I need a small, lightweight DMS for personal use, which is available on Linux.


  • runs on Linux
  • manages PDF
  • stores documents in the file system¹ in an easily recognizable structure²
  • offers a GUI (WebUI is fine, native Linux GUI as well)
  • not too many dependencies (e.g. no KDE libs as I don't use KDE)
  • tags, manual descriptions
  • find documents by tags, name, date, description

Strongly preferred:

  • available via standard repositories (Debian/Ubungu/Mint) or at least easy to install
  • OCR capabilities (for full-text search), or at least offering full text search for documents having text (for PDF, e.g. integrated via pdfsandwich; for LibreOffice, extracted from the document)

Nice to have:

  • maintains other formats (images, ODF (LibreOffice/OpenOffice) documents)
  • integrated document viewer capable to deal with supported formats
  • scan folders for (new) documents (so I can drop them in the right place and the DMS indexes them). A special "drop folder" is OK, but even better if I can place the documents where they belong. The folder(s) don't need to be monitored; manually triggering the index process is totally fine.
  • custom fields
  • grouping of connected documents (think of "book series" having multiple volumes). This could e.g. also be achieved by attaching/merging multiple documents onto/into a single record.

Using a database backend for metadata is fine (it it does, preferably SQLite or MySQL).

Not needed:

  • multi-user, approvals etc. (as pointed out above: personal use only)
  • Windows compatibility
  • "reference systems". I just need to manage my own documents. References between those are fine – but I'm not collecting external references.
  • encrypted storage (if that's needed, I can encrypt the file system)

Definitely unwanted:

  • cloud-based (unless self-hosted) – so no Evernote, please.

I know we have quite a few DMS questions, but none of them completely meets my requirements. Most of them are asking for collaborative features, but I only want a light-weight variant for personal use. Coming close (and how they miss):

I've also seen paperless which basically fits the above, but seems pretty complex to install. Zotero is already mentioned in the footnotes; but in addition to that it's rather for reference management.

¹ should the software die, I still can find and access the documents
² e.g. Zotero fails this one, using cryptic directory names

  • Have you also looked at nemakiware.com - I came across it in the past. Not used it yet but planned to when required. You can search for it on stackexchange as it is under a few answers.
    – Z Z
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 11:01
  • Thanks, but that sounds too big as well: I don't need multi-account, team collaboration etc – and I don't like having to register for the download. I meanwhile settled with a directory tree of PDFSandwhiched PDFs and pdfgrep for search. Not elegant, but does the job :)
    – Izzy
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 21:13

2 Answers 2


Due to the lack of alternatives, I've settled for a very minimalist approach meanwhile. All ingredients are available from the standard repositories on Ubuntu/Mint, though for more up-to-date versions, at least for one part I instead used the Debian package offered at the project's website:

PDFSandwich is a wrapper around some tools like unpaper (to optimize pages for better OCR results), Tesseract (for OCR'ing the PDFs) and some helpers like Ghostscript and ImageMagick. You feed it a PDF, and it spits out another one which combines the original one with its OCR results:

pdfsandwich -lang eng sample.pdf

will result in sample_ocr.pdf, which is a sandwich of the two.

Now, I organize the documents in an appropriate directory structure. And when I still don't know what PDF has the contents I'm after, I switch to the root directory and use

pdfgrep -r -i foobar

Which spits out a list of each line from all the documents containing "foobar", prefixed by the path/to/document.pdf.

No elegant GUI, but it does its job. Let's see how it meets my original criteria:

  • runs on Linux: Yes.
  • manages PDF: Indeed.
  • stores documents in the file system¹ in an easily recognizable structure²: My job, but: Yes.
  • offers a GUI (WebUI is fine, native Linux GUI as well): No, just a CLI
  • not too many dependencies (e.g. no KDE libs as I don't use KDE): Definitely.
  • tags, manual descriptions: can be realised in the file names. Again, not elegant (e.g. no "global tag rename"), but possible.
  • find documents by tags, name, date, description: Not exactly – but sufficient for my use. "By content" is done via pdfgrep, "by name" can be done via | grep <name>, "by date" via other CLI tools (like awkto isolate the file name, then ls -l or stat to get the date and filtering that way – a bit heavy, though :)

The "nice-to-haves" are only vaguely met (sure I can put all other file types into the structure – but then search would be difficult as pdfgrep only deals with PDF, etc. There's no "global index" to search). So I'm still open for alternatives – but for now, this works for me.


you can try using paperless.node I've created:

  • runs on Linux, Windows or Mac
  • manages PDF, images, emails
  • stores documents in the file system their original form in a flat directory
  • offers a WebUI
  • tags, manual descriptions
  • find documents by tags, name, description
  • easy to install
  • integrated document viewer
  • has a drop folder


  • Great. Please what are main differences with something like github.com/paperless-ngx/paperless-ngx apart from fact that paperless.node retains original directory? Thanks.
    – Z Z
    Commented Aug 10, 2022 at 8:16
  • @ZZ - to be perfectly honest - I was not aware of the paperless-ng project, so I do not have a full comparison. My solution is more lightweight, and has less track record (part of being a project that one person worked on it for a couple of months, vs a project multiple people worked on for multiple years...). I hope it has all the needed requirements, but I would appreciate feedback :)
    – Uri Agassi
    Commented Aug 10, 2022 at 14:08
  • Thanks, that looks good! But I stopped reading in the middle of the first install step. I might be opinionated there, but I don't want to use NodeJS. But it indeed seems more comfortable – especially as it includes the DMS part. Will certainly be what a lot of people like!
    – Izzy
    Commented Aug 10, 2022 at 18:48

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