Docspell aims to be a simple yet effective document organizer that makes stowing documents away very quick and finding them later reliable (and also fast). It is a bit opinionated and more targeted for home use and small/medium organizations.

In contrast to many DMS, the main focus is not so much to provide all kinds of features to manually create organizational structures, like folder hierarchies, where you place the documents yourself. The approach is to leave it as a big pile of documents, but extract and attach metadata from each document. These are mainly properties that emerge from the document itself. The reason is that this is possible to automate. This makes it very simple to add documents, because there is no time spent to think about where to put it. And it is possible to apply different structures on top later, like show first all documents of a specific correspondent, then all with tag 'invoice', etc. If these properties are attached to all documents, it is really easy to find a document. It even can be combined with fulltext search for the, hopefully rare, desperate cases.

Of course, it is also possible to add custom properties and arbitrary tags.

Docspell analyzes the text to find metadata automatically. It can learn from existing data and can apply NLP techniques to support this. This metadata must be maintained manually in the application. Docspell looks for candidates for:

  • Correspondents
  • Concerned person or things
  • A date and due date
  • Tags

For tags, it sets all that it thinks do apply. For the others, it will propose a few candidates and sets the most likely one to your item.

This might be wrong, so it is recommended to curate the results. However, very often the correct one is either set or within the proposals where you fix it by a single click.

Besides these properties, there are more metadata you can use to organize your files, for example custom fields, folders and notes.

Docspell is also for programmers. Everything is available via a REST or HTTP api and can be easily used within your own scripts and tools, for example using curl. There are also features for "advanced use" and many configuration options.


Docspell consists of multiple components that run in separate processes:

  • REST server
  • JOEX, short for job executor
  • Fulltext Search Index (optional, currently Apache SOLR)

The REST server provides the Api and the web application. The web application is a SPA written in Elm and is a client to the REST api. All features are available via a http/rest api.

The joex is the component that does the β€œheavy work”, executing long-running tasks, like processing files or importing your mails periodically. While the joex component also exposes a small REST api for controlling it, the main user interface is all inside the rest server api.

The rest server and the job executor can be started multiple times in order to scale out. It must be ensured, that all connect to the same database. And it is also recommended (though not strictly required), that all components can reach each other.

The fulltext search index is another separate component, where currently only SOLR is supported. Fulltext search is optional, so the SOLR component is not required if docspell is run without fulltext search support.


In order to better understand the following pages, some terms are explained.


An item is roughly your document, only that an item may span multiple files, which are called attachments. An item has meta data associated:

  • a correspondent: the other side of the communication. It can be an organization or a person.
  • a concerning person or equipment: a person or thing that this item is about. Maybe it is an insurance contract about your car.
  • tag: an item can be tagged with one or more tags (or labels). A tag can have a category. This is intended for grouping tags, for example a category doctype could be used to group tags like bill, contract, receipt etc. Usually an item is not tagged with more than one tag of a category.
  • a folder: a folder is similiar to a tag, but an item can only be in exactly one folder (or none). Furthermore folders allow to associate users, so that items are only visible to the users who are members of a folder.
  • an item date: this is the date of the document – if this is not set, the created date of the item is used.
  • a due date: an optional date indicating that something has to be done (e.g. paying a bill, submitting it) about this item until this date
  • a direction: one of "incoming" or "outgoing"
  • a name: some item name, defaults to the file name of the attachments
  • some notes: arbitrary descriptive text. You can use markdown here, which is properly formatted in the web application.


The users of the application are part of a collective. A collective is a group of users that share access to the same items. The account name is therefore comprised of a collective name and a user name.

All users of a collective are equal; they have same permissions to access all items. The items don't belong to a user, but to the collective.

That means, to identify yourself when signing in, you have to give the collective name and your user name. By default it is separated by a slash /, for example smith/john. If your user name is the same as the collective name, you can omit one; so smith/smith can be abbreviated to just smith.

By default, all users can see all items of their collective. A folder can be used to implement other visibilities: Every user can create a folder and associate members. It is possible to put items in these folders and docspell shows only items that are either in no specific folder or in a folder where the current user is owner or member.