Running Paperless-NG on the Raspberry Pi?

Paperless-NG is an open source document management system that helps you digitize and organize paper documents. By scanning documents directly into Paperless-NG, you can store, tag, search and access your documents from one central location.

Running Paperless-NG on the Raspberry Pi?

Paperless-NG is built using Django and Python and can be installed on a variety of systems. One popular option is installing Paperless-NG on a Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pi is an inexpensive, credit card sized computer that is perfect for running low resource applications like Paperless-NG.

Why Run Paperless-NG on a Raspberry Pi

There are several advantages to running Paperless-NG on a Raspberry Pi:

  • Low Cost – Raspberry Pis start at just $35, providing an affordable way to run Paperless-NG
  • Low Power Usage – The Raspberry Pi uses very little electricity, lowering energy costs
  • Small Form Factor – Its credit card size takes up little desk space
  • Always On – Can safely be left plugged in and running continuously

With the right setup, the Raspberry Pi can be the perfect little machine for running Paperless-NG at home.

Raspberry Pi Hardware Needed

To successfully install Paperless-NG, you will need:

  • Raspberry Pi 4 (2GB RAM minimum)
  • MicroSD Card (16GB Class 10 minimum)
  • Power Supply
  • Case (optional but recommended)
  • USB Scanner (for digitizing documents)

Optional extras like an external hard drive can provide more storage space if needed.

Raspberry Pi OS Installation

Once you have your Raspberry Pi and accessories:

  1. Download the latest Raspberry Pi OS (32-bit) from www.raspberrypi.org/downloads
  2. Flash it onto your MicroSD card
  3. Insert into your Pi and power it on
  4. Run sudo raspi-config to set up WiFi, locale, time zone, etc.
  5. Reboot when done

You now have Raspberry Pi OS installed and ready for Paperless-NG.

Installing Paperless-NG

With Raspberry Pi OS ready, you can now install Paperless-NG:

Install System Dependencies

sudo apt update

sudo apt install libffi-dev libssl-dev libjpeg-dev zlib1g-dev \ 

  libmagickwand-dev libpq-dev libxml2-dev libxslt1-dev \

  libldap2-dev python3-dev python3-venv python3-pip \

  tesseract-ocr poppler-utils

Create Virtual Environment

python3 -m venv paperless

source paperless/bin/activate

Install Paperless-NG

pip install paperless-ng

Initial Setup

Run initial setup wizard:

paperless-ng setup

Follow the prompts to create admin user, database, etc.

Once finished, Paperless-NG is installed and ready to go!

Scanning and Adding Documents

With Paperless-NG running on your Pi, any USB scanner can now be used to scan papers directly into your document archive.

Plug your scanner into the Pi and ensure it is detected using lsusb.

Then simply scan documents from the machine Paperless-NG is installed on and they will automatically be OCR’d, indexed, and archived into the system.

You can also add documents already saved as PDFs/images by placing them into the CONSUMPTION_DIR folder (/usr/src/paperless/consume by default). They’ll be automatically consumed just like scanned papers.

Accessing the Web Interface

Paperless-NG provides a web interface accessible from any web browser at:

http://raspberrypi:8000

Login with the credentials you set during initial setup.

From here you can:

  • View all documents
  • Download or delete documents
  • Create tags and tag documents
  • Search documents by tag, title, text content, etc.
  • Adjust system settings

It provides everything you need to interact with your digitized documents from any device.

Storage and Backups

By default Paperless data is stored in /usr/src/paperless in a SQLite database file called db.sqlite3.

This is OK for testing, but for long term usage it is highly recommended to store data on an external drive instead.

To do this:

  1. Shut down Paperless-NG
  2. Plug an external USB hard drive into the Pi
  3. Copy the entire /usr/src/paperless folder to the external drive
  4. Adjust the folder ownership & permissions using sudo chown and sudo chmod
  5. Update the PAPERLESS_DBDIR environment variable to point to the new data location
  6. Restart Paperless-NG service

This will store all documents, thumbnails, metadata, database, etc. onto the external drive instead of the SD card.

Follow similar procedures to backup your Paperless data periodically as well.

Advanced Configuration Tips

Here are some additional configuration tweaks worth considering:

  • Setup a static IP address for the Pi in your router DHCP settings so the address doesn’t change
  • Port forward port 8000 on your router to the Pi so you can access Paperless from anywhere
  • Disable Pi OS automatic updates which could break Paperless while unattended
  • Setup a dynamic DNS like DuckDNS for easier remote access
  • Review Paperless-NG environment variables to customize as needed
  • Consider enabling HTTPS for secure remote access

And be sure to install the latest Paperless-NG updates periodically!

Migrating to a New Raspberry Pi

If you ever need to migrate to a new Raspberry Pi, just:

  1. Install Paperless-NG on the new system
  2. Copy the entirety of /usr/src/paperless over from old system
  3. Update Paperless environment variables on new system if paths differ
  4. Start the Paperless-NG service

The new Pi should pull in all data seamlessly from previous installation. Verify documents, tags, etc. carried over as expected.

Then decommission and retire old Pi when ready.

Troubleshooting Problems

If you encounter any issues running Paperless-NG on your Pi, here is where to start:

  • Check Pi OS is up-to-date with sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade
  • Verify Paperless-NG service is running with systemctl status paperless-ng
  • Check Paperless-NG logs at /usr/src/paperless/data/paperless.log for errors
  • Double check your consumption/export folders exist if documents not processing
  • Test the Paperless user account has proper permissions on folders
  • Try restarting the service with sudo service paperless-ng restart
  • Don’t hesitate to ask the helpful Paperless-NG community online!

With some diligence, you should be able to resolve most issues that you encounter along the way.

Participating in the Paperless-NG Open Source Community

Paperless-NG is open source software, licensed under GPLv3. That means the source code is freely available for anyone to use, share, modify and improve upon.

The vibrant Paperless-NG community continues advancing the software all the time. Everyone is encouraged to participate!

Ways to contribute:

  • Star Paperless-NG on Github
  • Open issues or suggest features
  • Submit bug fixes and code improvements
  • Provide UI design feedback
  • Write/improve documentation
  • Answer questions on forums
  • Spread the word!

Paperless-NG thrives thanks to volunteer contributor efforts. Consider getting involved!

Key Takeaways Running Paperless-NG on the Raspberry Pi

To quickly recap, here are the key takeaways:

  • The Raspberry Pi is an affordable device great for running Paperless-NG
  • Install requires Raspberry Pi OS, some dependencies, Paperless-NG app
  • USB scanners plug into the Pi provide easy document ingestion
  • Web UI allows easy access to archive from anywhere
  • Store data externally not on SD card to avoid corruption
  • Backup important documents periodically as well
  • Customize Paperless-NG using environment variables
  • Migrate Pi’s by copying Paperless data folder over
  • Large open source community improving Paperless-NG all the time

So by investing in some basic equipment, setting aside a few hours tinkering, and leaning on the helpful community when issues arise, you can start taking back control of your home document cataloging needs. No more piles of paper everywhere!

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Raspberry Pi makes an excellent platform for running Paperless-NG. Its open source nature, combined with the capabilities Paperless-NG drive as an intelligent document management system, can help you finally conquer that mess of papers taking over your life. As the Paperless-NG project continues advancing over time with new useful features, you’ll have a solid foundation running on the Pi to take advantage of the updates seamlessly. So why not grab a Pi and go paperless yourself today? Your future organized self will thank you!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can Paperless-NG run on lower-end Raspberry Pi models?
A: Yes, but the Pi 4 2GB+ is recommended minimum for performance. Lower models may be slow.

Q: Can I access Paperless-NG remotely outside my home network?
A: Yes! Use port forwarding, dynamic DNS, or a VPN to access securely from anywhere.

Q: Does the Pi need to stay on all the time for Paperless-NG?
A: Yes, you’ll want the Pi running continuously to allow the service to auto-consume documents and provide web access.

Q: What speed MicroSD Card is best?
A: Faster cards provide better performance. Aim for Class 10 speeds or better.

Q: Can I sync Paperless data across multiple Pi installations?
A: There is no built-in sync across nodes, but you can script regular backups/copies.

Q: Is handwriting character recognition supported?
A: Paperless-NG relies on Tesseract for OCR currently, which has limited handwriting recognition capability.

Q: Can the web interface be branded or white-labeled?
A: Yes! You can provide custom CSS, logos, etc. to fit branding needs.

Q: What image formats can Paperless consume?
A: JPG, PNG, TIFF + PDF. But PDF scanning is generally recommended for best results.

Q: Is Paperless-NG compatible with Scanning to Email or folders?
A: No, it currently only auto-consumes from a designated local folder. Email/folder routes would need manual document adding.

Q: Can Paperless auto-tag documents based on matching text patterns?
A: Not explicitly, but you can script logic to run against new items using Paperless’ API and auto-tag that way.

Q: Does Paperless support cloud storage backends like Google Drive or S3?
A: No native support currently, but a cloud storage mount could provide transparent support potentially.

Q: Can role-based access controls restrict Paperless user permissions?
A: Yes! Admins can fine tune authorization on users and groups as needed.

Q: Where is the database stored on the filesystem by default?
A: In /usr/src/paperless/data/db.sqlite3 but external storage is recommended for data safety.

Q: What Linux security hardening best practices should be used?
A: Minimize open ports, use SSH key auth over password, enable fail2ban, disable Pi default user, enable UFW firewall etc.

Q: What backup solution works best for Paperless-NG data?
A: Periodic RSYNC scripts make copying documents to a NAS or external drive easy for backups.

Q: Can Paperless data be restored to a previously archived version if needed?
A: No native versioning, but tools like RSYNC allow rollback to older backup snapshots manually.

Q: Which languages does the OCR engine support?
A: As many as 137 languages supported by Tesseract. Accuracy varies by language.

Q: Is there an officially supported hardware kit available?
A: No official kit, but recommended component lists are provided. 3D printing plans available for custom enclosures.

Q: Can Paperless integrate with productivity suites like Office 365?
A: No native integration, but documents could be shared/accessed over network folders potentially.

Q: Does Paperless-NG offer commercial tiers of licensing or support plans?
A: No, the project is entirely community-driven open source volunteer support model currently.

 

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