Advanced topics

Paperless offers a couple features that automate certain tasks and make your life easier.

Matching tags, correspondents, document types, and storage paths

Paperless will compare the matching algorithms defined by every tag, correspondent, document type, and storage path in your database to see if they apply to the text in a document. In other words, if you define a tag called Home Utility that had a match property of bc hydro and a matching_algorithm of literal, Paperless will automatically tag your newly-consumed document with your Home Utility tag so long as the text bc hydro appears in the body of the document somewhere.

The matching logic is quite powerful. It supports searching the text of your document with different algorithms, and as such, some experimentation may be necessary to get things right.

In order to have a tag, correspondent, document type, or storage path assigned automatically to newly consumed documents, assign a match and matching algorithm using the web interface. These settings define when to assign tags, correspondents, document types, and storage paths to documents.

The following algorithms are available:

  • Any: Looks for any occurrence of any word provided in match in the PDF. If you define the match as Bank1 Bank2, it will match documents containing either of these terms.

  • All: Requires that every word provided appears in the PDF, albeit not in the order provided.

  • Literal: Matches only if the match appears exactly as provided (i.e. preserve ordering) in the PDF.

  • Regular expression: Parses the match as a regular expression and tries to find a match within the document.

  • Fuzzy match: I don’t know. Look at the source.

  • Auto: Tries to automatically match new documents. This does not require you to set a match. See the notes below.

When using the any or all matching algorithms, you can search for terms that consist of multiple words by enclosing them in double quotes. For example, defining a match text of "Bank of America" BofA using the any algorithm, will match documents that contain either “Bank of America” or “BofA”, but will not match documents containing “Bank of South America”.

Then just save your tag, correspondent, document type, or storage path and run another document through the consumer. Once complete, you should see the newly-created document, automatically tagged with the appropriate data.

Automatic matching

Paperless-ngx comes with a new matching algorithm called Auto. This matching algorithm tries to assign tags, correspondents, document types, and storage paths to your documents based on how you have already assigned these on existing documents. It uses a neural network under the hood.

If, for example, all your bank statements of your account 123 at the Bank of America are tagged with the tag “bofa_123” and the matching algorithm of this tag is set to Auto, this neural network will examine your documents and automatically learn when to assign this tag.

Paperless tries to hide much of the involved complexity with this approach. However, there are a couple caveats you need to keep in mind when using this feature:

  • Changes to your documents are not immediately reflected by the matching algorithm. The neural network needs to be trained on your documents after changes. Paperless periodically (default: once each hour) checks for changes and does this automatically for you.

  • The Auto matching algorithm only takes documents into account which are NOT placed in your inbox (i.e. have any inbox tags assigned to them). This ensures that the neural network only learns from documents which you have correctly tagged before.

  • The matching algorithm can only work if there is a correlation between the tag, correspondent, document type, or storage path and the document itself. Your bank statements usually contain your bank account number and the name of the bank, so this works reasonably well, However, tags such as “TODO” cannot be automatically assigned.

  • The matching algorithm needs a reasonable number of documents to identify when to assign tags, correspondents, storage paths, and types. If one out of a thousand documents has the correspondent “Very obscure web shop I bought something five years ago”, it will probably not assign this correspondent automatically if you buy something from them again. The more documents, the better.

  • Paperless also needs a reasonable amount of negative examples to decide when not to assign a certain tag, correspondent, document type, or storage path. This will usually be the case as you start filling up paperless with documents. Example: If all your documents are either from “Webshop” and “Bank”, paperless will assign one of these correspondents to ANY new document, if both are set to automatic matching.

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 or docker-compose.env with the variable name of either PAPERLESS_PRE_CONSUME_SCRIPT or PAPERLESS_POST_CONSUME_SCRIPT.


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.

Pre-consumption script

Executed after the consumer sees a new document in the consumption folder, but before any processing of the document is performed. This script can access the following relevant environment variables set:


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


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



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

Executed after the consumer has successfully processed a document and has moved it into paperless. It receives the following environment variables:













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

The post consumption script cannot cancel the consumption process.


Assumed you have /home/foo/paperless-ngx/scripts/

You can pass that script into the consumer container via a host mount in your docker-compose.yml.

    - /home/paperless-ngx/scripts:/path/in/container/scripts/

Example (docker-compose.yml): - /home/foo/paperless-ngx/scripts:/usr/src/paperless/scripts

which in turn requires the variable PAPERLESS_POST_CONSUME_SCRIPT in docker-compose.env to point to /path/in/container/scripts/

Example (docker-compose.env): PAPERLESS_POST_CONSUME_SCRIPT=/usr/src/paperless/scripts/


  • Monitor the docker-compose log cd ~/paperless-ngx; docker-compose logs -f

  • Check your script’s permission e.g. in case of permission error sudo chmod 755

  • Pipe your scripts’s output to a log file e.g. echo "${DOCUMENT_ID}" | tee --append /usr/src/paperless/scripts/post-consumption-example.log

File name handling

By default, paperless stores your documents in the media directory and renames them using the identifier which it has assigned to each document. You will end up getting files like 0000123.pdf in your media directory. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because you normally don’t have to access these files manually. However, if you wish to name your files differently, you can do that by adjusting the PAPERLESS_FILENAME_FORMAT configuration option.

This variable allows you to configure the filename (folders are allowed) using placeholders. For example, configuring this to


will create a directory structure as follows:

  My bank/
    Statement January.pdf
    Statement February.pdf
  My bank/
    Statement January.pdf
  Shoe store/
    My new shoes.pdf


Do not manually move your files in the media folder. Paperless remembers the last filename a document was stored as. If you do rename a file, paperless will report your files as missing and won’t be able to find them.

Paperless provides the following placeholders within filenames:

  • {asn}: The archive serial number of the document, or “none”.

  • {correspondent}: The name of the correspondent, or “none”.

  • {document_type}: The name of the document type, or “none”.

  • {tag_list}: A comma separated list of all tags assigned to the document.

  • {title}: The title of the document.

  • {created}: The full date (ISO format) the document was created.

  • {created_year}: Year created only.

  • {created_month}: Month created only (number 01-12).

  • {created_day}: Day created only (number 01-31).

  • {added}: The full date (ISO format) the document was added to paperless.

  • {added_year}: Year added only.

  • {added_month}: Month added only (number 01-12).

  • {added_day}: Day added only (number 01-31).

Paperless will try to conserve the information from your database as much as possible. However, some characters that you can use in document titles and correspondent names (such as : \ / and a couple more) are not allowed in filenames and will be replaced with dashes.

If paperless detects that two documents share the same filename, paperless will automatically append _01, _02, etc to the filename. This happens if all the placeholders in a filename evaluate to the same value.


You can affect how empty placeholders are treated by changing the following setting to true.


Doing this results in all empty placeholders resolving to “” instead of “none” as stated above. Spaces before empty placeholders are removed as well, empty directories are omitted.


Paperless checks the filename of a document whenever it is saved. Therefore, you need to update the filenames of your documents and move them after altering this setting by invoking the document renamer.


Make absolutely sure you get the spelling of the placeholders right, or else paperless will use the default naming scheme instead.


As of now, you could totally tell paperless to store your files anywhere outside the media directory by setting


However, keep in mind that inside docker, if files get stored outside of the predefined volumes, they will be lost after a restart of paperless.

Storage paths

One of the best things in Paperless is that you can not only access the documents via the web interface, but also via the file system.

When as single storage layout is not sufficient for your use case, storage paths come to the rescue. Storage paths allow you to configure more precisely where each document is stored in the file system.

  • Each storage path is a PAPERLESS_FILENAME_FORMAT and follows the rules described above

  • Each document is assigned a storage path using the matching algorithms described above, but can be overwritten at any time

For example, you could define the following two storage paths:

  1. Normal communications are put into a folder structure sorted by year/correspondent

  2. Communications with insurance companies are stored in a flat structure with longer file names, but containing the full date of the correspondence.

By Year = {created_year}/{correspondent}/{title}
Insurances = Insurances/{correspondent}/{created_year}-{created_month}-{created_day} {title}

If you then map these storage paths to the documents, you might get the following result. For simplicity, By Year defines the same structure as in the previous example above.

2019/                                   # By Year
   My bank/
     Statement January.pdf
     Statement February.pdf

 Insurances/                           # Insurances
   Healthcare 123/
     2022-01-01 Statement January.pdf
     2022-02-02 Letter.pdf
     2022-02-03 Letter.pdf
   Dental 456/
     2021-12-01 New Conditions.pdf


Defining a storage path is optional. If no storage path is defined for a document, the global PAPERLESS_FILENAME_FORMAT is applied.


If you adjust the format of an existing storage path, old documents don’t get relocated automatically. You need to run the document renamer to adjust their pathes.