Main Concepts

Metadata is extra information about your folders, documents and pages. In other words - data about your data. Following picture is a (scanned document) receipt with highlighted shop name, price and date on it.

document with metadata

Figure 1. Receipt with metadata.

This additional information - shop name, price and date is so called document’s metadata. It has two parts a label (in picture above shop, date and price are all labels) and a value (in example above values are Mäc-Geiz, 08.06.2020, 1.49 for shop label, date label and price label respectively). Many times instead of term label term key is used. Metadata is extremely useful when you need to locate specific document among many other very similar documents.

Imagine that you scanned 60 groceries receipts and organized them in a folder named Groceries. If you would just store those receipts on an ordinary file system, then only way to distinguish between files is by file names or maybe by their text content (if your storage supports OCR) - finding, specific file, say all receipts you got in June 2020, would be time consuming.

A more efficient and practical way to tackle this problem is by associating to all scanned documents (receipts in this example) - metadata. Let’s continue with groceries receipts example. It would be very time consuming to go to each document and add metadata to each file individually. A faster way to create metadata and associated it to a group of files, is by a creating a folder - add metadata to that folder - let’s name it Groceries-2020 - and then just copy all groceries related files into that folder.

document inherits metadata attributes from its parent folder.

Figure 2. Documents inherit their metadata attributes from parent folder.


Folder is nothing more than a group of related documents. Thus, folders are convenient way to perform group operations on documents. In particular, by assigning metadata attributes to a folder - you automatically create those metadata attributes on all documents in the folder.

Metadata Inheritance and Nested Folders

Nested folder is a folder stored within another folder. Folders can be nested arbitrarely deep. Same way as documents inherit their metadata attributes from thier parent folder - child folders inherit their metadata attributes from their parent folder. Let’s consider following example:


Figure 3. Nested folders and metadata

In Figure 3 folders Groceries, Rent and Insurances are sub-folders of Expenses. On topmost folder - Expenses - only one metadata label is defined, namely amount. On folder Groceries two extra metadata labels are defined: shop and date. On folder Rent metadata label date is defined. On Insurances: company, start date and end date.

As explained above, metadata labels are inherited from parent folder to descendant folders and documents. Because of metadata label inheritance, in scenario described above, folder Groceries has in total three metadata label:

  1. shop - its own

  2. date - its own

  3. amount - inherited from parent

Similarly folder Insurances has in total four metadata labels, three of its own and one inherited (metadata label amount) and folder Rent has in total two metadata labels: one inherited (metadata label amount) and one of its own (metadata label date).

All documents from folder Insurances will inherit metadata labels from their parental folders. Thus, documents ins-1.pdf and ins-2.pdf from Figure 3 have four metadata labels: amount inherited from topmost folder Expenses and company, start date, end date inherited from their direct parental folder - Insurances.

Metadata inheritance concept is very convenient because you don’t need to define all metadata labels on each individual document, instead you define metadata only once on the folder containing documents.

Following illustrations show you how folder structure and metadata definition described in Figure 3 look in practice.


Figure 4. Metadata label amount defined on “Expenses” folder.


If you open “Expenses” folder and change view to list mode, among Type, Title and Created At columns you will see an extra column. That extra column is called Metacolumn. Metacolumns are there to display actual metadata values defined on the documents. At this moment there still no metadata values to display, thus metacolumn is empty.


Figure 5. Empty metacolumn corresponding to metadata label amount defined on “Expenses” folder.

If you select “Groceries” folder, on the right side, in metadata widgets panel you will see three metadata label definitions - one of which is inherited. Notice that inherited metadata labels is not editable while it is displayed in the context of “Groceries” folder:


Figure 6. Metadata label definitions on “Groceries” folder.


Metadata labels can be edited ONLY on the folder on which they were defined. Conversely, inherited metadata labels (i.e. defined on parent or ancestor folders) cannot be edited. For example, in Figure 6, metadata label amount cannot be edited in the context of folder “Groceries”, because amount label was defined on parent folder - “Expenses”.

If you enter now “Groceries” folder and switch to list mode (and assuming you uploaded couple of documents to “Groceries” folder), you will see three metacolumns amount, shop and date - all of which are empty now as neither of the documents has metadata values yet:


Figure 7. Empty metacolumns corresponding to metadata labels defined on “Groceries” folder.

Finally, in Figure 8 you see metacolumns with values. Note how convenient it is to have data visualized this way: documents may be sorted and located by metadata values.


At this point you need to fill in metadata values manually. However, in future versions of Papermerge it will be possible to extract metadata (and thus to fill in those metacolumns) automatically.


Figure 8. Metacolumns with data values.

Add and Edit Metadata

Metadata is added/editing via metadata widget located on the right bar. For folders you can add/edit only metadata labels. For documents you can add/edit both labels and values (metadata labels are sometimes called keys). Documents metadata (both labels and values) can be edited in document browser as well as in document viewer. In document browser you can see metadata corresponding to specific document/folder either by selecting document/folder or by switching list mode.

Delete Metadata


When you delete metadata label on a folder, all data associated with it i.e. all metadata values of respective label from all documents inside respective folder will be irreversibly lost.

Metadata Types

Papermerge defines four different metadata types:

  1. Free form text

  2. Monetary

  3. Numeric

  4. Date