section is not updated to paperless-ng yet.

For the most part, Paperless is monolithic, so extending it is often best managed by way of modifying the code directly and issuing a pull request on GitHub. However, over time the project has been evolving to be a little more “pluggable” so that users can write their own stuff that talks to it.


You can leverage Paperless’ consumption model to have it consume files other than ones handled by default like .pdf, .jpg, and .tiff. To do so, you simply follow Django’s convention of creating a new app, with a few key requirements.

In this file, you create a class that extends documents.parsers.DocumentParser and go about implementing the three required methods:

  • get_thumbnail(): Returns the path to a file we can use as a thumbnail for this document.

  • get_text(): Returns the text from the document and only the text.

  • get_date(): If possible, this returns the date of the document, otherwise it should return None.

At consumption time, Paperless emits a document_consumer_declaration signal which your module has to react to in order to let the consumer know whether or not it’s capable of handling a particular file. Think of it like this:

  1. Consumer finds a file in the consumption directory.

  2. It asks all the available parsers: “Hey, can you handle this file?”

  3. Each parser responds with either None meaning they can’t handle the file, or a dictionary in the following format:

    "parser": <the class name>,
    "weight": <an integer>

The consumer compares the weight values from all respondents and uses the class with the highest value to consume the document. The default parser, RasterisedDocumentParser has a weight of 0.

This is a standard Django file, but you’ll need to add some code to it to connect your parser to the document_consumer_declaration signal.


The last step is to update to include your new module. Eventually, this will be dynamic, but at the moment, you have to edit the INSTALLED_APPS section manually. Simply add the path to your AppConfig to the list like this:


Order doesn’t matter, but generally it’s a good idea to place your module lower in the list so that you don’t end up accidentally overriding project defaults somewhere.

An Example

The core Paperless functionality is based on this design, so if you want to see what a parser module should look like, have a look at,, and in the paperless_tesseract module.